Abstracts

*Abstracts are listed alphabetically according to author last name.

 

Ralf Bader (University of Oxford) – The Dignity of Humanity

In Groundwork II, Kant argues that humanity is an end in itself, that it has dignity and functions as the ground of the categorical imperative. Kant’s discussion of humanity has led many people (both Kant scholars as well as moral philosophers) to speak of the value of humanity. These people consider rational beings to have a distinctive sort of value, namely dignity, that explains why they are to be respected. The first part of this paper argues that the normative significance of humanity is not to be understood in axiological terms (and that it is hence somewhat misleading to speak of the `value of humanity’). The second part argues that the significance of humanity is to be construed in distinctly deontological terms (and that it is accordingly preferable to speak of the `status of humanity’). On this reading, dignity is construed as a deontological status that consists in humanity being a self-standing end that is to be respected, rather than an end that is to be effected. In particular, humanity turns out to play a crucial role in Kant’s ethics insofar as it determines the domain over which maxims need to be universalisable.

Eva Buddeberg (University of Frankfurt) – Kant’s Ethical Community – Appropriation or Criticism of Religious Content?

Taking up Jürgen Habermas’ hypothesis that religious cooperative practice could potentially bridge the political deficits of the morality by ‘philosophical appropriation of […] religious contents’, this paper focuses on Kant’s thesis from the third part of his ‘Religion” that an ethical community in the form of a church is necessary to overcome the ethical state of nature and realise the highest good as a common good and asks whether this interpretation is more to be read as an appropriation or a criticism of religious content.

To answer this question, Part I sketches out Kant’s conception of an ethical state of nature that should be overcome by an ethical community in form of a church. In Part II I draw on Kant’s idea of a true visible church and the role of the ‘ecclesiastical faith’ and the ‘religious faith’ before I will contrast in Part III Kant’s moral philosophical conception of this ideal church with his rather sketchy explanations on the ecclesiastical history. This may allow to read Kant’s idea of an ethical community in form of a church as an appropriation of religious content. However, as the paper outlines in the conclusion, this adoption of religious content in the language of his philosophy has to be read at the same time as a criticism of the religions of his time.

Laura Davis (University of Pittsburgh) – Rethinking Logical Hylomorphism and Kant’s Logical Legacy

It is commonly accepted that Kant’s central contribution to the development of logic is his introduction of logical hylomorphism. Kant’s doctrine of transcendental idealism allows for a distinction between the form of thinking and the matter thought. Kant’s pure general logic is formal in the sense that it “abstracts from all content”. Commentators have taken this to mean that logic abstracts from the semantic content of thought to examine its syntactic structure. However, not only is this reading of Kant’s hylomorphic distinction deeply at odds with central tenets of formal idealism but it betrays the contemporary biases pervasive in philosophical logic. These biases have kept Kant’s true logical insights from view. I argue that a closer look at Kant’s pure general logic provides us with a very different hylomorphic distinction: one between the thinking activity of the subject (form) and that which is thought (matter). On this latter model, semantic significance is not the matter from which logic abstracts; rather, it is the unity of form and matter. This highlights Kant’s insight that all thought bears an essential relation to our capacity to think at all. It is the nature of thinking, as the self-activity of the understanding, which lies at the heart of Kant’s logical inquiry.

Janelle DeWitt (Indiana University) – Kant and Anselm on Freedom and the Rational Origin of Evil

In the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant clearly states that freedom of choice cannot be defined as “the ability to make a choice for or against the law” (MM 6:226).  In its stead, he conceives of freedom as a form of rational or moral self-determination.  The problem, however, is that defining freedom in this way appears to make moral evil an impossibility. Why?  Because in acting immorally, one would fail to be rational (i.e., fail to determine oneself according to the moral law), and so fail to be free.  But if this were true, then why would Kant go on to declare that evil has a “rational origin” (R 6:41)?  I believe the answer lies in the work of Anselm of Canterbury, because it was for just this very reason (to give an intellectual account of evil) that Anselm first developed the “two wills doctrine”—a doctrine from which the conception of a free will as both spontaneous and morally self-determined first emerged.  Thus, in order to better understand Kant, I believe it would be instructive to look back and see how the original account developed in its natural context.  Once we do, the contours of Kant’s own account of freedom and moral evil (missing much of this background) will begin to take new shape.

