History of philosophy I: ancient philosophy



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Chronological List of 75 Recent Philosophers (1800-2000) HEGEL to WOJTYŁA
1 *HEGEL, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770-1831) – Phenomenology of the Spirit

(1807); The Science of Logic (1812-16); Encyclopedia of the Philosophical



Sciences (1817); Philosophy of Right (1821)

German [Berlin]; Idealism


2 *SCHOPENHAUER, Artur (1788-1860) – The World as Will and Idea (1819; 1906);

On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (1813; 1888)

German [Frankfurt]; Subjective idealism; philosophical pessimism


3 *COMTE, Auguste (1798-1857) – Positive Philosophy (1830-42; 1853); Positive

Politics (1851-54; 1875-77)

French [Paris]; Sociological positivism (founder)


4 FEUERBACH, Ludwig (1804-1872) – On Philosophy and Christianity (1839); The

Essence of Christianity (1841); The Essence of Religion (1845)

German; Left-Hegelian atheistic humanism


5 *KIERKEGAARD, Soren (1813-1855) – Either/Or (1843); Philosophical Fragments

(1844; 1936); Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1846; 1941);

Danish [Copenhagen]; Nonsystematic subjectivism
6 *MARX, Karl (1818-1883) – Manuscripts of 1844 (1844); Theses on Feuerbach

(1845); The Poverty of Philosophy (1847)

German [Paris; London]; Dialectical and historical materialism (founder)
7 *MILL, John Stuart (1806-1873) – Utilitarianism (1861); System of Logic (1843);

Auguste Comte and Positivism (1865); Dissertations and Discussions (1859-75);

On Liberty (1859)

British [London]; Utilitarianism; individualism


8 ROSMINI-SERBATI, Antonio (1797-1855) – New Essay on the Origin of Ideas

(1830); Theosophy (1859-74); Sketch of Modern Philosophies (1882; 1891)

Italian [Stresa]; Christian neo-Platonist ontology

9 *DARWIN, Charles (1809-1882) – The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selec-



tion (1859); The Descent of Man (1871)

British [Cambridge]; Biological evolutionism (founder)


10 RENAN, Joseph Ernest (1823-1892) – The Future of Science (1848-49; 1890);

Philosophical Dialogues and Fragments (1876); Essays on Morals and Criticism

(1859)


French [Paris]; Scientific positivism; scepticism
11 *SPENCER, Herbert (1820-1903) – System of Synthetic Philosophy (1862; 1896);

Principles of Ethics (1879; 1893); Principles of Psychology (1855); Social Stat-

ics (1850)

British [London] ; Applied evolutionism


12 TAINE, Hippolyte (1828-1893) – French Philosophers of the Nineteenth Century

(1857); On Intelligence (1870); Philosophy of Art (1881)

French [Paris]; Positivist anthropology
13 *NIETZSCHE, Friedrich (1844-1900) – Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883-85; 1933);

Beyond Good and Evil (1886); Toward a Genealogy of Morals (1887); Joyful

Wisdom (1882; 1910); Human, All Too Human (1878-79)

German [Switzerland]; Nihilist immanentism


14 PEIRCE, Charles Sanders (1839-1914) – Collected Papers (1931-35; 1960); Studies

in Logic (1883); Values in a Universe of Chance (1958); Chance, Love, and

Logic (1923); Essays in the Philosophy of Science (1957)

American [Harvard]; Pragmatism


15 BRADLEY, Francis Herbert (1846-1924) – Principles of Logic (1883); Ethical

Studies (1876); Appearance and Reality (1893)

British [Oxford]; Idealist Ethics, Metaphysics


16 FREGE, Gottlieb (1848-1925) – Foundations of Arithmetic (1884; 1950)

German [Jena]; Symbolic logic


17 DILTHEY, Wilhelm (1833-1911) – Systematic Philosophy (1907); Critique of

Historical Reason (1890)

German [Berlin]; Historicist positivism


18 ROYCE, Josiah (1855-1916) – The Spirit of Modern Philosophy (1892); Essays

upon Problems of Philosophy and of Life (1898); The World and the Individual

(1901)


