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§5. The Roots of Moral Motivation in Our Person

§5. The Roots of Moral Motivation in Our Person

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     ,  

Surely the common understanding could have achieved this much without

help from philosophy! In reply, he says:

Do you really require that a mode of knowledge which concerns all

men should transcend the common understanding, and should only

be revealed to you by philosophers? Precisely what you find fault with

is the best confirmation of the correctness of [what I have said]. For

we have thereby revealed to us, what could not at the start have been

foreseen, namely, that in matters that concern all men without distinction nature is not guilty of any partial distribution of her gifts, and that

in regard to the essential ends of human nature the highest philosophy

cannot advance further than is possible under the guidance which nature has bestowed even upon the most ordinary understanding.

. Now, our special status in the world does not mean that we also

inhabit a different realm, conceived as ontologically separate from the order

of nature. It means rather that we are capable of thought, feeling, and conduct grounded in and governed by the powers of theoretical and practical

reason. It also means that we can live in a moral world, and to do so, we

need only live by the principles of pure practical reason and thus in accordance with the moral order rooted in our predispositions and appropriate

to our nature. Persons in a realm of ends display before themselves and

one another their glorious status as free persons situated, as it were, above

the order of nature, in the sense that they can act independently of that

order in the pursuit of personal and social ideals as authorized and required

by the moral law of their reason.

On the other hand, the law from which we act does not imply the

rejection of the natural world. To the contrary, it is a law that, when acted

upon by everyone, gives to the world of nature the form of an intelligible

world (KP :f.), a world that allows ample scope for our natural desires

and affections (permissible ends), so that a realized realm of ends is not

only a moral world but also, under reasonably favorable conditions, a happy

world (KR B).

Kant’s underlying conviction is that once we fully understand this moral

conception and dwell upon it in our thought, once we fully understand

ourselves as members of a possible realm of ends and have this conception

[  ]

   

of ourselves, we cannot help but be deeply moved to identify with that

ideal and to act in accordance with that conception. This is a fact about us

rooted in our nature as depicted in the Religion, a fact which philosophy

enables us to understand. Kant’s most lyrical and elevated passages are those

in which he describes the profound effects on us of a clear grasp of the

moral law and how it shows our independence of nature.

Once philosophy shows that understanding the moral ideal leads to

identifying with it and acting according to it, we see that the last condition

(d) for the existence of pure practical reason is met: the moral law can be

a sufficient motive for us, whatever our natural desires. This is the point

of the two examples Kant describes in the second Critique (KP :): the first

brings out that natural desires cannot override the love of life, the second

that the conception-dependent desire to act from the moral law can do so.

Kant believes that he has shown that all four conditions are satisfied, and

so there is indeed pure practical reason. The view of the second Critique is

strengthened once he works out in the Religion a more adequate moral

psychology. Thus our account of the doctrine of the fact of reason is now


[  ]

K 

The Unity of Reason

§. The Practical Point of View

. In this final lecture on Kant, I consider the unity of reason and the idea

of reasonable faith in two forms (to be explained in a moment) and their

relation to the idea of philosophy as defense. I note first that there are three

unities of reason: the first, in the theoretical sphere, is the greatest possible

systematic unity of knowledge of objects needed for a sufficient criterion of

empirical truth (KR B); the second, in the practical sphere, is the greatest

possible systematic unity of ends in a realm of ends (Gr II:ff. [ff.]). The

third is that of both theoretical and practical reason in one unified constitution of reason in which practical reason has primacy, as every interest of

reason is ultimately practical (KP :ff.).

One way to approach the unity of reason is to examine Kant’s idea of

reasonable faith and the postulates (as he calls them) that express it. What

Kant says about these postulates raises some of the hardest questions about

the unity of reason: first, how exactly is practical reason (and the practical

point of view) related to theoretical reason (and the theoretical point of

view) in the constitution of reason; and second, in what way in that constitution does practical reason have primacy? These are dark subjects, and I can

only indicate the outlines of a possible approach.

. Before proceeding, I stress a point mentioned last time. Recall that

Kant often says that our knowledge is extended by the postulates of reasonable faith (freedom, God, and immortality), but, he always adds, it is ex[  ]

   

tended only from a practical point of view. The following at KP :f. is

an example:

Is our knowledge . . . actually extended . . . and is that immanent in

practical reason which for speculative reason was only transcendent?

Certainly, but only from a practical point of view. For we do not thereby

know the nature of our souls, nor of the intelligible world, nor of the

Supreme Being with respect to what they are in themselves. We have

merely combined the conceptions of them in the practical concept of

the highest good as the object of our will and only by means of the

moral law. . . . But how freedom is possible and how we are to conceive

of this kind of causality theoretically and positively is not thereby discovered. All that is comprehended is that such a causality is postulated

by way of the moral law and for its own sake. . . . It is the same with

the other ideas.

He means that when, say, we believe in our transcendental freedom

(that our reason is absolutely spontaneous and free decisions begin a new

series of events), and when we believe in God and immortality, we are

not to take these convictions as expressing knowledge. They are not to be

regarded by us as in the least extending our theoretical understanding

of the world, as it is studied in science (KP :; ff.; ). So, for example, the reasonable belief in God has no role in physics, and the God of

physics, the God of the physico-teleological proof (KP :–; KU:§),

has no role in practical faith. Yet no arguments can take from us the conviction that the ideas of freedom, God, and immortality are true concepts

(wahre Begriffe).

What is required for this extension of our knowledge from a practical

point of view is an a priori purpose, that is, an object given by moral law

as its a priori object (KP :). I shall distinguish two such objects: one is

the realm of ends, as found in the Groundwork and the political essays; the

other is the highest good, as found in the three Critiques. I believe that the

nature and the plausibility of Kant’s view in these two cases are quite different, and I shall give them different names: reasonable faith for the beliefs

supporting our working for a realm of ends and Vernunftglaube for the beliefs

supporting our striving for the highest good. I begin with the first.

[  ]

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§5. The Roots of Moral Motivation in Our Person

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