Monday, October 15, 2018

A Note on "Ought Implies Can" - Kant Did Not Maintain This

It is not correct to attribute to Kant the notion that ought implies can, at least if by this is meant that we can only experience obligations for things that are within our own power to perform. I think the attribution of this sentiment to Kant is based on a misunderstanding, and has simply just been repeated enough to become standard.
I am aware of nowhere in Kant's work that argues for this in particular. Additionally, there are arguments that he gives that seem to require that this must not be a position he holds. For examples, we ought to will the Highest Good, yet we are not capable of bringing it about.
More anecdotally, I think that we can all find in our own experience of duty or guilt (respect for law generally) in cases where we are not capable of fulfilling the obligation through some action of our own; it is plausible that this is the same for Kant.
Kant does say that we can have no obligation for something that is not possible under natural conditions, but this is to say that if we cannot even cognize the state of affairs then we could not even understand any obligation to bring them about.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Understanding Philosophy Through our Commitment to Practices

I want to suggest and explain a strategy I have used while interpreting Kant and which I have been more regularly inclined towards in discussion. I will try to state it straightforwardly: 
Given any subject Kant discusses with regard to its form, a reader should look to the concrete practices that are indicated directly or indirectly in the analysis. These practices are read as what Kant is committed to, and what he assumes his readers are committed to. All of Kant's analyses should be framed by these commitments.
An interesting result from this is that the interpretations following this method allow one to interrogate their own behaviors and see how they may relate to the transcendental picture Kant paints. This approach also tends to expose the relationship that Transcendental Philosophy and Metaphysics have to Anthropology. 
I will now provide some examples.

Moral Judgments

The Practice: There are occasions when we take someone to task for something we consider bad without any qualification. Additionally we could note that in some of these occasions we will not allow circumstances to have made the offending action necessary.
Reflection on Kant: If we consider these practices as the object of an analysis, then we will not be very far away from finding Kant's discussion of the moral law - a law that is given by the form of lawgiving rather than in relation to any end - as well as Kant's discussion of freedom.
Result: Rather than seeing Kant's moral philosophy as committed primarily to formulae (e.g., Categorical Imperatives), or to formalisms (e.g., Freedom) we should see him committed to practices of judging the unsuitability of actions and holding people to account. If we take this to be the central commitment, we can consider the implications of these practices, how they relate to other practices and if we are actually willing (or able) to do without them.

Objective Judgments

For Kant, moral judgments are a sort of objective judgment, and so it will be interesting what sort of insights we can get by considering objective judgments more broadly.
The Practice: Sometimes we demand the assent of others, yet in a way where moveable if we discover disagreement.
Reflection on Kant: In these cases we are both sovereign so far as we set out how things stand, yet also we are subject in that the judgments of others in that their disagreement may bring about a reconsideration of the matter. 
Result: If we consider "On having an opinion, knowing, and believing." (A 820/B 848), we find that objective judgments may be found out to be subjective when submitted to the judgments of others. This is a confirmation of reading objective or subjective as formal characteristics of a judgment, but also how these formal characteristics are exposed by our practices.
Reflecting this back upon Kant's moral considerations we may see some insight into the kingdom of ends formulation of the moral law, wherein we are all subject and sovereign in a possible kingdom of ends - rather than an actual nature as with theoretical cognition. Additionally, seeing that our judgments are subject to be challenged effects how we maintain and reason in their favor will be important for observing how moral disagreements play out.

* * *

I will be probably write more on this, expanding on these examples or contributing some more.
An additional topic that is worth considering here would be the relation between ratio essendi and ratio cognoscenti (see Preface to Critique of Practical Reason). 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Relating the Empirical to the Moral Law

This will hopefully be a brief clarification regarding the empirical and its relation to the moral law.
Kant writes of the determination of the moral law being due to a pure (non-empirical) principle. However, the empirical is related to the moral law so far as it is necessary to include empirical concepts in ones maxim (e.g., lying is a concept from experience, and with apparent meaning only in experience).
Moral laws can even contain consequences - as long as these consequences are contained in the maxim being judged.
Kant speaks of the principle of the determination of law being pure with regard to how the maxim (which contains empirical concepts, and perhaps consequences) is put in the form of universal law giving (act only according to that maxim which, etc). That the principle used in judging the moral law is pure means that this universal law giving does not rest on experience or derive from it.
The result of the judgment that produces a moral law from a maxim has characteristics that point back to the pure principle. The necessity of the law, and its categorical (non-consequential) character both relate back to the purity of the judgment - despite the judgment containing empirical content left over from the maxim that was judged.