Rational Egoism Rational egoism claims that it is necessary and sufficient for an action to be rational that it maximize one's self-interest.
As with ethical egoism, there are variants which drop maximization or evaluate rules or character traits rather than actions. There are also variants which make the maximization of self-interest necessary but not sufficient, or sufficient but not necessary, for an action to be rational. Again, I set these aside. Like ethical egoism, rational egoism needs arguments to support it.
One might cite our most confident judgments about rational action and claim that rational egoism best fits these. The problem is that our most confident judgments about rational action seem to be captured by a. According to the instrumental theory, it is necessary and sufficient, for an action to be rational, that it maximize the satisfaction of one's preferences. Since psychological egoism seems false, it may be rational.
Indeed, in my view, no plausible account of the human good will attempt to interpret it merely as pleasure. At one point in "Theory and Practice" Kant seems to recognize this. The issue is religious freedom and Kant's desire to defend it as a fundamental right:. Whatever a people cannot decree for itself cannot be decreed for it by the legislator. If, for example, the question is whether one can view a certain previously instituted ecclesiastical constitution as expressing the permanently enduring actual will It will now be clear that an original contract among the people that made this a law would be null and void, for it would conflict with humanity's vocation and end , Here Kant seems to impose a constraint on his consent test -- a constraint involving the value of "humanity's vocation and end.
What seems crucial to Kant here is not a general failure of possible consent to such a law, but rather a failure of consent on the part of persons who understand the nature and value of religion in human life. There are, then perhaps some beginnings here of the kind of account that Kant needs and that he develops in more detail in other writings. This final section of Kant's essay is not, in my view, really about what Kant says it is about: right and justice in international law.
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It is directed against Moses Mendelssohn, but not against anything Mendelssohn said about international law or "the cosmopolitan point of view. What, then, is the real point of this section? It is, in my view, a counsel against moral despair.
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Note the question with which Kant begins the section -- a question having little to do with international justice but a great deal to do with the temptations of moral pessimism:. Is the human race as a whole to be loved; or is it something that one is to view with distaste, wishing it all the best so as not to become misanthropic , but not really expecting it, so that we turn our attention away from it, though with feelings of regret? We cannot avoid hating in human nature We may not actually want to do men harm because of this evil, yet we do want as little to do with them as possible , Mendelssohn had defended the pessimistic view, 34 and this is the sense in which Kant's final section -- an attempt to meet the pessimism -- is truly contra Mendelssohn.
If human beings do not deserve such respect, however, then Kant's theory -- which assumes that they do -- will fail in practice. The view that human beings are sacred is, of course, basic to the Christian worldview in which Kant was raised, but Kant the philosopher will not allow himself, through mere faith, to avail himself of its theological defense, that people are sacred because they are created in God's image. If people are genuinely sacred, it must be because of something about them that can be understood in a secular, empirical way.
But is this possible? Some philosophers, such as Robert Nozick, have argued that the demonstrated human capacity for unspeakable evil e. It is in responding to Mendelssohn's pessimism that Kant makes reference to emerging international law -- only as an example of a general point he wants to make about humanity as a progressive species: "Human nature never seems less lovable than in the relations among entire peoples" , Yet Kant sees signs that moral tendencies in at least some people are gradually moving the world toward an international legal order, an order that will end the wars that have brought out the worst in humanity.
If human history does indeed continue to move in this way, it will be easier according to Kant to see humanity as a moral and progressive species that is perhaps deserving of some special respect. But who really knows? Kant, rejecting in philosophy all appeals to religious faith, can do no better than close "Theory and Practice" with a statement of secular faith:. If seeing a virtuous man struggling with tribulations and temptations towards evil and yet holding his own against them is a sight fit for a divinity, so is it a most unfit sight for even the commonest but well intentioned man, not to mention a divinity, to see the human race advancing from period to period towards virtue and then soon afterwards to see it again falling as deeply back into vice and misery as it was before.
I will thus permit myself to assume that since the human race's natural end is to make steady cultural progress, its moral end is to be conceived as progressing toward the better. For I rest my case on my innate duty In this latter I also take into account human nature, which, since respect for right and duty remains alive in it, I cannot regard as so immersed in evil that after many unsuccessful attempts, morally practical reason will finally triumph and show it to be lovable. Thus, even on the cosmopolitan level I stand by my assertion: What on rational grounds is true in theory is also useful in practice , Kant had not, of course, seen evil on the scale that we have known in the twentieth century.
Suppose he had known of the Holocaust. Would he have joined Nozick in seeing it as evidence of total human worthlessness?
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I think not; I think his moral faith would have survived even this. After all, unless human beings are precious, what is so bad about murdering six million of them? Properly to condemn the Holocaust -- as a crime against humanity -- requires a view of humanity as having a value at least very like Kant's value of dignity. Kant says this of Mendelssohn:. The hope for better times, without which an earnest desire to do something that benefits the general good would never have warmed the human heart, has always influenced the work of the well-intentioned; and good Mendelssohn must have counted on it when he so eagerly strove for the enlightenment and welfare of the nation to which he belonged.
