Tải bản đầy đủ - 0 (trang)
§2. Some Points about the Preface:Paragraphs 11–13

§2. Some Points about the Preface:Paragraphs 11–13

Tải bản đầy đủ - 0trang

:    

(iv) philosophy as defense, including a defense of the freedom

of reason, both theoretical and practical



Here I won’t try even to hint at what these themes mean, since they

are difficult and require considerable background to state. But we shall try

to understand them, and I hope their meaning and interconnections will

eventually be clear. Setting out moral law as the supreme principle of morality is, as Kant says, preparatory for everything else. That is why I shall leave

aside many questions about how to interpret the categorical imperative and

the relations among its three formulations. Provided that we get the main

essentials right, I don’t believe those questions make all that much difference. I shall note as we go on what is really essential and why.

(b) A second important point is this: Kant says (again in Pref: [])

that a critique of pure practical reason is less urgent in the case of practical

reason than in the case of theoretical reason. As he argues in the first Critique, theoretical reason tends to exceed its appropriate limits and thereby

to fall into a kind of high-blown emptiness, which is fortunately shown in

the antinomies. Were it not for those antinomies, we could easily think

that we were talking sense: here is Kant the anti-metaphysician. By contrast,

practical reason in matters of morality “is easily brought to a high degree

of accuracy and precision even in the most ordinary intelligence” (Pref:

[]). This is related to the following point.

(c) Kant says (still in Pref: []) that he plans to write a critique of pure

practical reason; but when this work appears, it is entitled simply Critique of

Practical Reason. What happened to the adjective “pure”? The full explanation of this must wait until later when we discuss the fact of reason; but

Kant’s thought is that whereas pure theoretical reason tends to transgress

its proper limits, in the case of practical reason it is empirical (not pure)

practical reason, prompted by our natural inclinations and desires, that

tends to transgress its appropriate sphere, especially when the moral law

and its basis in our person is not clear to us. Kant insists on the purity of

the moral law, that is, on the fact that it is an a priori principle that originates

in our free reason. He thinks that being fully conscious of the purity of the

law and of its origin in our person as free and autonomous is the surest

protection against our violating the moral law (see Gr Pref:– [–];

and II:n. []; n. []).

[  ]



   



. The above remarks are related to what Kant says in Gr I:– (–

). In I: (), he discusses the need for moral philosophy. It is not

needed to teach us our duties and obligations—to tell us what they are—

for these we already know. He writes in I: ():

We cannot observe without admiration the great advantage which the

power of practical judgment has over that of the theoretical in the

minds of ordinary men. In theoretical judgments, when ordinary reason . . . depart[s] from the laws of experience and perceptions of sense,

it falls into unintelligibility and self-contradiction. . . . On the practical

side, however, the power of judgment first begins to show its advantages . . . when the ordinary mind excludes all sensuous motives from

its practical laws. . . . [O]rdinary intelligence becomes even subtle . . .

and what is most important, it can . . . have as good hope of hitting

the mark as any . . . philosopher, because he can have no principle

different from that of ordinary intelligence, but may easily confuse his

judgment with a mass of . . . irrelevant considerations.



I have cited this passage (omitting phrases here and there) to show that

Kant does not mean to teach us what is right and wrong (he would think

that presumptuous) but to make us aware of the moral law as rooted in

our free reason. A full awareness of this, he believes, arouses a strong desire

to act from that law (Gr II:n. []; n. []). This desire is (what we

called in Hume II:§) a conception-dependent desire: it is a desire, belonging to us as reasonable persons, to act from an ideal expressible in terms

of a conception of ourselves as autonomous in virtue of our free reason,

both theoretical and practical. In his moral philosophy, Kant seeks selfknowledge: not a knowledge of right and wrong—that we already possess—but a knowledge of what we desire as persons with the powers of

free theoretical and practical reason.