American [Harvard]; Individualist idealism
19 POINCARÉ, Jules (1854-1912) – Science and Hypothesis (1902; 1905); Science

and Method (1905; 1914); The Value of Science (1905; 1907)

French [Paris]; Empiricist philosophy of science


20 *JAMES, William (1842-1910) – Pragmatism (1907); The Meaning of Truth

(1909); A Pluralistic Universe (1909); Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912);



Principles of Psychology (1890; 1892); The Will to Believe (1897); Some Prob-

blems of Philosophy (1911)

American [Harvard]; Pragmatism (founder); experimental psychology


21 DUHEM, Pierre (1861-1916) – The World System: A History of Cosmological Doc-

trines from Plato to Copernicus (1913-58)

French [Bordeaux]; Physical positivism; philosophy of science


22 SAUSSURE, Ferdinand de (1857-1913) – Course of General Linguistics (1916)

Swiss [Geneva]; Structural linguistics


23 DURKHEIM, Emile (1858-1917) – The Rules of Sociological Method (1894;1950);

Sociology and Philosophy (1924)

French [Paris]; sociological positivism


24 *FREUD, Sigmund (1856-1939) – Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905);

Interpretation of Dreams (1900); Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1919-20); The

Ego and the Id (1923); The Future of an Illusion (1927); Psychopathology of

Everyday Life (1904)

Austrian [Vienna]; Materialist anthropology; metapsychology


25 *HUSSERL, Edmund (1859-1938) – Ideas for a Pure Phenomenology and Phe-

nomenological Philosophy (1913; 1931); Logical Investigations (1900); Formal

and Transcendental Logic (1927)

Austrian [Freiburg]; Phenomenology (founder)


26 *BERGSON, Henri (1859-1941) – Time and Free Will (1889; 1910); Creative

Evolution (1907); The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1932); Thought

and Motion (1934)

French [Paris]; Vitalist evolutionism


27 *SCHELER, Max (1874-1928) – Formalism in Ethics (1915); Essence and Forms of

Sympathy (1918); On the Eternal in Man (1921); The Position of Man in the Cos-

mos (1928)

German [Jena]; Phenomenology; Personalism


28 MOORE, George Edward (1873-1958) – Principia Ethica (1911; 1916); A Defense

of Common Sense in Contemporary British Philosophy (1925); Philosophical

Studies (1922); The Refutation of Idealism (1903)

British [Cambridge]; Empiricism; ethical relativism


29 SCHILLER, Ferdinand Canning Scott (1864-1937) – Humanism: Philosophical Es-

says (1903; 1912); Logic for Use: An Introduction to the Voluntarist Theory of

Knowledge (1929); Our Human Truths (1939)

British [Oxford; California]; Pragmatic humanism


30 *DEWEY, John (1859-1952) – Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920); The Quest for

Certainty (1929); The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy (1910) Experience and

Nature (1925); Essays in Experimental Logic (1916); A Common Faith (1934)

American [Columbia]; Pragmatism; instrumentalism


31 WHITEHEAD, Alfred North (1861-1947) – Process and Reality (1929); Adven-

tures of Ideas (1933); Modes of Thought (1938); Principia Mathematica (1910-

13), with B. Russell [33]

British [London; Harvard]; Logical idealism
32 MARECHAL, Joseph, S.J. (1878-1944) – Thomism and Critical Philosophy (1933);

Approach to Metaphysics (1922-26; 1947)

Belgian [Louvain]; Transcendental neo-scholasticism


33 *RUSSELL, Bertrand (1872-1970) – Principia Mathematica (1910-13; 1927-35);

Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1919); Some Problems in Philosophy

(1912); Our Knowledge of the External World (1914); The Analysis of Mind

(1927); An Enquiry into Meaning and Truth (1940); Human Knowledge (1948);

Authority and the Individual (1949); Logic and Knowledge (1956)

British [Cambridge]; Mathematical logic; rationalist scepticism


34 VIENNA CIRCLE (1929-1936); Neo-positivist analytic philosophy

[See its chief members: Wittgenstein (42); Ayer (50); Popper (51)]