Because unless others after him continued further down the same path, he could not by himself, alone, rationally hope to bring them about , Thus here we find Kant, the great secular rationalist, adopting as an article of faith the view of humanity and its possibilities necessary to avoid moral despair and to leave the door open for whatever good may be realizable. We must think and act as if what is true in theory is also possible in practice, since life is bearable and meaningful on no other assumption.
Perhaps rationalistic libertarians are not Kant's only natural bedfellows after all. All page references to Kant's essay will be given in the following form in the body of the text: the page number from the Academy edition will be given first, followed by the page number from the Humphrey translation -- e.
Kant says that morality is quite different from speculative metaphysics in this regard. The claims of speculative metaphysics e. In such cases, therefore, the proverbial saying could be perfectly correct" , Dieter Henrich, ed. Als solche ist sie eo ipso in praktischer Wirkung. Henrich's introduction is very useful. Kant is perhaps more confident than he should be that it will be easy to identify shared moral beliefs -- a confidence perhaps generated by his generally addressing too narrow a sample even of his own culture.
But unless we propose to treat other persons with contempt and not attempt to engage them in moral conversation at all, what alternative do we have except to search for some points of shared agreement? Idealized models of conversation and agreement in Kant, Rawls, and Habermas can perhaps be of assistance here.
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I wonder how many people, after reading this book and seeing what life in an American prison is really like, will continue to feel comfortable saying "they deserve it"? There is, of course, this very important point still to be said in defense of the retributive theory: only by regarding deserved suffering as the norm for legitimate punishment can we see the terrible injustice of what we are actually doing.
Stephen Carter has noted that the way in which minority academics are perceived is to a large degree a function of the current debates over the justice and wisdom of affirmative action in university hiring.
This dishonesty, by which we humbug ourselves and which thwarts the establishing of a true moral disposition in us, extends itself outwardly also to falsehood and deception of others. Greene and H. Except, perhaps, in passing. In discussing the defects in Christian Garve's account of moral consciousness , 68 , Kant speculates that Garve knows in his heart that Kant's account is correct but is mislead by his head -- i. So-called "Good Samaritan Statutes" often impose duties of this nature: "A person who knows that another is exposed to grave physical harm shall, to the extent that the same can be rendered without danger or peril to himself or without interference with important duties owed to others, give reasonable assistance to the exposed person unless that assistance or care is being provided by others" Vt.
Kant does not always miss this point, of course. Indeed, he characterizes an imperfect duty as one that "permits exceptions in the interest of inclination" Foundations , 39, note What he means by this is that an imperfect duty such as charity allows each person to exercise some choice over the persons or causes which will be the beneficiaries of his charity e. So specified, the duty allows us some choice -- based on inclination -- of how to fill in the variables.
The issue of the limits that might be placed on such choices raises interesting questions, but they must be left for another paper. For a rich discussion of Kant on the duty never to lie, see Christine M. I think that at best you look all right but I lie and say "you look great" to build your confidence immediately before you give a public speech. Do we not all consider this permissible? As I long ago argued in my Kant: The Philosophy of Right supra note 12 , I think that Kantian universalizability is best understood not as what Seyla Benhabib has called "a silent thought experiment" but rather in terms of models of conversation and agreement of the kind that one finds in the writings of John Rawls.
Kant's own best statement of such a model is to be found in the second section of "Theory and Practice. For the claim that lying runs into particular problems from the respect for persons second formulation of the categorical imperative, see Korsgaard, "The Right to Lie.
See also his argument in the Doctrine of Virtue Tugendlehre chapter 2, section 1 that lying, involving a misuse of our faculty of communication, violates a duty we have to ourselves. Lewis W. Beck [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ], The best translation of the passage from the Tugendlehre is to be found in Mary Gregor's translation of the entire Metaphysics of Morals Metaphysik der Sitten [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ], A revised Beck translation of the Critique of Practical Reason alone was published by Macmillan in Kant is here, of course, doing nothing more than stating his famous principle that "ought" implies "can" -- a principle he never actually stated in the exact form in which it is often quoted: "One of Kant's most famous 'statements' -- "Thou canst because thou shouldst" -- does not exist in his writings in this neat form see David Baumgardt, 'Legendary Quotations and the Lack of Reference,' Journal of the History of Ideas 7 : But statements that express this inference less succinctly abound, e.
Kowalewski, ; Opus postumum The most relevant portions will be found in Henrich, Kant, Gentz, Rehberg. See, for example, Foundations , 16ff. Kant's actual claim is that acts have moral worth only if performed from a motive of respect for duty, but agent assessment is at least in my judgement his real concern in such passages. The depth of the conflict between such motives and Kantian duty is often overstated.
The Kantian can surely grant, for example, the value of these motives and actions based on them so long as they are pursued with the constraints of a basic structure that is just. By far the richest discussion of such matters is to be found in the essays of Barbara Herman -- who argues not merely that Kant can allow a place for such motivational considerations but that he must acknowledge them as "principles of moral salience" in order to apply the categorical imperative.