Objective and Subjective Ends in Kants Realm of EndsReport as inadecuate




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(2010)Second Annual Dutch Conference on Practical Philosophy.p.35-35 Mark abstract In the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant assesses his idea of a moral world as a ‘realm of ends’ (‘Reich der Zwecke’) defining it as ‘a whole of all ends in systematic connection (a whole both of rational beings as ends in themselves and the ends of his own that each may set himself)’ (IV:433). The importance of this topic for Kant’s moral philosophy can hardly be overestimated for Kant strikingly holds that ‘Morality consists, then, in the reference of all action to the lawgiving by which alone a realm of ends is possible’ (IV:434). Yet, in the literature, rather little attention has been devoted to Kant’s realm of ends. First, I shall briefly examine what it is that makes a being a rational being and what Kant exactly means by calling rational beings ‘ends in themselves’ or ‘objective ends’. In contrast to these ‘objective ends’, I shall use the notion of ‘subjective ends’ for referring to the ends that a rational being sets. Secondly, I shall show that Kant’s paradoxical claims (i) that the realm of ends contains the subjective ends that each may set for himself and (ii) that its realisation at the same time requires abstraction from the content of these subjective ends (IV:433), are not incompatible if we distinguish two stages that Kant probably has in mind. First, we have to abstract from the content of the ends in determining which maxims of action are to be universalised and in universally legislating for a moral community, for if this were not to be the case, we would act for the sake of our own ends and we would not legislate universally. Secondly, once we have decided – in abstraction from the content of ends – to act on universalisable maxims, legislating within a realm of ends according to such maxims will yield the pursuit of particular as well as common ends that can be recognised as morally legitimate and that sketch a vivid image of what our moral conduct leads to. Finally, I shall argue that the subjective, morally legitimate ends in the realm of ends can be understood as (i) morally permissible ends, i.e., ends that a subject wishes to pursue and that may be value-neutral or amoral but that do not violate or conflict with the moral law, and (ii) morally obligatory ends, i.e., ‘ends as duties’ as developed in Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals. Moreover, I suggest to combine this distinction with a second division into (i) individual ends and (ii) shared or social ends. Hence, a four field taxonomy is generated: (i) individual, morally permissible ends (e.g. listening to a piece of music), (ii) social, morally permissible ends (e.g. sharing a dinner), (iii) individual, morally obligatory ends (one’s own perfection) and (iv) social, morally obligatory ends (promoting others’ happiness). My interpretation thus also suggests to interpret Kant’s realm of ends as a meaningful connection of ethical liberalism and ethical socialism.

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication: http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-1046438



Author: Stijn Van Impe

Source: https://biblio.ugent.be/publication/1046438



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