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I examine the significance of the Stoic theory of pathē (and related topics) for Kant’s moral psychology, arguing against the received view that systematic differences block the possibility of Kant’s drawing anything more than rhetoric from his Stoic sources. More particularly, I take on the chronically underexamined assumption that Kant is committed to a psychological dualism in the tradition of Plato and Aristotle, positing distinct rational and nonrational elements of human mentality. By contrast, Stoics take the mentality of an adult human being to be rational through and through, while recognising that this rationality is not normally in a state of health or excellence. I show how Kant’s account of affections—chiefly the “affects” and “passions” that he identifies as targets of a duty of apathy—draws substantive lessons from his Stoic sources, and how he accepts on his own terms the monistic principles of Stoic moral psychology.
This chapter explores the complex relation between Kant and common-sense philosophy. In the Prolegomena, Kant is notoriously dismissive of thinkers like Beattie and Oswald, but his attitude toward common-sense philosophy is more sympathetic than these remarks might suggest. Kant shares some of the common-sense philosophers’ worries about the vanities of metaphysics, but sees them as caught up in just the kind of ‘enthusiasm’ that besets more traditional metaphysicians. The essay suggests that for Kant, the proper strategy against either form of enthusiasm is to deflate it using raillery and humor, and the paper is devoted to providing a fascinating literary analysis of the Prolegomena, to show just how the rhetorical strategies of the work can contribute to a greater understanding of the critical project as a whole.
Alix Cohen argues that the function of feeling in Kantian psychology is to appraise and orient activity. Thus she sees feeling and agency as importantly connected by Kant’s lights. I endorse this broader claim, but argue that feeling, on her account, cannot do the work of orientation that she assigns to it.
This Element considers Kant's account of the sublime in the context of his predecessors both in the Anglophone and German rationalist traditions. Since Kant says with evident endorsement that 'we call sublime that which is absolutely great' (Critique of the Power of Judgment, 5:248) and nothing in nature can in fact be absolutely great (it can only figure as such, in certain presentations), Kant concludes that strictly speaking what is sublime can only be the human calling (Bestimmung) to perfect our rational capacity according to the standard of virtue that is thought through the moral law. The Element takes account of the difference between respect and admiration as the two main varieties of sublime feeling, and concludes by considering the role of Stoicism in Kant's account of the sublime, particularly through the channel of Seneca.
This chapter ascribes the “specification thesis” to Kant: moral virtue is specification of general cognitive virtue, and general cognitive virtue goes by the name of “healthy understanding”. The chapter considers the relative absence of Kantian ideas from contemporary virtue epistemology, and in this context draws some preliminary boundaries around what can plausibly count as a Kantian notion of cognitive virtue. The chapter then argues that healthy understanding must count as good cognitive character. Its status as cognitive virtue, and its relation to moral virtue, is then argued for on the basis of Kant’s remarks about natural and moral perfection in the Doctrine of Virtue of the Metaphysics of Morals
The earlier chapters of Part II pursue two theses independently of one another: the specification thesis and the skill thesis. According to the first, moral virtue is a specification of the general cognitive virtue that goes by the name of “healthy human understanding”; according to the second, moral virtue is a certain sort of “free” skill—specifically, one governed by the adoption of morally obligatory, rather than discretionary, ends. The present chapter shows how the two theses join to form a coherent and compelling account of moral virtue in the Metaphysics of Morals. The chapter concludes by outlining how the emerging account of virtue rebuts standing assumptions about the Kantian reflective ideal.
This chapter paves the way for the remaining chapters in Part II, which argue for the “specification thesis”: i.e., that moral virtue is a specification of general cognitive virtue, and general cognitive virtue is nothing other than the notion of healthy understanding discussed in Part I, Chapter 2. The specification thesis presupposes a certain conception of reason: namely, that reason is at bottom a cognitive capacity, albeit one admitting of distinct theoretical and practical employments. But many Kantians think that only the theoretical exercise of reason is genuinely cognitive, and assume that when Kant speaks of “practical cognition”—as he often does—the cognition in question does not share anything basic, qua cognition, with theoretical cognition. This chapter lays out the textual evidence that supports the ascription of the former view to Kant, and confronts competing accounts of Kantian epistemic normativity (O’Neill 1989 and Cohen 2014) that assume only the theoretical employment of reason to be genuinely cognitive. It also explains why the specification thesis does not run afoul of Kant’s claims about the “primacy of practical reason”.