Kyla Ebels-Duggan (Northwestern University) – Love, Respect and the Value of Humanity

In this paper, I join a small but growing group of contemporary moral philosophers who argue that, rather than competing with moral obligation, love for individuals is related to moral commitment in three more positive ways: First, love gives us insight into the value of individuals, or the content of the concept of the value of humanity, a concept that figures centrally in Kantian moral theory among others. Second, I argue that interpersonal love and moral commitment share important structural features. Each involves a normative commitment that we have sufficient justifying reason for but cannot reason to. Because of this, though our own commitments are warranted, in neither case can we construct arguments by which we could convince a skeptical third party to come to share these commitments. Love is more obviously like this than moral commitment, so reflection on the case of love can illuminate the standing of, and appropriate attitude toward, moral skepticism. Third, love nevertheless provides conceptual materials for a kind of argument to moral commitment, the requirement to value each individual that Kant expresses in his principle that we must always treat humanity as an end in itself.

Jonas Held (University of Leipzig) – Kant on the Normativity of Logical Rules

For Kant, the laws of logic are constitutive and normative laws of thought. They are constitutive for thinking because we only think at all if our thinking is in accordance with them. But if this is true, how can these laws also be normative? As normative laws, the laws of logic prescribe how we should think. This implies that incorrect thinking, i.e. thinking that isn’t in accordance with the laws of logic, is possible. But this seems to contradict the constitutive nature of these laws. I believe that Kant is able to reconcile constitutivity and normativity. As I will argue in my talk, his notion of a capacity is central for this reconciliation. Logical laws are constitutive in the sense that they determine our logical or rational capacity. We only think at all – we only judge or infer – if we actualize our rational capacity to think. But because a capacity can be actualized better or worse, there is still room for failure and therefore for the normative role of logical laws. This interpretation will also help to gain a better understanding of the very nature of logical laws and their relation to thinking in general that we find in Kant’s writings.

Matthias Hoesch (University of Muenster) and Martin Sticker (Trinity College Dublin) – In Defence of Maxims

Our paper defends Kant’s conception of agency and acting on principles against Derek Parfit’s recent attack against the notion of a maxim. This attack is a central step in Parfit’s argument for a so-called “triple theory” that combines the supposedly most plausible versions of Kantianism, Contractualism and Consequentialism. To establish such a theory Parfit argues that we must revise Kant and, specifically, abandon the concept of a maxim. Against this criticism, we will establish that (a) we can give Kant’s notion of maxims a reading that allows us to hold on to them even in the face of Parfit’s criticism, and (b) there is a good reason to hold on to the concept of a maxim. The overall upshot of our paper will be an exegetically grounded and systematically feasible notion of maxims as the proper objects of ethical evaluation.

Andrew Jones (Cardiff University/Exeter University) – Understanding Kant’s Influence on the Development of Biology

The role of misunderstanding is rarely addressed when discussing influence. It is usually presupposed that an influence must be similar with its source. However, influences need not share this similarity, discoveries are commonly instigated by individuals inspired by different and unfamiliar theories to solve problems. A comprehensive account of influence must account for the functions and implications of misunderstanding, and recognise it as an essential aspect of influence.

The extent of Kant’s influence on biology has divided scholarship. Lenoir asserts that Kant influenced the development of 19th Century German biology. In response, Zammito argued that Kant had limited influence on biology because transcendental idealism and naturalism are incompatible. Both accounts do not consider the significance of how these biologists misunderstood Kant. Lenoir essentially argues that there was no misunderstanding, whereas Zammito argues that this misunderstanding is so great that it voids any possible influence.

I shall argue that it is precisely Kant’s influence on, yet incompatibility with, biology that provokes the need for this research. This offers an alternative perspective on the resurgence of interest in Kant’s philosophy within contemporary philosophy of biology. The reason why Kant is a helpful resource to contemporary philosophy of biology is that Kant’s problematic influence was essential to development of biology.