. I should add in this connection that Kant may also seek, as part of

his Pietist background, a form of moral reflection that could reasonably be

used to check the purity of our motives. In a general way we know what

is right and what is wrong, but we are often tempted to act for the wrong

reasons in ways we may not be aware of. One use he may have seen for

the categorical imperative is as expressing a reasonable form of reflection

[  ]



:    



that could help us to guard against this by checking whether the maxim

we act from is legitimate as permitted by practical reason.6 I say a reasonable

form of reflection because one thing Kant found offensive in the Pietism

he was exposed to at the Fridericianum was its obsession with the purity

of motives and the compulsive self-examination this could engender. By

contrast, the categorical imperative articulates a mode of reflection that

could order and moderate the scrutiny of our motives in a reasonable way.

I don’t see Kant as at all concerned with moral skepticism. It is simply

not a problem for him, however much it may trouble us. His view may

provide a way to deal with it, but that is another matter. He always takes

for granted, as part of the fact of reason, that all persons (barring the mentally retarded and the insane) acknowledge the supreme principle of practical reason as authoritative for their will (KP :).



§. The Idea of a Pure Will

. I now turn to Pref: (), which is important because here Kant explains

his intentions in the Groundwork by distinguishing his doctrine of what he

calls a pure will from Wolff ’s account of willing as such. Wolff ’s account

of willing as such Kant compares to general (formal) logic, while his own

account of pure will he compares to transcendental logic. What are we to

make of this?

Since Kant’s explanation is a bit opaque, I try a conjecture. Just as general logic studies the formal principles of valid thought and reasoning regardless of its particular content and objects, so Wolff’s account of willing

as such studies the psychological principles that hold for all desires regardless of their objects and what in particular they are desires for. Desires are

treated as homogeneous, whatever their origin in our person. In this respect, the account is like general logic in leaving aside the content and origin

of thought in ascertaining the validity of inferences. The account of willing

as such, if this conjecture is correct, suggests a view of our person that sees

desires as psychic forces pressing for fulfillment and satisfaction proportionate to their strength and urgency. The balance of these psychic forces deter6. Here I am indebted for valuable discussion with Michael Hardimon.



[  ]



   



mines what we do. A person of strong will (someone with Hume’s strength

of mind) is someone whose deliberations are persistently controlled by the

same strong desires.

By contrast, Kant’s account of a pure will is like transcendental logic in

this way. Transcendental logic studies all the epistemic conditions that make

possible synthetic a priori knowledge of objects. We find such knowledge

in mathematics and in the first principles of physics; and this knowledge

must be explained. Similarly, Kant thinks that pure practical reason exists

and that it is sufficient of itself to determine the will independently of our

inclinations and natural desires. This fact too must be explained. To do so,

we need an account of a pure will, and not an account of willing as such;

for just as synthetic a priori knowledge is knowledge of a special kind and

requires transcendental logic to set out its principles, so pure willing is a

special kind of willing and requires its own inquiry to be understood.

The difference between theoretical reason and practical reason is,

briefly, this: theoretical reason deals with knowledge of given objects, and

transcendental logic sets out the principles that make synthetic a priori

knowledge of those objects possible; whereas practical reason concerns how

we are to bring about objects in accordance with an idea (or a conception)

of those objects (KP :f.). The principles of a pure will that Kant wants

to examine are the principles of practical reason that, in his view, can effectively determine our will apart from inclinations and natural desires, and

direct it to its a priori object, the highest good (KP :). As Kant presents

him, Wolff, and no doubt others also, are not aware of the significance of

a pure will, an idea Kant sees as fundamental. For that reason, he sees

himself as breaking “entirely new ground” (Pref: []).

. We might put Wolff ’s view (as Kant sees it) as follows: recall the

distinctions from Hume II:§ between object-dependent and principledependent (and conception-dependent) desires. Think of all the desires that

affect us, and that contend within our person, as object-dependent desires.

These are like Kant’s inclinations and impulses generated in us by everything from our bodily wants and needs to social processes of learning and

education. Such social processes are governed, let’s suppose, by Hume’s

laws of association, the principles of custom and facility, the principle of

predominant passions, and the like. Now, Wolff considers all these desires

solely with respect to their strength and, like Hume, has no conception of

[  ]



Tài liệu bạn tìm kiếm đã sẵn sàng tải về

§2. Some Points about the Preface:Paragraphs 11–13

Tải bản đầy đủ ngay(0 tr)

×