35 STEIN, Edith [St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD] (1891-1942) – Finite

and Eternal Being (1930); Act and Potency (1931); Husserl’s Phenomenology

and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Philosophy (1929); On the Problem of Empathy (1917)

German [Muenster]; Phenomenology


36 TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Pierre SJ (1881-1955) – The Phenomenon of Man

(1940; 1959); The Divine Milieu (1926; 1960)

French [Paris]; Transcendental evolutionism
37 BERDYAEV, Nikolai (1874-1948) – Freedom and the Spirit (1935); Slavery and

Freedom (1939); The Fate of Man in the Modern World (1935); The Destiny of

Man (1937); The Meaning of History (1936); The Beginning and the End (1941)

Ukrainian [Moscow; Paris]; Spiritualism; Christian humanism


38 ORTEGA Y GASSET, Jose (1883-1955) – The Revolt of the Masses (1929; 1932);

What Is Philosophy? (193?); History as a System (1941); Concord and Liberty

(1940)

Spanish [Madrid; Lisbon]; Existentialist pessimism


39 HARTMANN, Nicolai (1882-1950) – Principles for a Metaphysics of Knowledge

(1921); The Construction of the Real World (1940); Possibility and Reality

(1938); Ethics (1925)

German [Gottingen]; Phenomenology


40 LE SENNE, Rene (1882-1954) – Introduction to Philosophy (1925; 1939); Duty

(1930; 1950); Treatise on Characterology (1945); Personal Destiny (1951)

French [Paris]; Philosophy of spirit; personalism; value theory
41 *JASPERS, Karl (1883-1969) – Philosophy, Reason, and Existence (1935; 1956);

The Spiritual Situation of Our Time (1931); Philosophy (1932); Philosophical

Faith (1948; 1949)

German [Heidelberg]; Scientific existentialism


42 *WITTGENSTEIN, Ludwig (1889-1951) – Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921;

1922); Philosophical Investigations (1953); Philosophical Remarks on the Foun-



dations of Mathematics (1956)

Austrian [Cambridge]; Linguistic analysis


43 BLONDEL, Maurice (1861-1949) – Action (1893; 1936-37); Being and Beings

(1935); Philosophy and the Christian Spirit (1944; 1946)

French [Aix-Marseille]; Metaphysics of Action
44 MOUNIER, Emmanuel (1905-1950) – Personalism (1950; 1952); What Is Per-

sonalism (1947); A Personalist Manifesto (1936); Existentialist Philosophies

(1946; 1948); The Character of Man (1946; 1956)

French [Paris]; Personalist existentialism
45 *MARITAIN, Jacques (1882-1973) – The Degrees of Knowledge (1932; 1938);

Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry (1953); A Preface to Metaphysics (1934;

1939); Existence and the Existent (1947; 1948); Moral Philosophy (1960; ‘64)

French [Paris; Princeton]; Neo-Thomism
46 MARCEL, Gabriel (1889-1973) – The Mystery of Being (1951); Metaphysical

Journal (1927; 1952; 1947); Being and Having (1933; 1950); The Philosophy of

Existence (1935; 1948)

French [Paris]; Christian existentialism


47 *HEIDEGGER, Martin (1899-1976) – Being and Time (1927; 1949); Existence and

Being (1949); The Question of Being (1959)

German [Freiburg]; Ontological phenomenology


48 MERLEAU-PONTY, Maurice (1908-1961) – The Structure of Behavior (1942;

1963); Phenomenology of Perception (1945; 1962); The Adventures of the Dia-



lectic (1955; 1964); Signs (1960; 1964)

French [Paris]; Marxist phenomenology


49 BUBER, Martin (1878-1965) – God and Evil (1953); Between Man and Man

(1947); Eclipse of God (1952)

Austrian [Frankfurt; Jerusalem]; Existentialism
50 AYER, Alfred Jules (1910-1989) – Logic, Truth, and Language (1936; 1946);

Problems of Knowledge (1956); Logical Positivism (1960)

British [Oxford]; Logical Positivism (Anti-metaphysics); Vienna Circle


51 POPPER, Karl (1902-1995) – The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1935;1958); The

Poverty of Historicism (1957); The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945)

