Human Welfare and Moral Worth: Kantian Perspectives

Human Welfare and Moral Worth: Kantian Perspectives

Human Welfare and Moral Worth: Kantian Perspectives

Human Welfare and Moral Worth: Kantian Perspectives

Synopsis

Thomas Hill, a leading figure in the recent development of Kantian moral philosophy, presents a series of essays that interpret and develop Kant's ideas on ethics. The first part of the book focuses on basic concepts: a priori method, a good will, categorical imperatives, autonomy, andconstructivist strategies of argument. Hill goes on to consider aspects of human welfare, and then moral worth--the nature and grounds of moral assessment of persons as deserving esteem or blame. He offers illuminating discussions of happiness, beneficence, personal values, conscience, moraldesert, moral dilemmas, and feelings of regret. He is critical of Kant at many points, but he shows how many familiar objections miss the mark. Two previously unpublished essays challenge the views of other influential Kant scholars and defend alternative interpretations of Kant on beneficence,supererogation, and what it means to 'set oneself an end'. These clear and careful writings show moral, poltical, and social philosophers just how valuable Kantian ethical theory can be in addressing practical matters.

Excerpt

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In a recent collection of essays, Respect, Pluralism, and Justice: Kantian Perspectives, I explored the implications of basic Kantian ideas for several practical issues, including cultural conflicts, political violence, and responsibility for the consequences of wrongdoing. The essays in the present volume continue the same sort of investigation with regard to other topics. Broadly speaking, the main topics here are, first, self-interest and regard for others (or 'human welfare') and, second, moral assessment of ourselves and others (or 'moral worth'). The first three essays provide background on certain central themes in Kant's ethics: a priori method, categorical imperatives, autonomy, the special value of a good will, and appeals to possible and hypothetical consent in moral arguments. Then the next essays raise particular questions regarding human welfare, for example: Are our obligations to help others prescribed and limited by our sentiments toward them? What reasons do we have to promote the welfare of others as well as our own? Is it our obligation to promote others' happiness as they conceive it or their 'human flourishing' as ancient philosophers define it? How demanding is the duty to promote others' happiness? Are some instances of helping supererogatory? Finally, the last four essays focus on the nature and grounds of moral assessments of persons as deserving esteem or blame for their choices. For example: How should we conceive of conscience? In what sense, if any, is it appropriate that we suffer for our wrongdoing? Is punishment justified because wrongdoers inherently deserve to suffer for their misdeeds? Is there anything morally worthy in our striving to avoid pangs of conscience and just punishment by our peers? In what sense, if any, should we feel guilty if we cause serious harm in tragic situations where we could find no better option?

The essays discuss Kant's explicit views on these topics, but they also consider how a reasonable contemporary Kantian theory might best address the problems. Scholars disagree, of course, about what is best and most central in Kant's work, and they also disagree about how to interpret particular passages. I do not pretend to offer a complete or definitive account of Kant's position, nor do I insist that my proposals

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