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Kant's Moral and Legal Philosophy
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This volume brings to English readers the finest postwar German-language scholarship on Kant's moral and legal philosophy. Examining Kant's relation to predecessors such as Hutcheson, Wolff, and Baumgarten, it clarifies the central issues in each of Kant's major works in practical philosophy, including The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, The Critique of Practical Reason, and The Metaphysics of Morals. It also examines the relation of Kant's philosophy to politics. Collectively, the essays in this volume provide English readers with a direct view of how leading German philosophers are now regarding Kant's revolutionary practical philosophy, one of the outstanding achievements of German thought.

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Contents

  • 1 - Hutcheson and Kant
    pp 29-57
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter presents the concrete form and full range of Immanuel Kant's critique of Francis Hutcheson. The trajectory of Kant's philosophy as expressed in his own writings must itself serve to explain why Kant himself, despite his repeated criticisms of Hutcheson, could still describe the basis of ethical consciousness as a sensus moralis, and that at a time when he had already discovered the formula of the Categorical Imperative. Kant's criticisms were directed exclusively against the specific form that the consequences of the theory of moral sense had assumed. Hutcheson shared Kant's conviction concerning the categorical character of moral obligation, and the concept of 'moral sense' clearly posed and revealed the problem of providing a satisfactory theoretical grounding for moral philosophy. Hutcheson had demonstrated the absolute impossibility of deriving the idea of 'the good' in terms of hypothetical or deductive logical reasoning.
  • 2 - The Theory of Obligation in Wolff, Baumgarten, and the Early Kant
    pp 58-74
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Taking the general concept of 'obligation' as a guiding theme, this chapter identifies certain unconsidered features of the development of German Enlightenment thought that were taken up and further developed in the context of Immanuel Kant's new approach to moral philosophy. Drawing upon the earlier research of Mariano Campos, the chapter reconstructs the developmental history of Wolff's theory of obligation. In his first programmatic work, the Philosophia practica universalis, mathematica methodo conscripta of 1703, Christian Wolff defends a positivistic concept of law and obligation that owes much to the thought of Samuel Pufendorf. Wolff was fundamentally shaken by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's objections to the position defended in his first published work, as the thorough self-criticism that Wolff presented in the Ratio praelectorum of 1718 clearly reveals. In his understanding of obligation, Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten introduces new emphases of his own that reinforce the authentically compelling character of practical prescriptions.
  • 3 - What Is the Purpose of a Metaphysics of Morals? Some Observations on the Preface to the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
    pp 77-92
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Immanuel Kant's late work, The Metaphysics of Morals, is treated as a kind of retreat from the critical self-limitation to a formal ethics that characterises the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant made it clear that the idea of a metaphysics of morals represents a Platonism of practical reason. In this chapter, the author focuses on the Preface and on one or two specific passages from the main text of the Groundwork that expressly pursue the argument in the Preface concerning the necessity for such metaphysics. Kant's speculative arguments concern the systematic structure of philosophy and the articulated presentation of its relevant objects. His arguments concern the way in which Kant's position coincides with the understanding that everyone already possesses concerning morality. The author elucidates these arguments and questions whether it is really necessary to provide a metaphysical grounding of ethics at all.
  • 4 - The Transition from Common Rational Moral Knowledge to Philosophical Rational Moral Knowledge in the Groundwork
    pp 93-122
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals is the first work in which Immnauel Kant speaks explicitly of conceptual 'transitions' from one domain to another. This chapter shall specifically discusses a transition occurred in the first section of the Groundwork (that is, from common moral rational knowledge to what Kant calls philosophical moral rational knowledge). The first transition possesses an essentially affirmative function: Kant shows that our common understanding of ethics corresponds precisely to what can in fact be formulated in terms of an a priori ethics. Common moral rational knowledge thus already possesses the fundamental concepts belonging to a genuine ethical philosophy. Philosophical moral rational knowledge expressly clarifies and develops these fundamental concepts in a positive relation to this common ethical thinking, and the metaphysics of morals subsequently provides a final and definitive analysis that specifies and differentiates these concepts in a critical relation to popular moral philosophy.
  • 5 - Reason Practical in Its Own Right
    pp 123-133
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    Summary

