Kantian Journal

2020 Vol. 39. No. 1

ARTICLES

Kant’s Philosophy

Absoluter Wert in Kants Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten

Abstract

In the second section of the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant introduces the concept of an end in itself and defines it as something whose existence has an absolute value. He continues with the assertion that the ground of a possible categorical imperative lies solely in this end in itself. Now Kant, in his remarks on the realm of ends, also operates with the notions of an end in itself and absolute value — seemingly in a different way, however. Thus, in the remarks on the realm of ends, the rational being becomes an end in itself through its real moral willing and acting, both of which presuppose the validity of the categorical imperative. Basically, the difference in the ways of using the concepts of absolute value and an end in itself consists in the fact that in the first case both serve as precondition for the categorical imperative’s validity, whereas in the passages concerning the realm of ends both are a consequence of its validity. At first glance we therefore must register an inconsistent use of both terms. In what follows, I aim to show that the assumption of such a putative inconsistency expresses a misleading understanding of the internal structure of the end in itself rather than a real problem in Kant’s way of arguing. The present study tries to solve this supposed problem of inconsistency by sketching a more appropriate understanding of the internal structure of the end in itself.

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The Role of the Sublime in Kant’s Religion: Moral Motivation and Empirical Possibility

Abstract

I show that Kant’s depiction of the christic figure in Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason is not contingent but explains how this figure functions in two essential ways: as a representation of a maximum of morality that can ground our moral disposition and in so doing acts as a stan­dard for morality. More precisely, the following argument is made: 1) the sublime nature of the image of Christ — as an image of universal respect for the law — awakens the moral feeling of subjects in the sense of the possibility of overcoming one’s perverted nature; 2) as moral perfection it provides immediate transparency to the end goal of morality; 3) just as in the case of associative construction of empirical concepts, the sublime provides the prototype for association through which empirical acts are determined as moral ones; 4) the image of Christ also acts as motivator by encompassing said trans­parency and standard in the idea of moral perfection. These four points show that the image of Christ functions in a dual manner. Points 1) to 3) address Christ as a prototype/archetype (Urbild) — awakening and making possible a moral redefinition of the subject — while point 4) addresses Christ as an example (Vorbild) — sustaining and entertaining the moral redefinition as a motivating model.

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Inadvisable Concession: Kant’s Critique of the Political Philosophy of Christian Garve

Abstract

The starting point of my study is Kant’s remark to the effect that Garve in his treatise on the connection between morality and politics presents arguments in defence of unjust principles. Recognition of these principles is, according to Kant, an inadvisable concession to those who are inclined to abuse it. I interpret this judgement by making a detailed comparison of the texts of the two treatises. I demonstrate that Garve’s work is an eclectic attempt to combine in one concept the lessons of historical experience with the ideas drawn from British empiricism and German rationalism. These ideas were criticised by Kant in his “critical” period. There is a consensus among researchers that Garve condoned the expansionist policy of Frederick II of Prussia, totally denied that legality in international relations was possible and in general deserved the reputation of an (ultra-)conservative. From that point of view the key values for Garve were the security and well-being of the state. I offer an alternative interpretation of Garve’s position because I believe that the value of political stability plays an important role in it. Such an interpretation makes it possible to treat Garve’s narrative as it was assessed by Kant, i.e. as a concession to the common principles of political practice as a result of a failure to find the guiding theory. My study has established that the role of Garve’s work in the writing of Kant’s treatise Toward Perpetual Peace was more significant than Kant’s own words suggest. Besides, I show that it was under Garve’s influence that Kant turned to the problem of excessive complexity of the principles involved in the search for concrete political decisions. Garve obviously laments this complexity and yet makes these principles still more complex. Kant offers a simpler solution of the problem on the basis of his theory of morals and right.

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Neo-Kantianism

Moral und Dogma: Alois Riehls Neukantianismus im Spannungsfeld zwischen Religion und Politik

Abstract

The aim is to examine Alois Riehl’s contribution to the “culture war” (Kulturkampf) in the second half of the nineteenth century. We show that he used Kant’s autonomy principle to argue against the idea that religious dogmatism is a fundament of morality. We prove this thesis by focusing on the forgotten historical background, which is important for an understanding of Morals und Dogma. Originally this essay was an expert opinion for the court case of the socialist H. Tauschinski who was accused of blasphemy. Tauschinski wrote an article in which he doubted the immortality of the soul and the existence of a personal God. These two dogmas of the Catholic Church were considered bу the Austrian authorities to be the foundations of public order. Riehl questioned not only the charge but also the validity of religious dogmas for morality. Based on Kant’s ethics, he argued for a moral indifferentism of religious dogmas. His career was significantly influenced by this essay, because of its anti-clerical content. During the culture war, Riehl repeatedly had problems with the authorities, especially in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The “Neurath-Haller Thesis” argues that in Austria the appointment of professorships was controlled and monitored by the state, with the goal of installing a philosophy which was beneficial to the interests of the state, and a strong anti-Kantianism in Austrian Philosophy as a consequence. We can agree with this thesis insofar as Riehl in the period of the “Catholic Renaissance” in Austria was not allowed to succeed Ernst Mach. The analysis of Riehl’s arguments allows us furthermore to understand Riehl as a neo-Kantian as early as 1871/1872, which has been questioned by many authors who think the early Riehl was no Kantian.

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