1 At the end of the Critique of Practical Reason ( a longer, 'critical' development of the ideas we have read ), Kant wrote the following lines, later inscribed on his cenotaph in Königsberg:
Zwei Dinge erfüllen das Gemüt mit immer neuer und zunehmender Besunderung und Ehrfurcht, je öfter under anhaltender sich das Nachdenken damit beschäftigt: der bestirte Himmel über mir, und das moralische Geset in mir.
Two things fill the sensibility with ever new and growing admiration adn awe, the more often and more persistently reflection occupies itself with them: the starred heaven above me, and the moral law within me.
To me at least, the appeal of these ( famous ) lies suggest ( somewhat contrary to the official, 'speculative' doctrine about the structure of the 'starred heaven' in the Critique of Pure Reason ) that Kant saw something comparably ideal, almost numinous about both the macrocosmos 'above' us and the microcosmos 'within' us.
How might one account for such a view, in terms at least roughly compatible with the arguments of the Groundwork? does the view seem tenable? Morally relevant?
Would it have ( perhaps acknowledged by Kant himself ) accounted for the realisability of his 'metaphysics of morals' in 'immanent' terms ( those accessible within 'the' boundaries of 'determinate' human experience )?
Might Kant have sketched a conceptual framework for ethics which makes 'the utterly good will' a kind of fixed point, for ( allegedly ) convergent insights and intuitions we will never possess?
If so, might it have heuristic, even pragmatic value nonetheless, as an infinitely receding ideal ( cf. his allusion at 462 to "vernünftiger Glaube", best translated as "reasonable faith" )?
2 An argument can be made that Kant developed, in effect, an eighteenth-century, pietist and 'enlightened' version of stoic ethics, in which he posited that the problem of 'freedom' Chrysippus struggled to solve 'must' have a solution, however 'regulative' and "incomprehensible" ( cf., e. g., 461 ) the limiting ideal of such a 'solution' may be.
Now that you have read both a sampling of the stoic texts and the basic text of Kantian ethics, do you agree? Do you see any potentially interesting parallels or contrasts, for example, between Chrysippus's putative rationalisation of human 'freedom' ( cf., e. g., pp. 108-109 of the Saunders anthology ), and arguments that appear in the Groundwork?
Might one draw further natural parallels between the strengths and limitations of stoic ethical prescriptions, and the problems which emerge ( once again ) when one tries to 'realise' Kantian ethics?
Might Stoic attempts to "live according to nature", in particular, have posed a task almost as elusive as 'enlightened' attempts to live in the "Verstandeswelt" ( "conceptual world" ) of the "realm of ends" -- and conversely?
3 I suggested at one point in class that a strain might exist in Kant's assimilations of the "practical" Verstandeswelt" ( "conceptual" or "intelligible" world ) to the noumena of his "theoretical" philosophy, in that the characteristic of the latter (in the Critique of Pure Reason ) is their conceptual underdetermination and openness to plurality of interpretation(s), in obvious contrast with the implicit unicity Kant posits in his ethics for the 'realm of ends'.
What do you think? Might Kantian insights about 'the' Reiche der Zwecke remain useful, in some regulative way, even if one waives his a priori assumption that such 'realms' are unique?
4 At 445, Kant writes of his ethical theory that
Wer also Sittlichkeit für Etwas und nicht fur eine chimärische Idee ohne Wahrheit hält, muß das angeführte Prinzip derselben zugleich einräumen.
Whosever considers morality to be something, and not a chimerical idea without truth, must conced the principle we have advance.
Is this a ( merely ) hypothetical meta-imperative, which tacitly begs ( as I think most of Kant's 'transcendental' arguments do ) the assimilation of consistency ( interpretability ) and 'truth' ( unique interpretability )?
And if it is, will it be any use to us if we have to confront a very serious and consequential moral skeptic -- a moral pyrrhonist, say, who defends some anarchic, quasi-Hobbesian version of 'moral' egoism, but insists that this defense is merely epistemic and prudential, and thus fundamentally amoral, "like everything else in the world"?
