Creating the Kingdom of Ends: Abstracts of Essays
1. An Introduction to the Ethical, Political and Religious Thought of Kant
In this essay my aim is to provide a sympathetic account of Kant’s ethics in its historical setting.
For Kant, the death of speculative metaphysics and the birth of the rights of humanity are not independent events:
together they constitute the resolution of the enlightenment debate about the power of reason. Theoretical reason
is unable to answer the questions of metaphysics, about God, Freedom, and Immortality. But this conclusion prepares
the way for an extension in the power of practical reason. Practical reason directs that every human being be regarded
as unconditionally valuable. This provides a rational foundation for morality and a moral foundation for liberal politics and religion.
2. Kant’s Analysis of Obligation: The Argument of Groundwork I
Most of the moves in the current debate about whether moral motivation is internal or external to moral judgment were anticipated
in the eighteenth century British debate between the rationalists and the sentimentalists about obligation. The problem in both debates
is how the thought of duty can at once motivate and bind every rational agent. By reconstructing Kant's argument in the first section of
the Groundwork, I show how Kant solves this problem. Only a law willed autonomously can motivate through the thought of its bindingness,
and so only an action dictated by such a law can be obligatory.
3. Kant’s Formula of Universal Law
Kant asserts that the universalization of a maxim in violation of perfect duty is contradictory.
I identify three interpretations of this claim in the literature: the universalized maxim (i) is logically contradictory;
(ii) is contradictory only when considered as a teleological law; or (iii) is practically self-defeating.
All are textually defensible but I argue that the third is philosophically superior. It harmonizes with Kant’s account of
the analyticity of hypothetical imperatives and it enables the universalization test to handle more cases successfully.
4. Kant’s Formula of Humanity
In the Groundwork, Kant claims that, just as universalizability is the form of the moral principle, humanity is its matter.
Drawing on Kant's other works, I reconstruct Kant’s argument for the Formula of Humanity to determine why. Humanity is the
capacity for free rational choice, fully realized in the good will, which brings value into the world and confers it on
objects of rational choice. Using Kant’s examples, I then show how treating respecting this capacity amounts to treating
humanity as an end-in-itself.
5. The Right to Lie: Kant on Dealing with Evil
Kant contends that one may not lie to a murderer who asks if his victim is concealed in one's house;
this suggests that moral rigorism leaves us powerless in the face of evil. I argue that such a
lie can be shown to be permissible under the Formula of Universal Law, but not under the Formula
of Humanity. Kantian rigorism does not stem from legalism, but from the high ideal of human relations
implied by the Formual of Humanity. I resolve the problem by introducing Rawls's distinction between
ideal and non-Ideal theory into the Kantian system. Lying to the murder is permissible but morally
regrettable because it is a violation of our ideal of human relationships.
6. Morality as Freedom
Kant argues that we are morally obligated because a free person would act morally, and a rational person
must regard herself as free. Critics object that it is not obvious that a free person would act morally.
Kant’s answer is that a free will must choose its own law, and the moral law, which directs the choice of a
maxim with the form of a law, simply describes what a free will must do. Since we must act under the idea of
freedom, moral action is rational for us, but in order to explain our interest in it, Kant invokes the noumenal/phenomenal
distinction. If we regard ourselves as free, we must regard ourselves as noumena, and this places us among the forces
that shape the phenomenal world. Critics object that if we are noumena and insofar as we are noumena we only do what
is right, we cannot do voluntary evil actions. I argue that these objections spring from a failure to understand the
radical nature of Kant's separation of the explanatory and theoretical use of reason from its normative and practical
use. Noumenal freedom is a postulate of practical reason, and the objections arise from employing it theoretically,
which Kant's philosophy forbids.
In the second part of the paper I explain the conception of moral virtue Kant's theory of
freedom requires. Kant thinks that because of our sensible nature, we always act for an end,
so we must achieve freedom through the adoption of moral ends, which is virtue. One may
object that action from moral ends does not make us free unless we adopt moral ends freely.
I answer this by explaining why Kant thinks that freedom is something that we may attribute to
ourselves as a result of progress in virtue rather than something we must have had already in order to become virtuous.
If the moral law shows us how a free person would act, and if we can act on the moral law through virtue, then virtue makes us free.
