The Social Authority Of Reason: Kants Critique, Radical Evil, And The Destiny Of Humankind

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In accordance with this approach, the state's contribution to the progressive elimination of poverty would be a consequence of the legal institution of private property as a condition of civil independence. I find Weinrib's formulation superb, since it argues that the public duty to protect the poor is a development implied by Kant's doctrine of private right, that is, a consequence of his rational grounding of property.

So, for Kant, economic activity should never become a sphere that threatens the material survival of people. Indeed, if something like that were ever implied, it would put the economy in direct competition with the political sphere, and it is well known which side Kant would be on. Economic mechanisms allow the property and other assets of the citizens to increase unequally, depending on the capabilities of each one; but there must be limits put on this.

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In support of this thesis it is helpful to recall that Kant's definition of human being is not socio-economic, but political. Therefore, young people must be educated in the idea that equality among people is a rational principle which underlies the social inequality that they notice in their milieu, so that they do not consider it as a matter of destiny or fate.

So far, I have tried to show that moral and legal grounds support the commitment of the state to help both the politically disenfranchised and the poor, as Kant says:. The very poor must be fed, and if they are children, must be cared for. Because they are men, not beasts. This does not stem from the right of the poor as citizens, but from their needs as men.

The question is not whether the state or the citizen. For if it is the state that feeds them, so does it also the citizen, but whether it hangs on the free will of the citizen or on coercion, that is, on a gift or on a contribution. Assessing the legitimacy of social justice in Kant's doctrine of right does not requires us to subsume this theory to a pragmatic condition that would ruin its theoretical purity.

On the contrary, Kant's comments about the public commitment to social troubles are quite far from a pragmatic hybrid solution that would condemn the state to take care of certain disadvantaged classes.

Religion and Morality

Thereby, I would suggest considering this extreme measure as the corollary of a theory based on reason. The statement Fiat iustitia, pereat mundus held in Perpetual Peace 35 might also be understood in the following sense, that no worldly device, whether economic, social or cultural, may give lessons to the state in order to provide justice. By contrast, the utilitarian arguments of the business world belong to the sphere of physical laws, which also contains only technical-practical propositions, according to Kant's division of philosophy, but they never belong to the moral and political one.

Moreover, paternalistic despotism, which every republican government must avoid, does not arise only when the subjective sense of happiness prevails over the common good fostered by the state. For the interests of economic corporations and affairs, even those which could become of "national interest", serve only to materialize particular purposes, and not the common good.

Following a line of argumentation repeatedly explored by H. Arendt, I would say that Kant's doctrine of right, and his notion of civil union, anticipate the possibility that "social paternalism" would be much worse than "state paternalism". Although the state is expected to enlighten civil society, Kant acknowledges that at times the reverse has to be the case, so that private initiatives and intellectual efforts deprived of any academic endorsement are burdened with the task of drawing the outline of how the state can become the state that ought to be. Obviously, Kant could not foresee the problems that the state would have in circumstances that he did not know, like those of advanced capitalism.

One can guess with some legitimacy that he would have discerned in the arguments of the present powerful industrial and financial trusts the interests of "monumental individuals"; individuals who, in effect, argue as frightening subjects, since they are no longer limited by birth and death, and are thus able to understand organic development only in terms of an infinite accumulation. Finally, I want to claim that the blame placed on politicians for their effort to articulate only the legitimate path to freedom and happiness while excluding all others, might be better understood as a critique addressed not only to political rulers, but also and especially to the socio-economic structures that encompass public space, imposing their own interests and their own vision of happiness on the whole civil body:.

No one can compel me to be happy in accordance with his conception of the welfare of others, for each may seek his happiness in whatever way he sees fit, so long as he does not infringe upon the freedom of others to pursue a similar end which can be reconciled with the freedom of everyone else within a workable general law i. A government might be established on the principle of benevolence towards the people, like that of a father towards his children.

Such a government is the greatest conceivable despotism, i. As I pointed out before, the sharp distinction between happiness and freedom included in Kant's doctrine of right does not assign to the state the direct task of turning passive citizens into active ones. The dignity of the rational subject prevents treating someone as a simple subordinate.


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However, the state must nevertheless take unavoidable measures when social breakdown threatens the survival of the civil body itself. One consequence of this, however, when considering that businesses and company aggregates might similarly enter into crisis, and deserve the same support and help as that devoted to individuals, is that the citizenry would fall victim to a terrible political illusion. An illusion that would illegitimately dignify elements of social life by granting them the character of a person , threatening thereby the specifically human capacity to act autonomously MM, AA VI, p.

Indeed, in such a case, in a short time policy would be restricted in an astonishing manner, being limited to managing the governance of economic "concrete orders" in the sense labelled by Carl Schmitt, however postmodern, decentralized and flexible they might be. And as a result of it the state would become a mere subordinate in service to the genuine sovereign, and the "wild powers" would have seized political control.

Paradoxes in Kant's account of citizenship.

Works Cited

Kant and the concept of community. Observaciones sobre Kant y el liberalismo. Araucaria , n. Citizenship and authority: a chastened view of citizenship.

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Theorizing citizenship. Wohlgeordnete Freiheit. Berlin, Rezension von W. KANT, Immanuel. Kants Gesammelte Schriften. Berlin: De Gruyter, Kant's political writings. Translated by H. Nisbet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Writings on religion and rational theology. Wood and G.


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    Cambridge: Cambridge U. Critique of pure reason. Guyer and A. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Anthropology, history, and education. Welfare in the Kantian state.

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    Oxford: Clarendon Press, Politics, freedom, and order. The Cambridge companion to Kant. Kant's concept of the state. Essays on Kant's political philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, b. Veritas , v. Kant on Welfare. Canadian Journal of Philosophy , v.

    The Rights of reason : a study of Kant's philosophy and politics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, Kant's conception of the Nation-State and the Idea of Europe. Kant's system of rights. Tennessee: Columbia University Press, NOUR, S.