Austrian [Vienna; London]; Philosophy of science; logical positivism


52 SIMON, Yves (1903-1961) – An Introduction to the Metaphysics of Knowledge

(1934; 1990); Foresight and Knowledge (1944; 1995); Practical Knowledge

(1991); The Definition of Moral Virtue (1986); The Tradition of Natural Law

(1965); Freedom of Choice (1951; 1969); A General Theory of Authority (1962);



Philosophy of Democratic Government (1951)

French [Paris; Chicago]; Neo-Thomism


53 ADORNO, Theodor (1903-1970) – Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944)

German [Frankfurt; California]; Neo-Marxist post-modernism


54 HORKHEIMER, Max (1895-1973) – Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944)

German [Frankfurt; California]; Neo-Marxist post-modernism


55 RYLE, Gilbert (1900-1976) – Concept of Mind (1949); Revolution in Philosophy

(1957);


British [Oxford]; Linguistic analysis
56 CAMUS, Albert (1913-1960) – The Fall (1956; 1957); The Rebel (1951;1953); The

Plague (1947; 1948); The Myth of Sisyphus (1942;1955); The Stranger (1942; 1946)

French [Algiers; Paris]; Nihilistic pessimism


57 *SARTRE, Jean-Paul (1905-1980) – Being and Nothingness (1943; 1957); Existen-

tialism Is a Humanism (1946; 1948); Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960);

Paths to Freedom (1945)

French [Paris]; Post-Marxist nihilist existentialism


58 VON HILDEBRAND, Dietrich (1899-1977) – What Is Philosophy? (1960); Chris-

tian Ethics (1953; 1972); True Morality and Its Counterfeits (1955)

German [New York]; Personalist phenomenology


59 GILSON, Etienne (1884-1978) – The Unity of Philosophical Experience (1937);

The Philosopher and Theology (1962); Recent Philosophy: Hegel to the Present (1966); Being and Some Philosophers (1952); God and Philosophy (1967);

The Elements of Christian Philosophy (1963); Methodical Realism (1963; 1992)

French [Toronto]; Neo-Thomism


60 MARCUSE, Herbert (1898-1979) – Eros and Civilization (1955); One-Dimensional

Man (1964); Repressive Tolerance (1965)

American [California]; Freudian neo-Marxist liberationism


61 FABRO, Cornelio (1911-1995) – God in Exile: Modern Atheism (1964; 1968);

From Essence to Existence (1957; 1965); The Soul: Introduction to the Human

Problem (1955); History of Philosophy (1959); Phenomenology of Perception

(1961); Perception and Thought (1962); Introduction to Existentialism (1943);



Thomism and Modern Thought (1969)

Italian [Rome]; Neo-Thomism


62 WILHELMSEN, Frederick (1923-1996) – The Paradoxical Structure of Existence

(1970); The Metaphysics of Love (1962); Man’s Knowledge of Reality (1956);



Being and Knowing (1991)

American [Pamplona; Dallas]; Neo-Thomism


63 PIEPER, Josef (1904-1997) – Living the Truth (1963; 1966); In Defense of Phi-

losophy (1966; 1992); The Silence of St. Thomas (1957); The End of Time

(1954); Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1952)

German [Muenster]; Neo-Thomism
64 LEVI-STRAUSS, Claude (1908- ) – Mythologies (1964-72); Structural Anthro-

pology (1958; 1963)

French [Paris]; Structural linguistics; philosophical anthropology


65 ARENDT, Hannah (1906-1975) – The Life of the Mind (1971; 1978); The Human

Condition (1958)

German [New York]; Neo-classical


66 VOEGELIN, Eric (1901-1985) – Order and History (1956-57, 1974); Science,

Politics, and Gnosticism (1959; 1968); Anamnesis: Theory of History and Politics (1966; 1978); From Enlightenment to Revolution (1975); The New Science of Politics (1952)

Austrian [Munich; Stanford]; Neo-classical

67 GADAMER, Hans-Georg (1900-2002) – Truth and Method (1960; 1975); Dialogue

and Dialectic (1980)

