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The Development of Kant's View of Ethics

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The Development of Kant's View of Ethics

Keith Ward

ISBN: 978-1-119-59819-0 April 2019 Wiley-Blackwell 376 Pages

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Originally published in 1972, The Development of Kant's Ethics is Keith Ward's exceptional analysis of the history of Kant's ideas on ethics and the emergence of Kantian ethics as a mature theory. Through a thorough overview of all of Kant's texts written between 1755 and 1804, Ward puts forth the argument that the critical literature surrounding Kantian ethics has underplayed Kant's concern with the role of happiness in relation to morality and the significance of the tradition of natural law for the development of Kantian ethics.

Covering all of Kant's extant works from Nova Dilucidatio to Opus Postumum, Ward traces the progression of Kant's views from his early ideas on Rationalism to Moral Sense Theory and the development of Critical Philosophy, and finally to his later-life writings on the relationship between morality and faith. Through careful analysis of each of Kant's works, Ward details the scientific, philosophical, and theological ideas that influenced Kant—such as the works of Emanuel Swedenborg—and demonstrates the critical role these influences played in the development of Kantian ethics.

Offering a rare and extraordinary historical view of some of Kant's most important contributions to philosophy, this is an invaluable resource for scholars engaged in questions on the origins and influences of Kant's work, and for students seeking a thorough understanding of Kant's historical and philosophical contexts.

Preface v

List of Textual References vii

One: The Rationalist Background

I. I Statement of general programme 1

1.2 Early influences-Pietism and rationalism 3

1.3 Dilucidatio (1755); the principle of sufficient reason; the rationalist concept of God 5

I ·4 Freedom and necessity-an early antinomy 8

1.5 Early essays and letters-the problem of evil in the best of all possible worlds 11

1.6 Theory of the Heavens (1755); The Only Possible Argument for a Demonstration of the Existence of God (1763); early versions of the teleological argument 14

1.7 The Romantic vision of nature as an infinite evolutionary spiritual system 18

Two: The Doctrine of Moral Feeling

2.1 Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime (1763); morality as founded on the ‘feeling of the beauty and dignity of human nature' 21

2.2 Prize Essay (1764); the influence of the British moralists; formal and material elements in morality; the move from rationalism to analytic method 26

2.3 The stages of Kant's early philosophical development 30

2.4 Fragment (I764); Announcement of Lectures (I765); Kant's uneasy acceptance of moral sense theories 32

Three: The Dreams of Metaphysics

3·I Dreams of a Spirit-Seer (I766); the influence of Swedenborg 34

3.2 The visionary metaphysics of the Dreams; morality as the appearance of an intelligible commerce of spiritual beings; the influence of Rousseau; the origin of the formula of the categorical imperative 37

3·3 Metaphysical scepticism; the primacy of moral action 40

3·4 Inaugural Dissertation (1770); the return to rationalism; intellect and sensibility 42

3·5 The discovery of the mathematical antinomies; the doctrine of transcendental idealism 44

3.6 Morality as known by pure intellect 46

3·7 The collapse of the Dissertation view; its failure to account for Newtonian science; the distinction of reason and intellect 47

3.8 The visionary and dogmatic origins of the Critical view of ethics 50

Four: The Lectures on Ethics

4.1 Lectures on Ethics (I775-81); the early formulation of the Critical view; duty, perfection and happiness 52

4.2 Fragment (circa I775); virtue as the a priori form of happiness 56

4·3 Happiness and belief in God as motives to morality 58

4·4 Morality and religion (I): God, revelation and duty 61

4·5 Letters to J. C. Lavater (1755); morality and religion (2): religion as helping men's moral deficiencies and assuring final fulfilment 63

4.6 The importance of the Lectures 67

Five: The Critical Doctrines of God and The Self

5.I Paralogisms (1781 and 1787); the doctrine of the self (I): the rejection of spiritualism and materialism 69

5.2 Third Antinomy (1781 and 1787); the doctrine of the self (2): the noumenal freedom of the self 75

5·3 Transcendental Dialectic, ch. 3; Fourth Antinomy (I78I and I787); the doctrine of God (I): God as the ideal of reason; necessary being; intellectual intuition; the author of nature 77

·4 The doctrine of God (2): the regulative use of ideas 80

Six: The Postulates of Practical Reason

6.I Critique of Practical Reason, Dialectic (I788); Critique of Teleological Judgment, Appendix (I790); the postulates (I): the summum bonum 84

6.2 The postulates (2): the relation of happiness and morality 88

6.3 The postulates (3): the union of reason and sensibility 91

6.4 The teleological nature of Kant's ethics 95

Seven: The Supreme Principle of Morality

7.I Groundwork (I785); Metaphysic of Morals (I797); the derivation of duties from the categorical imperative 99

7.2 Reason and the ends of nature 107

7·3 The principle of universalisability I I3

7·+ The principle of humanity II8

7·5 The nature of the supreme principle of morality I24

Eight: Nature and Purpose

8.1 Critique of Aesthetic Judgment (1790); beauty as a symbol of morality; sublimity as pointing to a supersensible ground of the unity of reason and nature 131

8.2 Critique of Teleological Judgment (1790); the regulative principle of teleology in biology; the notion of God I 34

8.3 The historical purpose of nature; through struggle to culture and a world-federation 137

8.4 Idea for a Universal History (1784); On the Conjectural Beginning of Human History (1786); Strife of the Faculties (1798); Perpetual Peace (1795); the evolutionary and purposive view of nature; its final subordination to the moral individual 139

Nine: Morality and Religion

9.1 Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793); the doctrine of innate evil 144

9.2 The necessity of noumenal conversion 147

9·3 Religious symbols; the 'mysteries' of religion 151

9·4 Ecclesiastical and moral faith; the idea of God 155

Ten: The Final View of Ethics

10.1 Opus Postumum (1790-1803); Kant's final metaphysical views 160

10.2 The identification of God and practical reason 164

10.3 Conclusion: the metaphysical context of Kant's ethics 166

10.4 The conflict of rationalism and individualism; wille and willkur 168

10.5 The failure of voluntarism to provide a via media 171

Appendix: Schilpp's Kant's Pre-Critical Ethics 175

Bibliography 178

Index of Names 180

Index of Subjects 182