Kantian Ethics Almost without Apology

Kantian Ethics Almost without Apology

Kantian Ethics Almost without Apology

Kantian Ethics Almost without Apology

Synopsis

"The emphasis on duly in Kant's ethics is widely held to constitute a defect. Marcia W. Baron develops and assesses the criticism, which she sees as comprising two objections: that duty plays too large a role, leaving no room for the supererogatory, and that Kant places too much value on acting from duty. Clearly written and cogently argued, Kantian Ethics Almost without Apology takes on the most philosophically intriguing objections to Kant's ethics and subjects them to a rigorous yet sympathetic assessment." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The list in the first interlude of various positions concerning moral character and the scope of duty is a reminder of some unfinished business. Up until now I have, to avoid unmanageable confusion, postponed addressing the question of just how much latitude there is in Kant's imperfect duties. By and large I followed Hill's explanation of Kant's distinction between perfect and imperfect duties (though my discussion of imperfect duties at times betrays a slightly sterner, or less latitudinarian, view than the one Hill seems to attribute to Kant). in this chapter I explore the question of latitude and consider the possibility that an altogether different reading from the one I laid out in Chapter I might be in order.

We need first to be clear on what is not controversial. As explained above, Kant's imperfect duties are duties to adopt certain obligatory ends--the ends of one's own perfection and the happiness of others. Indirectly they require us to perform acts of a certain sort (what sort and how specific a sort have to be left open at this point in our discussion), since it is not the case that we have these ends if we do not act accordingly. If I do nothing whatsoever to develop my talents, it cannot be the case that I have as one of my maxims, 'Perfect thyself'. This much is clear; and it is clear that the wide imperfect duties (and, in fact, all imperfect duties) allow latitude as to just what we are to do. How I seek to promote others' happiness, which talents I will especially seek to cultivate, and what sort of morally excellent person I strive to be are matters to be determined partly by chance, but to no small degree by my choice. But latitude has another dimension as well, as the following passage indicates.

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