German [Heidelberg]; Hermeneutic theory of knowledge


68 QUINE, Willard Van Orman (1908-2000) – Philosophy of Logic (1970); Methods of

Logic (1950); From a Logical Point of View (1953); Theories and Things (1981)

American [Harvard]; Symbolic logic


69 FOUCAULT, Michel (1926-1984) – Words and Things (1966); Power/Knowledge

(1972); Language, Counter-Memory, Practise (1977)

French [Paris]; Postmodern structuralism
70 DERRIDÁ, Jacques (1930-2004) – Of Grammatology (1967; 1974)

French [Paris]; Postmodern structuralism


71 ANSCOMBE, Elizabeth (1919-2001) – Collected Philosophical Papers (1981)

British [Cambridge]; Neoclassical


72 HABERMAS, Jurgen (1929- ) -- The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity

(1987); Theory of Communicative Action (1981; 1984; 1987)

German [Frankfurt]; Postmodern linguistic analysis
73 LYOTARD, Jean-Francois (1926- ) – The Postmodern Condition: A Report on

Knowledge (1984)

Canadian [Montreal]; Postmodernism


74 MACINTYRE, Alasdair (1929- ) – Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry (1990)

Scottish [Vanderbilt; Notre Dame]; Neoclassical Critique of postmodernism


75 RORTY, Richard (1931- ) – Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989); Conse-

equences of Pragmatism (1982); Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979)

American [Virginia]; Postmodern analytic philosophy


76 *WOJTYŁA, Karol [Pope John Paul II] (1920-2005) – Person and Act (1969;

1979); The Controversy about Man (1976); Love and Responsibility (1960;

1981); Fides et Ratio (1998)

Polish [Krakow; Rome]; Personalist phenomenology


Summary of Schools

I – Continental Philosophers [Europeans] 55 Frankfurt (5); Vienna, Jena,

German, including Austrian, Swiss, Danish Heidelberg, Berlin, Freiburg,

27 Muenster (2)

French, including Belgian, Canadian 23 PARIS (20)

Italian and Spanish 3 Rome (2)

Polish and Ukrainian 2 Krakow

II – Anglo-American Philosophers 20 Cambridge (5); Oxford (4);

British [English and Scottish] 12 London (4)

American 8 Harvard (5); California (4);

New York (2)

CRITICAL NOTES ON THE POLITICAL PHILOSOPHERS OF MODERNITY
John A. Gueguen

Political Science Department

Illinois State University
Summer 1976

Revised edition 2006

13. IMMANUEL KANT

(1724-1804)
Analysis: Kant was the founder of systematic metaphysical idealism. His ideas about moral and legal topics must be sought within an elaborate and ambitious attempt to improve and enlarge science by uniting everything under one principle. He created his own categories, constructed his own concepts, and employed technical expressions that were meant to make his philosophy exotic and unavailable to public discourse. He thought the general discussion of philosophy outside the university could only cheapen and vulgarize it.

Kant drew a broad distinction between philosophy proper (the study of thoughts, or “noumena”) and empirical observation of experiences (“phenomena”). It was philosophy proper, or “metaphysics,” to which he devoted his labor to build a universal a priori system of reason. This was to be “theoretical” (as opposed to empirical), derived from “pure reason” (a priori intuition), and “critical” (going back to lay foundations in the first principles of reason, and not extending the development of any previous philosophical system).

Kant divided “metaphysics” into two broad areas: “morals” and “nature,” or the science of right/law (Recht) and the science of nature, or physics. Moral science was further sub-divided into ethics and jurisprudence. These two branches of morality were strictly segregated: Ethics was the study of personal or private Recht and virtue, as directed toward internal actions and duties. Here a person is subject to no other law than what he gives to himself. Jurisprudence was the study of public Recht and justice, as directed toward external actions and duties. It culminated in codified Law (Gesetz). Persons as citizens of a State are subject to no other law than what the Legislator sets before them.

