- Kant on Freedom and Spontaneity ed. by Kate A. Moran
This fine collection of essays is dedicated to Paul Guyer. It includes work by distinguished experts and younger scholars across a range of topics in Kant’s theoretical, moral, and political philosophy.
Karl Ameriks’s “On the Many Senses of ‘Self-Determination’” responds to two misreadings of Kantian autonomy. One dismisses its notion of self-determination, the source of the auto-in autonomy, as an excessively subjective basis for morality; the other interprets its nomos as involving excessive determination of will by reason or sensibility. Ameriks responds with careful analysis of Kant’s “provocative language” concerning the authorship and legislation of morality (186). This includes Kant’s famous description of the will as “giving the law to itself [selbstgesetzgebend] and just because of this as first subject to the law” (Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten, Ak. 4:431). Such formulations, Ameriks argues, do not pick out a “willful process” that undermines objectivity. They reflect Kant’s effort to ground the “strict universality, tantamount to necessity” already imputed to morality in Groundwork II (180). Kant’s concept of moral self-determination thus emerges from the search for a suitable locus for an unconditionally necessary principle of value. Its situation in practical reason justifies talk of “authorship”; however, Kant’s meaning has only “partial, metaphorical overlaps with familiar notions of empirical authorship and legislation” (186). [End Page 152]
Kate Moran’s “Inclination, Need, and Moral Misery” sets out from the Groundwork’s notorious claim that “to be free” of inclination “must be the wish of every rational person” (Ak. 4:428). The crucial context, Moran reminds us, is Kant’s effort to exclude inclination as a possible candidate for the absolute worth attributed to humanity. An association of inclination with need, she argues, explains inclination’s morally problematic status. Kant is especially concerned with acquired needs that “change and grow with the indulgence that one allows them,” resulting in a burdensome counterweight to morality and moral misery (KpV, Ak. 5:118). Concern about need’s corrupting potential is consistent with the doctrine of Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone that natural inclinations are “good in themselves” (Ak. 5:158).
Rolf-Peter Horstmann’s “Kant on Imagination and Object Constitution” offers a compressed presentation of the argument of half of his 2018 Cambridge University Press book on Kant’s theory of imagination (its other half concerns imagination in aesthetics). Horstmann skillfully defends the partial independence of Kant’s productive imagination vis-à-vis the understanding, emphasizing imagination’s indispensability as a “discerning” power in empirical apprehension—the first stage in Kant’s account of empirical object-constitution.
Along with Allen Wood, Patricia Kitcher (“Guyer on the Value of Freedom”) takes issue with Guyer’s interpretation of Kantian morality as “means to the preservation,” “promotion,” or “maximization” of freedom. She also challenges Guyer’s view that Kant regards freedom and morality as valuable “primarily as the necessary condition [of] universal happiness” (90). This is not entailed by Kant’s theory of the “highest good” (summum bonum)—though that includes universal moral perfection and proportional, thus presumably universal, happiness. Guyer’s “happiness-friendly Kant” can receive only qualified endorsement given the merely conditional value of happiness, on account of which it cannot ground morality (105). Kitcher’s reading draws solid support from published texts, and from an unpublished note asserting “happiness is no true good [kein wahres Gut].” The note’s continuation shows, to the reader’s relief, that Kant’s target is again only happiness’s unconditional value: “Worthiness is a true and the highest good, but not the complete good” (Ak. 19:187; cf. KpV, Ak. 5:111).
Here I can only indicate a few other highlights. Barbara Herman’s “Religion and the Highest Good” offers a new and intriguing reading of the Religion’s Christology. She reads it as a contribution to the “moral imagination” that helps us manage guilt and anxiety arising from a propensity to evil that threatens to derail our moral identities (226). The Religion...