Category : kant

Allen Wood’s Interview on Kant, et al.

3 AM’s interview with Allen Wood

This is a incredibly rich interview with Kant scholar Allen Wood. There’s a lot in this interview (including a subtle discussion of utilitarianism, a plug for reading Fichte more, and a shout out to a deep cut from St. Anselm’s De Casu Diaboli). But the headline discussion is Wood’s interpretation of Kant that challenges the way we often teach him. Here are some highlights:

On the constructivist interpretation of Kant:

If you emphasize the ‘nomos’ (the law), then you get one picture: the objectivity of ethics. If you emphasize the ‘autos’ — the self — you get the idea that we make the law. Kant never hesitated in his choice between the two emphases. He emphasizes the nomos (the universal and objective validity of the law). The relation of the law to the self is only a helpful way of thinking about the law, that helps us better understand its validity for us….Kant says that we may regard ourselves as legislator of the moral law, and consider ourselves as its author, but not that we are legislators or authors of the law (G 4:431)…We can think of rational faculty…as the legislator or author of the law because reason recognizes an objective standard, and to that extent is already aligned with objective moral truth.

On the division of labor for the respective formulas of the categorical imperative:

Formula of Universal Law (FUL): “an aid to judgment…employed when we seek to exempt ourselves from this duty, and to rationalize doing this through the formulation of a maxim that would appear to justify making an exception of ourselves.”

Formula of Humanity as End in Itself (FH): “formula that specifies the motivating incentive for obeying a categorical imperative — that incentive is our respect for the dignity of rational nature as end in itself — and which also provides the means of interpreting or specifying the duties required by the moral principle”

Formula of Autonomy (FA): “the [law] resulting from the combination of [previous formulations] which presents the moral law in its fullest and most proper form…It is a conception of the law (the imperative) that constitutes the truth about what we ought to do….

“Kantian ethics has no decision procedure. It is grounded on a general principle (FA), which is then specified or interpreted (by way of FH) as a system of duties….Their use presupposes that we already recognize some specific duty, and their function is to keep us from being motivated by self-preference to misjudge in a particular case how the duty applies.

the relationship between reason and virtue:

Kant does not think there is anything wrong with being beneficent from sympathy. He thinks we have a duty to cultivate sympathetic feelings by participating in the situations of others and acquiring an understanding of them….He thinks we also have a duty to make ourselves into the kind of person for whom the recognition that something is our duty would be a sufficient incentive to do it (if no other incentives were available to us)…He thinks all is well if I act beneficently, realizing that it is my duty but also having sympathetic feelings for the person I help. But I ought to strive to be the sort of person who would still help even if these feelings were absent.

I’m curious if people who know Kant more than I do want to weigh in on where Wood is correct. But it’s certainly thought-provoking. Check it out!

CFP: Naturalism in German Idealism

The New York German Idealism Workshop

a joint undertaking of the Philosophy departments of

Columbia University and New School for Social Research presents a Conference on


Naturalism in German Idealism

October 25-26 2013

Invited speakers:

Robert Brandom (University of Pittsburg), Eckart Förster (Johns Hopkins University),

Terry Pinkard (Georgetown University), Rachel Zuckert (Northwestern University)


We invite submission of high quality papers from dissertation phase PhD students to the ‘Naturalism in German Idealism’ Conference.


Questions concerning Naturalism hover over much of contemporary philosophy.  To what degree does responsible epistemic and ethical enquiry presuppose Naturalism?  On what basis might we commit to a world lacking supernatural entities or features?  To what extent is our world discoverable through systematic empirical enquiry?  How do we understand second nature as falling within a Naturalist picture?  Naturalism has become a hallmark of a reasonable and rational philosophical view, and yet articulating a clear and substantive notion of Naturalism remains both a difficult and highly controversial affair.


Equally contested is the relation between German Idealism and such contemporary commitments to Naturalism.  Thinkers ranging from Kant, Fichte and Hegel, to romanticists such as Schelling, Hölderlin, Schlegel, were concerned to articulate our place in the world, developing and critiquing accounts of the individual, scientific enquiry and the nature of systematic philosophy.  But what is far from clear is whether these philosophers articulated their views in a way consistent with contemporary commitments to Naturalism.  Or rather: do their own projects expand and deepen contemporary thinking about these issues?  Do we dilute what is radical and challenging in these views, when we take them to be committed to a naturalistic project?  Do they help us understand Naturalism in a way that takes us beyond scientism?  Or help us negotiate the relationship between the space of laws and the space of reasons, between the commitments of science and normative engagement in the world?


We welcome submissions that explore such questions, or more generally deal with the relationship between German Idealism, broadly construed, and Naturalism.  Papers may concern the commitments of a specific figure in the tradition, or treat the topic more generally.  We also welcome papers that consider the work of more contemporary philosophers, such as Pierce, Dewey, McDowell, Brandom, insofar as they concern themselves with these broader themes.


Submissions should be suitable for blind refereeing and consist in:

•   An extended abstract of 500-750 words (in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format).

•   A paper of 3500-4000 words, suitable for a 30 minute talk.

•   A separate cover sheet including name, title of paper, affiliation, email address and contact details.


Submissions should be sent to no later than June 15, 2013.  Notification of acceptance will be sent in mid July.  Further details, including a provisional program, will be posted as they become available.  Please check our website for updates:


If you have any questions, please contact the workshop organizers at

Conference: “Norms of Freedom in Kant and Hegel,” UChicago, Apr 12-13

Norms of Freedom in Kant and Hegel
April 12-13
Student Center East
Room 302, 3rd Floor Conference Tower
750 S. Halsted Street (just south of Harrison)
University of Illinois at Chicago
Speakers include:
Terry Pinkard, Paul Guyer, Christoph Menke, Thomas Khurana, Dirk Setton, Stephen Engstrom, Rahel Jaeggi

Günter Zöller colloquium on civil and moral religion in Rousseau and Kant, Northwestern, Nov. 30

via Guy Elgat on AGSP-L