    Immanuel Kant was unable to develop an adequate theory of subjectivity as intrinsic self-relation, a theory that would elucidate such self-relation not simply in general but in the specific theoretical and practical sense of one's own consciousness and one's own will, and would pay due attention to the relevant common features and specific differences involved here. It is clear that one should take the last mentioned characterisation of practical self-relation in particular very seriously since the Critique of Pure Reason describes the a priori synthesis that underlies all a posteriori synthesis in Kant's view as a free synthesis. Formulated very briefly for the purpose of clarification, the fundamental thesis of Kant's theoretical philosophy amounts to this: knowledge or experience, in short, theory can be explained only by reference to spontaneity. Kant's task is to develop a spontaneous, and entirely novel, conception of theory on the basis of spontaneity itself.
  • 6 - Kant's Justification of the Role of Maxims in Ethics
    pp 134-156
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Immanuel Kant's moral theory has been generally characterised in a variety of ways: as a formalist ethics, as an ethics of duty, as a deontological ethics, and so forth. But it is also an important feature of Kant's theory that it represents what one can call an 'ethic of maxims'. Otfried Höffe, one of the most thorough contemporary interpreters of Kant's thought, introduced this expression precisely to emphasise the central role played by the concept of a maxim in Kant's ethics. The concept of maxims probably derives from Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau's concept of maxim appears as Grundsatz or fundamental principle in Kant's Observations on the Beautiful and the Sublime. From the beginning, Kant's concept of a maxim or a fundamental principle involves a conscious decision that is taken and applied by only a few individuals.
  • 7 - The Form of the Maxim as the Determining Ground of the Will (The Critique of Practical Reason: §§4–6, 27–30)
    pp 159-178
  • View abstract

    Summary

    In the 'Analytic of Pure Practical Reason', Book I of the second The Critique of Practical Reason, Immanuel Kant undertakes to show that pure reason can be practical. Sections 4-6 are primarily concerned with the second, third, and fourth steps in an ultimately seven-part argument (with the concepts of pure form, universal legislation, and transcendental freedom, respectively). The fifth, sixth, and seventh steps of the overall argument (the 'fundamental law', the 'fact of reason', and the concept of 'autonomy', respectively), constitute the essential core of the 'Analytic'. In the first step of the ensuing argument Kant comes to negative conclusion that no maxims originate from an empirical will and the governing principle of an empirical will. The second step in Kant's demonstration consists in an argument e contrario. The determining ground of the free will lies in the legislating form contained in the maxim, in accordance with the third step.
  • 8 - ‘On the Concept of an Object of Pure Practical Reason’ (Chapter 2 of the Analytic of Practical Reason)
    pp 179-197
  • View abstract

    Summary

    In the second chapter of the second Critique, Immanuel Kant explicitly addresses the object of practical reason, the categories through which practical reason determines this object and the faculty of practical judgement mediate between action and the moral law. Kant attempts to determine both whether this claim can be justified and how it can be rendered practically effective. Kant defines the object of practical reason, as distinct from the cognitive object of theoretical reason, as an envisaged consequence of an act of freedom. The categories of good and evil are applied exclusively to 'objects', which are subject to such moral evaluation. Insofar as practical reason is capable of determining the will immediately in relation to what ought to be willed, no specific practical faculty for making judgements is required. The concepts of good and evil first determine an object for the will.
  • 9 - The Dialectic of Pure Practical Reason in the Second Critique (CPrR:107–121)
    pp 198-212
  • View abstract