Kristina Kersa (St. Andrews) – Kant on Modal Judgment, Apperception, and Self-consciousness

Although Kant’s philosophy is steeped in modal notions, offering transcendental arguments for the necessary conditions of the possible experience, it lacks a clear and unified account of modal theory. As the interest in topics in philosophy of modality is growing, there is also a renewed interest in providing a unified account of Kant on modality, which could bring Kant closer to contemporary philosophy. In my talk I first discuss main features of Kant’s thoughts on modality in general, and then introduce a clue to unlock the possible unified theory. In the Critique of Pure Reason, we find distinct modal elements at work in Kant’s analysis of transcendental logic: as a logical form of judgment, as a category, and as a principle of reason. Ultimately, modality also accounts for the relation of the judgment to the cognitive power from which it originates, i.e., either theoretical or moral-practical. As there are only few further hints towards the explanation of the working of these transcendental modal elements in practical respect, I will discuss the parallelism between theoretical and moral practical modal judgments, and the close structural proximity between modal judgment/principle and the unity of self-consciousness (both transcendental-critical and moral-practical).

Ted Kinnaman (George Mason University) – Kant on the Normativity of Meaning

The contemporary debate on the normativity of meaning began with Wittgenstein, or more properly with Saul Kripke’s Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. As Kripke himself notes, the skeptical problem he sees at the heart of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations has “an obvious Kantian flavor.” Still, the relevant passages in the Critique of Pure Reason—surely the most important text for understanding Kant’s view of the relation between thought and world—have received comparatively little attention. In this essay I hope to rectify this somewhat. I will argue that, while it is correct to see the key to Kant’s understanding of the normativity of meaning in the application of a rule, this is not, so to speak, the ground floor of his account of normativity. Rather, normativity for Kant derives from the obligation to represent extramental objects accurately. The mind-independence of the object is represented in our experience by the necessity of the a priori concepts the understanding applies to appearances.

Andrea Lailach (University of Konstanz) – Constrained Imagination. How Imagination Can Ground Knowledge

It is a traditional assumption that imagination plays a distinctive role in our cognitive architecture. However, it is far from clear whether we gain knowledge of external facts by the use of imagination. Recently philosophers have claimed, that imagination can be seen as a source of knowledge, even of factual knowledge. But how and why can imagination be a source of knowledge about contingent facts of reality? In my talk I will show that Kant’s account of imagination has the resources to answer the question of how and why imagination can ground knowledge of external facts. I will firstly sketch the current debate by discussing Timothy Williamson’s and Amy Kind’s accounts, which both argue in favour of the claim, that imagination can be a source of knowledge. Both, however, are convinced that imagination is only cognitively valuable if it proceeds under certain constraints. Secondly, I will argue that according to Kant’s account there is no need to constrain imagination in order to assign it an epistemic value. Rather, in Kant’s view imagination already shows the features that are claimed to be required in order for imagination to be cognitively valuable.

Christine Lopes – Three Recent Perspectives on ‘I ought but cannot’

The proposition that ought implies can (OIC) is often associated with Kant. The general idea behind OIC is that if a person (S) has an obligation to perform an action (ϕ), then it must be possible for S to ϕ. In other words, ‘S ought to ϕ’ implies ‘S can ϕ’. Recent papers have considered this implication in relation to the proposition that, on occasion, we ought but cannot (OBC). I consider three recent approaches to the relation of OIC and OBC. They share—on grounds psychological (Külher, 2013), moral (Jay, 2013), and metaphysical (Martin, 2009)—the claim that OIC is unconvincing in its exclusive reliance on the concept of moral duty. I concisely present and consider the core claim of each of these approaches in turn. Indeed, the objective of the paper is not to survey the field, nor even to analyse each approach in great detail, but to show that they share a simple logical difficulty. Beyond this difficulty, I consider more closely only Martin’s approach, as it seems to be the most congenial to some aspects of the Kantian moral reasoning that underpins OIC. In considering the dispute on freedom of will between Erasmus of Rotterdam and Martin Luther, Martin proposes that minds that are capable of upholding commitment to unrealizable moral obligations have an infinite moral consciousness. I suggest that the notion of an infinite moral consciousness is compatible with Kant’s concept of actions from duty found in the Groundwork of The Metaphysics of Morals, and that Kant’s concept of actions from duty chimes with Luther’s conception of freedom of will.