As a consequence of this division, justice properly contains no ethical content or prescription of virtue. Duties of virtue are not to be legislated; only external morality can be legislated. Juridical duties are only external actions. To each of these areas of morality corresponds a set of “imperatives”: unconditional, practical propositions, or “maxims,” that command “duties.” These are the source of both private and public obligation. In private right we follow a subjective principle of action that results in rules or duties that we give to ourselves. When there is agreement between our actions and the maxim we have given ourselves, we are morally right.

In public right we are subject to an objective principle of action, the “universal law of justice”: “Act externally in such a way that the free use of your will is compatible with the freedom of everyone according to a universal law” (Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, Introduction, C). This is the public version of a “categorical imperative” that asserts what obligation is in general: “Act according to a maxim that can at the same time be valid as a universal law. You must first of all consider your actions according to their basic subjective principle…. When your reason puts this principle to the test of conceiving yourself as at the same time universally legislating by means of it, it qualifies for such a universal legislation” (Introduction, IV). It is important to note that both private and public maxims proceed from the will and command duties.

Private Recht is innate in man. It belongs to each one by original grant of nature and is thus equivalent to natural right. In a condition of natural society (before the State) we have only one natural right: freedom (which for Kant is the negative condition of not being constrained). In private Recht, since juridical relations are absent, each man has a right to extend his maxims over all objects. Private right is the province of my will and my possessions. By “possession” Kant specified that he did not mean actual relations to objects in space and time, but the intelligible union of my will with an object. Any interference would be an injury to me, a violation of my freedom. Owing to the metaphysical imperfection of a state of natural society, Kant thought the most responsible use of one’s freedom was the act of forming a civil society, a State.

Public Recht is acquired. It is bestowed as positive right or statute law in the condition of civil society, or the State (properly so called). This is the condition of society under a supremely powerful will that unites all the members. Public Recht proceeds from a Lawgiver whose will is law for all: “A unilateral Will cannot serve as a coercive law for everyone…. Therefore, only a Will binding everyone else—that is, a collective, universal (common), and powerful Will—is the kind of Will that can provide the guarantee required” that one’s possessions will be recognized by everyone as his external property (Fundamental Principles…, I, i, 8). By definition, the sovereign has rights without duties and can do no injustice. It fills entirely the field of Recht, and hence no scope remains for private rights. (This is a long stretch from Locke’s careful demarcation between the state and private prerogative.)

The highest culmination of public right is the Constitution, which Kant said was “holy and irresistible,” for “it is an Idea that is an absolute command of practical reason judging in accordance with concepts of justice—a command binding on every people. Even if the organization of the State is defective by itself, still no subordinate authority can bring any active resistance against the legislative Chief. Any deficiencies attributable to him must be gradually removed by reforms, which he carries out by himself” (Appendix, Conclusion).

Kant added that the Idea of a pure republic would be the perfect Constitution, with supreme authority residing in the whole people controlled and directed by its Collective Will (reminiscent of Rousseau’s Social Contract).

Having arrived by a priori reasoning at the Idea of the State and its Constitution, it took Kant but one further step to reach a universal union of States (a World State) and its corresponding law. This seems to have been the final aim of his thought on the “metaphysics of justice,” what he regarded as the highest political good. For only such a State would make possible “perpetual peace,” as he argued in his essay of that title. Kant thus seems to have been the first systematic political philosopher to include a world state in his scheme. Having arrived at that summit, however, even if such an Idea was actually unrealizable, nevertheless, we are obligated to work toward it. (Hegel will shortly bring to a grand theoretical conclusion Kant’s development of this thought.)

Some consequences of the Kantian notion of State and law: The State exercises four great areas of exclusive right:

1) the just use of coercion, since the continued exercise of personal freedom would be inconsistent with universal laws. The State is authorized to “use coercion against anyone who violates justice” (Introduction, D).

2) the right to punish all offenses against civil society in proportion to the crime; it would be unjust to allow exemptions or to grant pardons.

3) the right of sole proprietorship, since it is the State that guarantees the administration of possessions by each citizen. (Here Kant makes no allowance for a Church to own property: “The Church is an institution founded on fraud and illusion; when, as a result of popular enlightenment, the terrible authority of the clergy will fall away, the State will, with full right, seize the property that has been usurped by the Church through testamentary wills” (Appendix, 8B).

