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The Kantian Imperative

The Kantian Imperative: Humiliation, Common Sense, Politics

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 310
  • Book Info
    The Kantian Imperative
    Book Description:

    Immanuel Kant's moral philosophy is almost universally understood as the attempt to analyse and defend a morality based on individual autonomy. InThe Kantian Imperative, Paul Saurette challenges this interpretation by arguing that Kant's 'imperative' is actually based on a problematic appeal to 'common sense' and that it is premised on, and seeks to further cultivate and intensify, the feeling of humiliation in every moral subject.

    Discerning the influence of this model on a wide variety of historical and contemporary political thought and philosophy and critical of its implications, Saurette explores its impact on the work of two seminal and contemporary thinkers in particular: Charles Taylor and Jürgen Habermas. Saurette also shows that an analysis of the Kantian imperative allows a better understanding of current political problems such as the U.S. torture scandal at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and broader post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy.The Kantian Imperativethus demonstrates that philosophy and political theory are as relevant to contemporary events as at any other time in history.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8157-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Humiliation, Common Sense, Morality
    (pp. 3-22)

    Humiliation. A sick feeling in the pit of the stomach or heart. A rush of blood to – or away from – the face. Confusion. The shattering realization that your most dearly held self-perceptions and bases of selfrespect have been torn down and ripped to shreds. ‘If embarrassment lingers on the surface of the body, humiliation is located at its deepest center.’² A complex experience and emotion in which conceptual and cultural expectations and meanings intertwine with powerful affective and bodily forces, humiliation is not something to be taken lightly.

    While few, if any, modern political and moral philosophical approaches would explicitly...

  5. Part I The Kantian Imperative

    • CHAPTER 1 Kant’s Imperative Image of Morality
      (pp. 25-45)

      Thus Kant famously remarks in the opening of theProlegomena to any Future Metaphysics.Many interpreters of Kant have taken this statement as explicit evidence that the origin of Kant’s project can be found in his appreciation of, but also his reaction against, Hume’s epistemological skepticism. A.C. Ewing, for example, suggests that Kant is here referring to his encounter with passages of Hume’sTreatisethat ‘shattered his confidence’ in the possibility of rationalist a priori knowledge of the real world and led to his decade-long struggle to reconstruct a theory of knowledge neither sceptical nor dogmatic through the firstCritique.²...

    • CHAPTER 2 Common Sense Recognition
      (pp. 46-82)

      As one of the most frequently cited sections from Kant’s oeuvre, the above quote nicely captures the prevalent interpretation of his moral and political perspective.² Kant’s philosophy is viewed as being one of the archetypal expressions of the enlightenment faith in our ability to employ autonomous reason. What Kant shows us, it is suggested, is that a modern moral and political system can be derived from, and erected upon, autonomous subjectivity itself. Among those scholars who examine Kant’s moral philosophy there is thus an overwhelming consensus that his practical philosophy is the defence and analysis of autonomy as the foundation...

    • CHAPTER 3 Cultivating a Kantian Moral Disposition
      (pp. 83-101)

      If Kant’s project develops a number of philosophical strategies to render apodictic the imperative image of morality (primary among them the appeal to common sense recognition), and yet none of them successfully renders that image incontestably apodictic, what is Kant to do? If Kant’s entire moral edifice ultimately rests on our common sense recognition of the moral law; if without recognition, the structure and persuasiveness of the Kantian Imperative crumbles; and if even the strategy of common sense recognition cannot assure him that everyonewillrecognize, what other avenues and strategies does Kant’s philosophy engage to resolve this crisis? One...

    • CHAPTER 4 Kantian Humiliation: The Mnemotechnics of Morality
      (pp. 102-141)

      It should not be surprising that the Rule of St Benedict, the order that governed the majority of Christian monasteries between the ninth and twelfth centuries, speaks favourably of humiliation and humility. For although humiliation is generally viewed as anathema to modern ethical systems, it played essential and indispensable roles in other moral and political systems of cultivation. Humility, for example, is central to both Old and New Testaments. We, of the earth, are imperfect copies, mere stick and mud. We are not men – we are barely worms. We exist and are saved but through the grace of God. Our...

    • INTERLOGUE: Implications and Speculations
      (pp. 142-158)

      In the first part of this book I traced the subterranean logic of the Kantian Imperative and highlighted its importance in Kant’s moral project. Before I move on to my second aim – to explore and challenge the effects of these elements in contemporary political and ethical thought – I want to briefly outline a number of points raised by my analysis of the Kantian Imperative. In particular, I want to note several ways my analysis changes our understanding of historical political thought; to identify and address two further questions that emerge from this analysis; and finally, to briefly discuss several key...

  6. Part II The Contemporary Kantian Imperative

    • CHAPTER 5 Habermas’s Kantian Imperative
      (pp. 161-196)

      Contemporary articulations of the Kantian Imperative are not simply perfectly replicated simulacra. Contemporary versions reproduce or discard some elements and echo and transform others. This complex relationship of reproduction and innovation is especially apparent in the work of Jurgen Habermas. Not surprisingly, Habermas acknowledges a complex relationship with and debt to Kant’s thinking. On one hand, he recognizes many problems with Kant’s moral system: Habermas believes that at times Kant’s project embodies a ‘philosophy of consciousness’ based on ‘identity thinking,’¹ that it demonstrates a problematic yearning for ‘totalizing theory’² and is vulnerable to a number of Hegel’s critiques.³ ‘For all...

    • CHAPTER 6 Taylor’s Common Sense Ontology
      (pp. 197-234)

      The complex and paradoxical thinking of Charles Taylor is a particularly appropriate subject for our final analysis for two reasons. First, paired as it is with the chapter on Habermas, my analysis of Taylor will help to substantiate my contention that the influence of the Kantian Imperative stretches well beyond neo-Kantian liberals into the theory of many non- and even ‘anti-’ Kantians. Second, my analysis of Taylor’s thinking in the light of the Kantian Imperative also helps to explain and clarify some of the controversy that surrounds his work. For, if there is wide acknowledgment of the importance of Charles...

    • EPILOGUE: The Post-9/11 Kantian Imperative
      (pp. 235-250)

      In the preceding chapters, I have argued both that the Kantian Imperative is an important influence in political and ethical thought and that its assumptions, goals, and strategies are ultimately highly problematic and contestable. While I’ve examined a variety of these philosophical tendencies, however, I have not explored in detail the way the Kantian Imperative can also influence concrete ethical and political judgments. In other words, I have not explored the way that these macro strategies can manifest themselves in specific policy and ‘advocacy’ issues (to use Taylor’s phrase). I strongly agree, however, with the sentiment captured in the quote...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 251-294)
  8. Index
    (pp. 295-305)