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BOOK REVIEWS 261 Kant's Absolute Value. By P. A. E. Hutchings. (Detroit: Wayne University Press, 1972. Pp. 345. $11.50) This is a challenging and, at the same time, a disappointing book. It is challenging because it forces us to re-examine in detail Kant's position and argument as developed in the Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten. It is disappointing because of the author's misreading of Kant. The references to James Harris's Dialogue Concerning Happiness On themselves interesting) and to S. T. Coleridge and T. H. Green contribute little to a clarification of the basic issues. As far as Kant's Grundlegung is concerned, Hutchings excludes Chapter III from consideration and fails to notice that in the titles of the three chapters of his work Kant himself has indicated a progression of ideas that culminates in Chapter IIL To illustrate what this failure to take note of the progression of Kant's argument entails, only one passage need be cited. Hutchings says, by way of a criticism, that "Kant's definition of 'good will' in the first paragraph of the Groundwork hardly goes beyond the commonplaces of his age" (p. 85). But the title of Chapter I, which immediately precedes the first paragraph, is: "Transition from the Commonplace Rational Knowledge of Morals to the Philosophical." It would have been necessary for so detailed an analysis of the Grundlegung as Hutchings here attempts to use the German text of the work rather than Paton's often misleading translation. At times, Hutchings himself seems to have misgivings about Paton's translation . For instance, he quotes Patou's translation together with the German text. Paten: "The whole principle of action may be corrected and adjusted to universal ends." Kant: "Das ganze Prinzip zu handeln, berichtige und allgemein-zweckm~ssig mache" (p. 80). Now surely, Kant does not say that the principle may be "adjusted to universal ends"; he does say that it may be made "universally purposive," and that is quite a different story. I-Iutchings, however, accepts Paton's version and argues that Kant's statement "hardly affects.., the extremely traditional look" of Kant's position. But we must note that the passage quoted is part of the first paragraph of Chapter I of the Grundlegung and therefore belongs to the "commonplace view" which Kant there presents. Consider a second example. Hutchings says: "A notion of moral content appears to arise, obscurely, out of the concept of inner worth.., land] this notion looks to be shot through with a disastrous category mistake" (p. 255). The crux of the matter is the term "moral content," which is Paton's mistranslation of "moralischer Gehalt." Abbott's translation of "Gehalt" as "worth" Hutchings explicitly rejects and perhaps with good reason, considering the context. Lewis White Beck's translation of "Gehalt" as "import" is better; but in the context in which Kant uses the term I prefer "significance," which covers both meaning and importance. When the term "Gehalt" is so understood, Kant's "disastrous category mistake" evaporates into a translator's error. Consider a third example. Hutchings quotes Kant as saying: "However right and however amiable [an act, such as helping others] may be, [it] has still no genuinely moral worth"; and he comments: "There is something odd about admitting an act may be right while denying it moral worth. What is right surely has, in some sense, 'moral worth' " (p. 260). But Kant does not use the term "right" in this context; he uses "pflichtgemiiss," i.e., "in accord with duty," which Paten has erroneously translated as "fight." Now surely, there is nothing odd about admitting that an act may be "in accord with duty"-i .e., that it may be externally the kind of act which duty demands---and yet lack "genuine moral worth" because the motive behind the act is evil. Much more could be said by way of criticism of Hutchings's interpretation of Kant's Grundlegung; but it would require detailed analyses of large parts of the book, and such analyses are precluded by the limitations of a book review. The basic fault of Hutchings's interpretation is that it misses entirely the progression of Kant's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 261-262
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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