5 Kant provides four "examples" of the categorical imperative's more pragmatic implications at 422-424 and 429-430, and there is a certain consensus that they are not uniformly successful.
Do these examples perhaps exemplify in an unintended way his remark at 419, about the categorical imperative ( still officially forthcoming at that point ), that
es durch kein Beispiel, mithin empirisch auszumachen sei, ob es überall irgend einen dergleichen imperative gebe . . . .
It's not to be made out through any sort of example, and thus empirically, whether there is an imperative of the kind. . . .
Or might there be some other 'ascriptive' interpretation(s), in these four cases, of their 'maxims'--'the' definitive conditions, in effect, in which the imperative is to be applied --which would yield more sympathetic conclusions, or even the same ones, but with more convincing grounds?
Since every moral dilemma we are likely to encounter seems to come trailing clouds of background conditions and boundary assumptions, might a more plausible, 'immanent' Kantian (meta)imperative simply enjoin us to project ( 'merely' hypothetical ) 'good-fairy-approximations' -- to autonomy, self-legislation and the like
-- and then hope for the best ( presumably with the aid of "reasonable faith )?
6 At 452, Kant refers to a self-referential "reine Selbstätigkeit" ( literally, "pure self-activity" ) of reason.
I would agree that such reflective ( and reflective ) 'activity' is essential to moral as well as epistemic 'identity'.
Might one also view Kant's autonomy of "freedom" and the "purely good will", in part at least , as a kind of individualisation or 'personalisation' of traditional 'first' and 'self-cause'-characterisations of 'god', eventuating in this case in a secularised quaker / pietist "inner light" ("The kingdom of god is within you"? Rather than ground or subsume regressive chains of 'causes', "reasonable beings"' autonomy, self-awareness and mutual respect ground hierarchies of alternating 'means' and 'ends' (and becomes "Selbstzwecke", or "ends in themselves" ).
In any event, one might also elicit from Kant's attempts to provide 'transcendental' grounds for more autonomy a self-referential 'practical' paradox, of the form
Each 'reasonable being' 'must' be able to will that
ɾ each 'reasonable being' 'must' be able to will that
ɼ ... ɼ ... ɿ ɿ ɿ .
(Compare William James' claim that his first 'freely willed' act was to believe that he had a free will ).
7 At 461, Kant briefly adumbrates a doctrine he later called the "primacy of practical reason" in the Critique of Practical Reason ( 215-219 ). This "primacy" means more or less what the word suggest: that 'practical' ( ethical ) reason is to be given some sort of priority over its theoretical or speculative counterpart(s).
If one does not beg the issues of hermeneutic plurality and self-referential underdetermination of 'practical reason', raised above in 3 and 6, might assent to this "primacy" still be 'reasonable' -- as a form of quasi-Kantian "respect", perhaps, for the unknowability of 'reason' to itself, and for the concomitant pathos of its 'fate', described in the famous passage from the opening of the Critique of Pure Reason ( A VII ):
Die menschliche Vernunft hat das besondere Schicksal in einer Gattung ihrer Erkenntnisse: daß sie durch Frage belästigt wird, die sie nicht absweisen kann; den sie sind ihr durch nie Natur der Vernunft selbst aufgegeben, die sie aber nicht beantworen kann; den sie übersteigen alles Vermögen der menschliche Vernunft.
Human reason has the particular fate in one aspect of its cognitions: that it is harassed by questions, that it cannot brush off; for they are posed for it by the nature of reason itself, but that it cannot answer; since they transcend all capacity of human reason.
Might one 'reasonably' seek, in other words, to formulate a 'dialectical' version of Kantian ethics, marked (among other things ) by
7.1 more thoroughgoing assimilation of the two 'noumenal' realms, as in questions 1 and 3 above ( keeping in mind the original 'conceptual' Greek sense of the word "noumena" );
7.2 more evenhanded respect for 'reasonable beings', as ultimately unfathomable but worthy sources of insight into them both ( ". . . the starred heaven above us, and the moral law within us" ).