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Unnecessary Evil: History and Moral Progress in the Philosophy of Immanuel Kant
     

Unnecessary Evil: History and Moral Progress in the Philosophy of Immanuel Kant

by Sharon Anderson-Gold
 

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Demonstrates the systematic connection between Kant's ethics and his philosophy of history.

No philosopher has been more committed to the idea of the moral progress of humanity than Immanuel Kant. But is this idea of the moral advancement of the species compatible with the individualist basis of Kantian ethics? Do individuals have obligations to contribute

Overview

Demonstrates the systematic connection between Kant's ethics and his philosophy of history.

No philosopher has been more committed to the idea of the moral progress of humanity than Immanuel Kant. But is this idea of the moral advancement of the species compatible with the individualist basis of Kantian ethics? Do individuals have obligations to contribute toward the welfare of future generations? Here, Sharon Anderson-Gold affirms the compatibility of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy of history and ethics by reversing the individualistic reading of the nature of virtue and vice. Arguing that Kant’s definition of radical evil as a characteristic of the social condition of humanity makes virtue a collective task, she concludes that Kant’s views on the moral progress of the species are essential to a proper appreciation of the collective character of moral goals and the social context of both virtue and vice. The author also expands the role of reflective judgment in the development of a cosmopolitan discourse specifying duties supporting international institutions, human rights and global economic justice. She argues that reflective judgments contain both phenomenological and normative components, making a moral evaluation of social institutions possible, thereby providing an orientation or guide for individual action.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Artfully reconciling Kant’s ethics and philosophy of history, this well-written book makes an important contribution to understanding the former and is highly recommended.” — Library Journal

“This book will change the way future generations look at Kant’s work. It is a rare book that gives both a careful reading of the past and a visionary glimpse of the future. Few books about the past can claim to be a doorway into the future.” — Thomas Auxter, author of Kant’s Moral Teleology

“The book is significant because it carries further a new approach to Kant’s moral, political, and historical writings, which exploits some insights that an exploration of reflective judgment and orientation have made possible.” — Rudolf A. Makkreel, author of Imagination and Interpretation in Kant: The Hermeneutical Import of the Critique of Judgment

Library Journal
Kant championed individual autonomy, but in his Religion Within the Limits of Pure Reason, he says that man is radically evil. Many readers of Kant, including Goethe, have found Kant's claims contradictory, but in her first book Anderson-Gold reconciles them. In her view, Kant thought that radical evil was a social phenomenon. It arises from the fact that people live in society and does not as such limit freedom of choice. Autonomy can thus coexist in peace with radical evil. But evil cannot effectively be opposed by uncoordinated action. The good is for Kant a matter that demands collective resolution; in deciding on a proper course of conduct, one cannot rely on the vagaries of individual assessment. Artfully reconciling Kant's ethics and pholosopy of history, this well-written book makes an important contribution to understanding the former and is highly recommended.--David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
To affirm the compatibility of Kant's philosophy of history and ethics, Anderson-Gold (philosophy, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) reverses the individualistic reading of the nature of virtue and vice. She argues that his definition of radical evil as a characteristic of the social condition of humanity makes virtue a collective task, and concludes that his views on the moral progress of the species are essential to a proper appreciation of the collective character of moral goals and the social context of both virtue and vice. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780791448205
Publisher:
State University of New York Press
Publication date:
06/01/2001
Series:
SUNY Series in Philosophy Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
152
Product dimensions:
5.92(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.36(d)

Meet the Author

Sharon Anderson-Gold is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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