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POL3102 (46)

Kant and Enlightenment

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University of Ottawa
Political Science
Sascha Maicher

January 16, 2014 Kant and Enlightenment  If you’re incapable of reassuring with facts you know, this does not lead to enlightenment o Kant: enlightenment consists in the adoption of maxims. When it comes to people, these are useful principles. o Kant’s a rationalist- it isn’t just about collecting facts. We discover maxims using our reasons- there’s an a priori test to collecting these maxims o In the realm of morality, an a priori test is a categorical imperative. o Kant believes rationality has an important role to play in how to organize the world. THIS MAY BE TRUE IN THEORY BUT DOES NOT APPLY IN PRACTICE  What’s the relationship of Kant’s theory of morality to national politics?  Any moral whichasks a human being to do something they can’t must be wrong.  Kant’s morality is one of pure reason o An ethics of duty  Kant thinks it’s true that if you act morally, you will be happy- good people will generally be happy  Is it true though that being good leads to being happy, or is there a tension between the two? o Kant: being good happily links up with being happy. o Kant is an exponent of universalism-believes in a single universal human nature  To what extent are people everywhere the same or different? One universal factor: the ability to use reason. Since this is the most important thing we share, then this is the ultimate appeal for political theory.  Regulative rather than constitutive appeal: this means we cannot derive from human nature to discover laws from all times and places  We use it to make sure there are basic constraints on the forms that laws will take.  What is Kant’s relation to the social contract tradition? Where does this social contract come from? o Social contract theorists had the problem of not being able to trace back the beginnings of the social contract anytime in history. o Kant gives us a way out of this classic problem  Says the social contract is an ideal inherent in human reason; not what we agreed to, what we could have agreed to, but rather what we ought to agree to.  Practically speaking, this means that if we apply this method of a priori reasoning we come to realize that society needs a certain kind of legal system.  It’s not just laws- since we can’t rea
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