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Kant and Applied Ethics: The Uses and Limits of Kant's Practical Philosophy

ISBN: 978-0-470-65766-9
336 pages
November 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
Kant and Applied Ethics: The Uses and Limits of Kant


Kant and Applied Ethics makes an important contribution to Kant scholarship, illuminating the vital moral parameters of key ethical debates.
  • Offers a critical analysis of Kant’s ethics, interrogating the theoretical bases of his theory and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses
  • Examines the controversies surrounding the most important ethical discussions taking place today, including abortion, the death penalty, and same-sex marriage
  • Joins innovative thinkers in contemporary Kantian scholarship, including Christine Korsgaard, Allen Wood, and Barbara Herman, in taking Kant’s philosophy in new and interesting directions
  • Clarifies Kant’s legacy for applied ethics, helping us to understand how these debates have been structured historically and providing us with the philosophical tools to address them
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Table of Contents

Preface vi

Note on Sources and Key to Abbreviations viii

Introduction: Why Kant Now 1

Part I. Applying Kant’s Ethics 11

1. Animal Suffering and Moral Character 13

2. Kant’s Strategic Importance for Environmental Ethics 45

3. Moral and Legal Arguments for Universal Health Care 71

4. The Scope of Patient Autonomy 90

Part II. Kantian Arguments against Kant’s Conclusions 115

5. Subjecting Ourselves to Capital Punishment 117

6. Same-Sex Marriage as a Means to Mutual Respect 139

Part III. Limitations of Kant’s Theory 165

7. Consent, Mail-Order Brides, and the Marriage Contract 167

8. Individual Maxims and Social Justice 194

9. The Decomposition of the Corporate Body 217

10. Becoming a Person 241

Conclusion: Emerging from Kant’s Long Shadow 283

Bibliography 289

Index 311

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Author Information

Matthew C. Altman is an assistant professor of philosophy and director of the William O. Douglas Honors College at Central Washington University. He is the author of A Companion to Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" (2008) as well as many articles in ethics, applied ethics, social/political philosophy, and the history of philosophy.
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“This is a competent, clear, and evenhanded assessment of the relevance of Kant’s thought for current moral debates.  Summing Up: Recommended.  Lower-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty.”  (Choice, 1 October 2012)

“Kant and Applied Ethics is a stimulating attempt to assess the relevance of Kantian theory for contemporary moral problems. Kantian moral philosophers will find much to disagree with, but there is no doubt that the book raises important puzzles for Kantian moral theory. Those unpersuaded by Kantian theory may find ammunition to use against Kantianism. Those who wish to defend Kant's theory may find a helpful formulation of some serious challenges to Kant's moral philosophy.”  (Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 30 June 2012)


In Kant and Applied Ethics, Matthew Altman draws on a wide knowledge of Kant’s writings, including lesser-known texts, to bring Kantian insights to bear on a large range of different ethical problems from treatment of animals and respect for the environment to suicide and punishment and abortion. It will definitely be a valuable teaching tool... and proves something that should be more widely recognized, namely, that applied ethics is just ethics, and applied philosophy is just philosophy.
—Jeffrey Reiman, American University

Kant, in Altman’s artful hands, holds the key to solve some of the most intricate issues in applied ethics. Exegesis and philosophical imagination successfully combine in this appealing book.
—Pablo Muchnik, Emerson College

Altman is a reliable and sympathetic guide to Kantian positions on the most common issues in applied ethics, as well as an incisive critic who is candid about the limits of Kantian ethics.
—Aaron Bunch, Washington State University

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