7. Creating the Kingdom of Ends: Reciprocity and Responsibility in Personal Relations
Drawing on an account of friendship common to Aristotle and Kant, I argue that personal relations are characterized by an
expectation of reciprocity that is only possible between those who hold one another responsible. Holding someone responsible
may be understood either as having a belief about her or as taking up a practical attitude towards her. If it is the latter,
as I argue, then we need practical reasons for holding people responsible. Kant's ethical theory shows us what those reasons
are. Holding ourselves and others responsible is a precondition for moral action, and so is what Kant calls a "postulate of practical reason."
8. Aristotle and Kant on the Source of Value
Kant holds that the good will is a source of value, in the sense that other things acquire their value from standing in
an appropriate relation to it. I argue that Aristotle holds a similar view about contemplation, and that this explains
his preference for the contemplative life. Kant and Aristotle differ about what the source of value is because they
differ about which kind of activity, ethical or contemplative, gives meaning and purpose to the world.
9. Two Distinctions in Goodness
The distinction between final and instrumental goods is frequently and improperly conflated
with the distinction between intrinsic (or unconditional) and extrinsic (or conditioned) goods.
This conflation has serious consequences for value theory. In particular, it leads to the view
that any extrinsically good thing whose goodness depends on its pleasantness is a mere means to
pleasure. After considering these consequences I compare the views of two philosophers – Moore and Kant –
who did not conflate the two distinctions, but who differ as to whether there are extrinsically good ends –
that is, whether there are things which are final goods in virtue of the interest that people take in them
or the value that people set on them. I challenge Moore's view that final goodness is independent of interest
and defend Kant's view that rational choice can render a thing good.
10. The Reasons We Can Share: An Attack on the Distinction Between Agent-Relative and Agent-Neutral Values
The distinction between agent-relative (subjective) and agent-neutral (objective) reasons leaves an
important option out: reasons may be intersubjective, or shared. I examine the examples that Nagel,
uses in The View from Nowhere, to motivate the claim that some reasons are agent-relative: reasons
springing from personal projects and deontological reasons. I argue that such reasons are better
understood as intersubjective reasons. This is also a better way to understand agent-neutral reasons.
The normativity of reasons does not spring from the claims made on us by either our personal projects or
objective goods. It springs from the claims we make on one another.
11. Skepticism about Practical Reason
Hume and Williams argue that pure practical reason cannot be the foundation of morality because
it cannot motivate. I show that all arguments for “motivational skepticism” must presuppose “content skepticism” –
the view that pure practical reason has no action-guiding content. If pure practical reason is shown to have action-guiding
content, Humean arguments cannot show that rational agents cannot be motivated by it. Skepticism about practical reason
therefore cannot be based on motivational considerations alone.
12. Two Arguments Against Lying
Kant and Sidgwick take views at opposite extremes about whether we may tell paternalistic lies. I trace the extremism
to their views about ethical concepts. Sidgwick thinks that fundamental ethical concepts must be capable of precise
application. Common Sense morality says we may tell paternalistic lies to children but not to sane adults. Because
the distinction between a child and an adult is imprecise, Sidgwick thinks this principle cannot be fundamental, and
must be based on the principle of utility, which he thinks can always (in principle) be precisely applied, and which
often mandates paternalistic lies to adults. Kant thinks that ethical concepts are ideals of reason, which cannot be
applied to things in the empirical world precisely because the world is imperfect. We lie to children and the insane
because they are not perfectly rational, but no one is perfectly rational. We must treat all persons with the respect
due to rational agents, so the pressure of the theory is toward not lying to anyone. In this kind of ideal theory,
decisions about where to draw the line must be made pragmatically, like the decision who counts as an adult in the law,
and to some extent arbitrarily. But fear of this is not a good reason to abandon ethical ideals for utilitarianism.
13.Personal Identity and the Unity of Agency: A Kantian Response to Parfit
A person is both active and passive, both an agent and a subject of experiences. These are aspects of our nature, not parts,
for agency may be regarded as a form of experience, and having experiences as something that we do. Parfit’s view that a person
is not deeply unified over time depends on regarding the person as a subject of experiences, and agency as a form of experience.
I argue that when persons are viewed as agents, and agency is not reduced to experience, we can see why persons are necessarily,
though pragmatically, unified. I then put this conception of personal identity to work to show how moral conclusions that Parfit
draws from his account may be blocked.