Kant and Applied Ethics: The Uses and Limits of Kant's Practical Philosophy

Kant and Applied Ethics: The Uses and Limits of Kant's Practical Philosophy

Kant and Applied Ethics: The Uses and Limits of Kant's Practical Philosophy

Kant and Applied Ethics: The Uses and Limits of Kant's Practical Philosophy

Synopsis

Kant and Applied Ethics makes an important contribution to Kant scholarship, illuminating the vital moral parameters of key ethical debates.
  • Offers a critical analysis of Kant's ethics, interrogating the theoretical bases of his theory and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses
  • Examines the controversies surrounding the most important ethical discussions taking place today, including abortion, the death penalty, and same-sex marriage
  • Joins innovative thinkers in contemporary Kantian scholarship, including Christine Korsgaard, Allen Wood, and Barbara Herman, in taking Kant's philosophy in new and interesting directions
  • Clarifies Kant's legacy for applied ethics, helping us to understand how these debates have been structured historically and providing us with the philosophical tools to address them

Excerpt

For better or worse, Immanuel Kant casts a long shadow over contemporary Western thought. The philosophical and historical importance of Kant’ s ethics can hardly be overestimated, yet Kant’s legacy for the wide variety of issues in applied ethics still has not been fully and fairly appreciated. The admittedly ambitious goal of this book is to look comprehensively at Kant’ s moral philosophy as it relates to key debates in contemporary applied ethics. By analyzing how we have inherited Kant’s ideas, we will not only begin to fulfill the fundamental demand of philosophy – to know ourselves – but we will also examine these issues more carefully and open up unfamiliar possibilities for resolving what can seem like intractable moral problems. I will defend Kantian positions on many of these topics – his emphasis on freedom, dignity, and mutual respect is particularly compelling – but I will also stake out the limits of his practical philosophy, the ways in which Kantian presuppositions lead us astray or restrict our vision by, for example, giving us a distorted picture of moral agency. Thus, Kant and Applied Ethics addresses both the strengths and the weaknesses of Kant’s ethics, demonstrating the value of his approach for making informed judgments and interrogating the theoretical bases of Kant’s theory through the lens of applied ethics.

Of course, it would be foolhardy and historically ignorant for a philosopher to claim that his work is the first or last word on any subject. Kant scholarship is teeming not only with close readers of Kant, but also with such innovative thinkers as Christine Korsgaard, Allen Wood, and Barbara Herman, who are taking Kant’s philosophy in new and interesting directions. Furthermore, the controversies that this book addresses – physicianassisted suicide, health-care allocation, abortion, and others – have been and will continue to be hotly debated. What follows, then, is an attempt to begin a series of conversations – among Kant scholars, of course, but also among other philosophers and nonphilosophers – about our Kantian inher-

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