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
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
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
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
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
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