4) the right of obedience, or unconditional submission to the sovereign will: “The origin of the supreme authority is…not open to scrutiny by the people…as though the right of obedience due it were open to doubt…. They cannot and may not judge otherwise than the present Chief of State wills…. It is the people’s duty to endure even the most intolerable abuse of supreme authority” (II, i, 49A). “Legislative authority over a people must be obeyed; this is so unconditional juridically that it is in itself punishable to inquire publicly into the title of his acquisition” of this authority. And he added: “This is a categorical imperative” (Appendix, 8 conclusion). (Note the development since Spinoza and Rousseau: Now it is treason even to doubt the legitimacy of State sovereignty. Kant hardly needed to add, though he did, that there is no right of revolution. his strictures are so severe because if the State should perish, and justice with it, “it is no longer worthwhile for men to remain alive on this earth” (II, i, 49E1).
Evaluation: Kant’s moral and legal philosophy presupposes much of the earlier state-of-nature and social-contract thought, but he clothes it in a new conceptual framework that renders it more forbidding and makes it more invulnerable to criticism. For example, he is more explicit than his predecessors (with the possible exception of Hume) that MAN is the centerpiece of reality—and within man, REASON. Human reason is creator of all relationships there are, all the ground rules of being and acting. He is especially explicit in arguing that the only true juridical relationship is that of man to man. It is conceivable that there be a juridical relation of man to God, but since we cannot deal with God as an object of mental experience, our idea of God is something we make ourselves. Since we men put God in his place, there can be no such thing as divine justice. There is only human justice (Introduction, end).

When Kant bases his system on pure intuition (though he tries to make it more respectable by calling it “reason”), he is following the subjectivist orientation of Rousseau and making it theoretically possible to create his own systematic explanation of the meaning of everything in a way that cannot be challenged. In Kantian idealism, the ground determining thought is found not in objects external to the self but in the rational faculty itself.

By this a priori reasoning, Kant sought to make his system invulnerable to criticism. Since by definition his was the one true philosophy—founded on the only permissible assumptions—anyone taking exception to it would only demonstrate his ineptitude for philosophical work. Kant argued that there really was no philosophy prior to his “critical” thought, and since none could supersede it (there cannot be multiple philosophies), there was no basis for challenging him (Fundamental Principles…, Preface).

Hobbes had argued that his objective system was the only true one and therefore worthy of supplanting Aristotle and the medieval Schoolmen. Hume had argued that there was no one philosophy, for philosophy was subjective. Kant is arguing that his subjective system is the only true one; because subjectivity sets its own philosophical rules, it can by fiat exclude—“a priori”—all others. By definition, there can be no meaning outside Kantianism. In this way Kant attempts to combine subjectivism with universalism.

Since his system cannot be refuted on its own ground, the critic must either dismiss it altogether as the brainchild of an eccentric old man with prodigious persistence but little common sense, or demonstrate its true colors by pointing to some of its fruits.

For instance: There is no doubt that one effect of Kant’s moral teaching is to loosen the obligation to accept the natural law of human morality. His “imperatives” come very near to an individualized conscience that can establish its own moral norms—Rousseau’s moral subjectivism in more formal dress.

Moreover, Kant refuses to let us look to experience or observation for certification of the rightness of an action. To do that, he says over and over, would have no moral significance, since the validity of all metaphysics, including the metaphysics of morals, comes precisely from it’s a priori, non-empirical foundation. According to him, experiential or empirical morality lacks a brain (Introduction, B). We cannot know what is just or unjust, right or wrong, unless we abandon all fixed reference points in the external world of reality, and search for sources in our own “pure reason.” Thus, at every turn Kant excuses himself from having to show a correspondence between what he maintains is true and the reality of everyday experience. But anyone who cares to do so can build his castles in that air.

If it is the case, as some have maintained, that it was an elevated, altruistic motive (“perpetual peace”) that was Kant’s ultimate motivation in building such a system, a peace culminating in the union of all States, then many might at least credit him with having a good intention.


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