António Marques (New University of Lisbon) – Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals on Duties and the Relation Between Law and Morals

One of the most discussed items of Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals is the relation between morals and right. The main divergence is generally expressed by two principal stances on that relation. One of them claims that right is dependent on morals and in that sense the principles of right are deducible from the moral law (Dependence Thesis), while the other stance defends that right and morals are independent domains with independent principles (Independent Thesis) In this paper I take the side of the Independence Thesis, but also argue that it must be completed and better grounded on an adequate understanding of Kant´s view of the scope and qualifications of duties in the MM. This understanding should be contrasted with the definition of perfect duties stated in the Groundwork and the second Critique. In fact we know that in the MM he reserves the qualification of “perfect” for juridical duties, and associated to the latter a stricter scope and more rigorous determination. So the question arises: why did Kant need to revise his characterization of perfect duty? Why did he introduce new criteria of opposition between ethical and juridical obligations? My conclusion will be that the Independence Thesis can only be fully justified in the framework of a theory of duties, where some of them (juridical) are to be constructed. The other kind of duties, being ethical duties, are not a matter of construction but must be considered wide scope ends, synthetically linked with internal coercion.

Samantha Matherne (University of California, Santa Cruz) – A New Approach to Kant’s Account of Aesthetic Autonomy

In more recent philosophical aesthetics, Kant’s account of aesthetic autonomy has received something of a second life, particularly in discussions of aesthetic testimony (Hopkins 2001, McGonigal 2006, Gorodeisky 2010, Konigsberg 2012) and aesthetic normativity (Moran 2012).  However, the account of aesthetic autonomy that tends to be attributed to Kant in these contexts remains rather thin, viz., as the ability to make an aesthetic judgment free from outside influence.  However, in this paper, I argue that, for Kant, aesthetic autonomy, like moral autonomy, requires not just this kind of negative freedom, but the positive freedom of self-determination as well.  More specifically, I claim that, on Kant’s view, the capacity for aesthetic self-determination amounts to the capacity of common sense.  I submit, moreover, that common sense is not a natural capacity, but rather a capacity that must be acquired through practice and the cultivation of taste, and I illustrate this point with Kant’s example of the young poet.  By way of conclusion, I consider three norms, the norms of aesthetic universality, aesthetic humility, and aesthetic exposure, that I take to be grounded in Kant’s thicker conception of aesthetic autonomy.

Bennett McNulty (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities) – The Heirs to the Kantian A Priori

Immanuel Kant’s metaphysical project of grounding a priori knowledge of objects on a critique of the cognitive faculties, though momentous and influential, is now largely seen as a failure. Particularly, developments in logic, mathematics, physics, and psychology since the late 18th century have revealed profound shortcomings of his theory. In this paper, I describe two reconstituted Kantian projects that attempt to achieve his ideals grounded on reinterpretations of apriority. I especially focus on a Kantian theory of the a priori based on the results of cognitive science. According to this approach, we discover the a priori forms imposed by the human cognitive faculties not through mere armchair reflection but via analyzing the products of cognitive science. Contemporary cognitive science is committed to the brain’s active imposition of structure upon sensory data to construct phenomenological experience. By examining the rules governing this production of experience, we can discover universal features of said experience, along the lines of Kant’s original insight. I focus especially on two topics in cognitive science—the construction of spatial features of visual experience and the predictive processing account of the brain— that reveal the human subject to be essentially and actively involved in the construction of experience.