    Summary

    In the Critique of Practical Reason, Immanuel Kant identifies the relevant dialectic as the consequence of reason's attempt to discover the absolute totality of conditions governing a given condition, and not, as he had in the Groundwork, as a conflict between the law of reason and the maxims based on wishes and inclinations. In order to assess Kant's arguments, one should first remind us of the particular error of the ancients to which Kant refers in the second chapter of the 'Analytic' of pure practical reason. According to Kant, the Greek thinkers made the mistake of identifying the concept of the morally good with the concept of the highest good and therefore with an object which they intended afterwards to make the determining ground of the will in the moral law. Transcendental idealism appeared to be the only way of resolving the problem of the antinomies.
  • 10 - The Postulates of Pure Practical Reason (CPrR:122–148)
    pp 213-228
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The postulates of the immortality of the soul and the existence of God stand or fall with Immanuel Kant's doctrine of the highest good. The will can only respond to the unconditioned demand to promote the highest good on the assumption that reason holds the highest good to be possible. The claim presupposes three further propositions: that the theoretical concepts of freedom, immortality, the soul and God are pure rational concepts with no corresponding intuitions; that they can therefore contribute nothing to the cognition of these objects; but that they do indeed have objects. What Kant calls rational belief or faith depends upon theoretical philosophy insofar as the latter has to show that the existence of those objects posited by the postulates can indeed be thought. The object of pure practical reason presupposes an author of the world who is characterized by the highest perfection.
  • 11 - On How to Acquire Something External, and Especially on the Right to Things (A Commentary on the Metaphysics of Morals §§10–17)
    pp 231-245
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The discussion of the 'General principle of external acquisition' in S10 introduces the second chapter on 'How to acquire something external'. In S10, Immanuel Kant is concerned with the actual realisation of this possibility. The analysis in S10 treats of acquisition in general, and draws conclusions that also hold for the next three sections of the text: that on 'property right', or one's right to things, that on 'contract right', or one's rights to persons, and that on 'rights to persons akin to rights to things'. The relation of right obtains between the owner and the possessor, and property grants a right over against the possessor with respect to the thing. The way in which property right regulates the relations between persons differs from other regulations governing such relations only in that the former relates essentially to the capacity for disposing over things (material objects).
  • 12 - ‘The Civil Constitution in Every State Shall Be a Republican One’
    pp 246-264
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Immanuel Kant interprets the fundamental political opposition between war and peace in philosophical terms as essentially a question of right. He formulates a challenging and emphatic concept of peace that treats any political establishment of peace that is essentially based upon superior power and deterrent threat as a merely negative peace, and thus simply as a continuation of the state of war. Kant claims that all men who can mutually affect one another must belong to some civil constitution. According to Kant, a republican constitution is one that is established, first on principles of the freedom of the members of a society (as individuals), second on principles of the dependence of all upon a single common legislation (as subjects), and third on the law of their equality (as citizens of a state). The principle of equality is intimately connected with the coordination of social action through universally acknowledged laws.
  • 13 - Commentary on Kant's Treatment of Constitutional Right (Metaphysics of Morals II: General Remark A; §§51–52, Conclusion, Appendix)
    pp 265-283
  • View abstract

    Summary

    It is only in §51 of the Metaphysics of Morals, that is, in the second half of the discussion of 'Constitutional Right', that Immanuel Kant introduces a distinction that is fundamental to his exposition of the theory of the state. For here Kant distinguishes between the pure idea of a head of state, and a physical person. In expounding his theory of the political division of powers or authorities, Kant explicitly underlines the comparative and normative function that intrinsically belongs to the concept of the state in idea. In the conceptual context of the Doctrine of Right, despotism represents an explicit perversion of the state in idea insofar as it directly involves a usurpation of legislative authority by executive authority. In the historical reception of Kant's theory of constitutional law, one of the most intensely discussed topics has always been the question concerning the right to resistance or rebellion.
  • 14 - Refusing Sovereign Power – The Relation between Philosophy and Politics in the Modern Age
    pp 284-304
  • View abstract

    Summary

    There is an intrinsic contradiction in a public treaty containing covert or secret articles. If Immanuel Kant's article appears to be speaking only of philosophers, this itself is simply another ironical aspect of his secret maxim. Kant is the first thinker to provide us with an adequate philosophical explication of the problem concerning the specific character of practical consciousness. The division of labour possesses an eminently political aspect that finds further expression in the conception of the division of powers. Kant presents and defends a new paradigm for conceptualising the relationship between politics and philosophy. In view of the important role played by a freely emerging public sphere, there can be no doubt whatsoever that Kant's revision of the Platonic idea of philosopher rule implies anything but a withdrawal of philosophy from the world of politics.

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