There can be no doubt that Kant thought we should be reflective: we ought to care to make up our own minds about how things are and what is worth doing. Philosophical objections to the Kantian reflective ideal have centred on concerns about the excessive control that the reflective person is supposed to exert over their own mental life, and Kantians who feel the force of these objections have recently drawn attention to Kant's conception of moral virtue as it is developed in his later work, chiefly the Metaphysics of Morals. Melissa Merritt's book is a distinctive contribution to this recent turn to virtue in Kant scholarship. Merritt argues that we need a clearer, and textually more comprehensive, account of what reflection is, in order not only to understand Kant's account of virtue, but also to appreciate how it effectively rebuts long-standing objections to the Kantian reflective ideal.
My aim in this chapter is to explain how the (in some sense) passive exercise of cognitive capacities in sensible experience should in principle be no less the expression of the self-determination proper to a rational mind than overt efforts of deliberation and inquiry. To do this, we need to understand the agency that is engaged in sensible experience. By drawing jointly on the Critique of Pure Reason and the Anthropology, I argue that experience, by Kant’s lights, requires attention; that directed attention is the most basic engagement of the agency we need to have over own minds in order to be knowers at all; and that this agency is realised through taking on the basic epistemic commitments proper to healthy understanding.
For Kant, ‘reflection’ (Überlegung, Reflexion) is a technical term with a range of senses. By attending closely to Kant’s account of reflection in the context of his distinction between pure and applied logic, the chapter shows how Kant distinguishes between constitutive and normative requirements to reflect. This distinction is needed in order to make sense of Kant’s presentation of affect and passion as distinct modes of reflective failure in the context of his moral psychology. The chapter argues that prejudice and passion are analogous modes of reflective failure, since both involve failure to meet a normative requirement to reflect. By drawing these connections, we begin to advance our understanding of the overall unity and coherence of Kant's diverse textual record on reflection. Finally, the chapter concludes by arguing that the governing commitment of a reflective person, for Kant, is always (and most generally) to knowing.
This chapter takes up a lingering problem stemming from Kant’s claim that “all judgments require reflection”—in effect, that that the requirement at issue looks to be overly demanding, and out of step with what we normally have in mind when we take a belief or judgment to be justified. My aim is to show that Kant offers a more nuanced articulation of the normative requirement to reflect (reflect-n) through the three maxims of healthy human understanding presented in the third Critique and Anthropology, as well as many Nachlass materials. This interpretive work offers an alternative to supposing that reflection-n must be a deliberately undertaken activity of some kind—something one must do on the occasion of each and every judgment, over and above the judging itself. The upshot is that the requirement to reflect-n lodges at the level of character, rather than piecemeal over individual acts of judgment—an idea that is developed further in Chapter 5.
This chapter examines Kant’s qualified endorsement of the idea that moral virtue may be a certain sort of skill (Fertigkeit) in the Metaphysics of Morals (6:383-4). Although the skill model of virtue goes back to ancient Socratic thought, and was developed by the Stoics, the immediate historical context of this idea for Kant was Moses Mendelssohn’s adoption of the model in his 1761 Philosophical Writings. The chapter exposes the sense in which skills, for Mendelssohn, are unreflective — and argues that it is this assumption that Kant rejects. Rather, Kant’s qualified endorsement of the skill model of virtue rests on his recognition that certain kinds of skills have reflection embedded in them. Therefore, his qualified endorsement of the skill model of virtue suggests new avenues for thinking about the role of reflection in practical thought, and so in turn in moral life, from a Kantian point of view.