Jim O’Shea (University College Dublin) – On the Very Idea of a Kantian Naturalism

On most contemporary ways of understanding ‘naturalism’ as an outlook in philosophy (e.g., from Quine), Kant’s defences of various a priori concepts and principles in practical and theoretical philosophy are most plausibly viewed as incompatible with naturalism so understood.  Alternatively, recent ‘softer’ conceptions of naturalism (e.g., Strawson, McDowell) look more promising as far as incorporating genuinely Kantian views is concerned, but at the expense of attenuating the naturalism.  In this talk I will suggest that a relatively unique aspect of Sellars’ philosophy is that he sought to defend a Kantian naturalism that is quite strong both in terms of the strength of the modified Kantian conceptual analyses that he sought to defend in both the theoretical and practical domains, and in terms of the exhaustiveness and the reductive character of the scientific naturalism he defended.  What is compelling about Sellars’ position is the way in which he viewed Kant’s philosophy, not as the enemy of naturalism, but as the only hope for an ultimately coherent and all-comprehensive scientific naturalist metaphysics.  Whether this Kantian naturalist view really hangs together, however, is a difficult question reflected in the subsequent divergence between ‘left wing’ Kantian and ‘right wing’ naturalist philosophers influenced by Sellars.

Jacinto Paez (Universidad Diego Portales (Chile) / Fern Universität in Hagen (Germany) – The Need for Predecessors. Kant on the History of Philosophy

The aim of our presentation is to analyze the systematic role that History of Philosophy plays in Kant’s transcendental philosophy as it is stated in the Critique of pure reason. In order to perform this task I will focus ourselves on the final chapter of Kant’s central work: “History of pure reason”. The inclusion of a chapter on history at the end of the first critique suggests that history works as a source of concepts and as a component of reason’s selfconsciousness. If this is the case, it must be considered as an element that plays a role in the formulation of the Copernican Revolution.

In order to justify this last claim the presentation will deal with the following topics. (1) The alleged paradox between critical philosophy and the history of philosophy; (2) the basic components of Kant’s history of pure reason; and (3) the possible place of this final chapter of the Critique of pure reason in the general architectonic structure of the work. Our main philosophical concern will be the level of historical consciousness displayed in Kant’s thinking. We will ask ourselves until what extent can we considered him as a predecessor of our own historical way of philosophizing.

Mark Pickering (Lynn University) – Kant, Phenomenalism, and Unperceived Objects

Recent commentators have frowned upon interpreting Immanuel Kant’s transcendental idealism as a form of phenomenalism.   In this paper I will argue that a phenomenalist interpretation has certain advantages and should not be lightly dismissed.  After an overview of its advantages and how misguided objections to it have been, I will address a recent objection.  Lucy Allais claims in her recent book Manifest Reality that Kant does not explain the existence of unperceived objects in terms of possible perceptions.   The passages that show her claim is false are also the key to understanding Kant’s phenomenalism.

Andrew Stephenson (University of Southampton) – Existence, Modality, and Imagination in Kant: Lessons from the Barcan Formulas

‘The unconditional necessity of judgments is not an absolute necessity of things’ (A593/B621). This paper considers Kant’s account of possibility and necessity in light of a central debate in contemporary modal metaphysics and modal logic concerning the so-called ‘Barcan formulas’. The Barcan formulas together encode a systematic connection between modality de dicto and modality de re: that it is possible that something satisfies a condition just in case something possibly satisfies a condition, or equivalently that it is necessary that everything satisfies a condition just in case everything necessarily satisfies the condition. The starting point for the comparison to Kant is his famous dictum (A598/B627) that existence is not a real predicate, which is shown to be intimately connected to the view encoded in the Barcan formulas. Kant’s views on three different kinds of modality are then considered in light of this connection: logical, material, and formal. For each case there is direct textual evidence, a set of systematic considerations, and a formal corollary. The hardest case is that of formal modality, which presents us with a puzzle concerning how, according to Kant, we can know whether something non-actual is nevertheless formally possible. A solution is proposed based on Kant’s account of the imagination, which requires imagination to be a faculty for intuition without the object. The paper closes with a tentative suggestion: Kant’s idealism provides a more secure explanation of how the imagination can form the basis of a modal epistemology in this way than do related contemporary accounts.

