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

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SUNY Press, 2001 - Philosophy - 138 pages
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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."

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Unnecessary evil: history and moral progress in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant

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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 ... Read full review


Purposiveness and Cognition
From Autonomy to Radical Evil
Radical Evil and the Ethical Commonwealth
Cultural Differentiation The Origins of History
Purposiveness and Political Progress
Cosmopolitan Publics International Law and Human Rights
History and the Moral Duties of Individuals

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About the author (2001)

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

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