Lucas Thorpe (Bogazici University) – Kant on the Capacity to Recognize Humanity

In a recent paper, Paul Guyer has suggested that our recognition of morally relevant others is based upon an argument from analogy. I will defend, in contrast, a version of what I call moral reliabilism. Moral reliabilism consists to two claims. Firstly there is the empirical, naturalistic claim that (a) we have a quasi-perceptual capacity to directly ascribe moral status to various bits of the world around us. I will argue that this capacity is best thought of in Gibsonian terms as a capacity to pick-up on certain types of social affordances, namely the capacity to engage in ethical interaction; those beings who are “human” in the morally relevant afford interaction based on mutual respect. Secondly there is the normative claim that, (b) we should assume as a postulate of practical reason that this capacity is reliable (although fallible). I suggest, then, that the most plausible story to tell here is that we have a natural (biological) capacity to recognize the humanity of others, and we must make a moral assumption (or in Kantian language, a postulate of practical reason) that this capacity can reliably pick out the morally relevant bits of the phenomenal world around

Bas Tönissen (University of St. Andrews) – Kant, Moral failure and the Guise of the Good

Some recent interpretations of Kant’s ethics (particularly Engstrom’s and Reath’s) have attributed to him a very strong version of the guise of the good thesis I call SGG. They claim that not only does all rational volition aim at either the objective or the subjective good; the subjective good is only desired under the guise of the objective good. Thus every act of volition makes an implicit claim to universal validity, even if that claim is mistaken.

I test SGG against various cases of moral failure, and argue that it can explain a surprising amount of them if we draw on Kant’s rich moral psychology. These cases are diabolical willing (evil for evil’s sake), evil willing (evil for some other sake), frailty (doing wrong while willing right) and listlessness (losing track of value.) Diabolical willing proves to be impossible and to reduce to evil willing, which can be explained through the notions of self-conceit and despondency. I argue that Engstrom and Reath get frailty wrong, but that the notion of persistent illusion provides sufficient resources for SGG to cover it regardless. It cannot, however, account for listlessness – though I suspect that this is true for any account of practical reason.

Iris Vidmar and Predrag Šustar (University of Rijeka) – Aesthetic Ideas, Reflective Power of Judgment and the Aesthetic Experience of Poetry

Kant valued poetry above all other forms of art, but surprisingly, neither his reasons for such an evaluation, nor his views on poetic creation and reception have attracted specific interest in recent philosophy of poetry. Our aim in this paper is to show how Kant’s account of poetry can be insightful for our understanding of poetry, particularly with respect to two of the currently most contentious issues regarding the nature of aesthetic experience of poetry: (i) the ineffability of poetic meaning, and (ii) the unavoidability of abstract thought in poetry. The crux of our argument is an interpretation of Kant’s account of aesthetic ideas which we centre on its initial outline in §17 of the third Critique, “On the ideal of beauty”. This outline is not only contextually dislocated from §§ 43-53, traditionally taken as representing Kant’s account, but it has theoretical consequences in that it implies an apparently distinct meaning of the notion of aesthetic ideas. By combining our results regarding CPJ § 17 with Kant’s general account of the reflective power of judgment as announced in the Introductions to the third Critique, we develop a response to the issues of meaning and abstraction in poetry.

Robert Watt (University of Cambridge) – Hyper-Physical Influence and Pre-Established Intellectual Harmony in Kant’s Letter to Herz

In a famous letter to Marcus Herz, Kant raises the question ‘how my understanding is supposed to form concepts of objects, themselves completely a priori, with which necessarily the things are supposed to agree’ (10:131). He also mentions two possible answers to this question: the theory of hyper-physical influence, which he ascribes to Malebranche, and the theory of pre-established intellectual harmony, which he ascribes to Crusius.  I argue that the theories of hyper-physical influence and pre-established intellectual harmony have been widely misinterpreted, as have Kant’s objections to them.  In particular, I argue that when Kant claims that an appeal to these theories is viciously circular, what he means is not, as historians have typically assumed, that these are metaphysical theories, and cannot therefore be used to defend the possibility of metaphysics.  My alternative interpretation of Kant’s objection allows us to see him as responding to specific arguments in the works of Crusius and Malebranche.  It also allows us to see the vicious circularity that Kant ascribes to these philosophers as one that he himself avoids in the Critique of Pure Reason.

 

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