In your opinion, which of Kant’s ideas have universal and enduring value?

Once again, valuable answers to a challenging question: 

Henry Allison: If by this expression you mean contemporary philosophical relevance, I have to say many, from all aspects of Kant`s thought, including transcendental idealism correctly understood. But if you mean of broad human concern, then it would have to be some of the central themes of his moral philosophy, such as the conceptions of the autonomy of the will and rational being as an end in itself.


Maria Borges: I think Kant is still contemporary, because his morality is based on three powerful concepts that people actually use in their moral judgments. These three concepts are autonomy, humanity and the idea that moral rightness is based on reason. Kant´s moral ideas have an universal and enduring value, because they grasp the three main features of what we still call morality. First, we should be autonomous human beings, in order to freely decide to enter in any personal or social relationship. Second, that we should respect the intrinsic value of human beings and think about them as an end in themselves, not only as a means. Third, that what is right should be reasonable for everyone. Also, Kant has showed that morality is not about utility or consequences, but about what we can consider reasonable for everyone.

Andrew Brook: Kant’s claims about the equal and infinite value of each moral agent will come to most peoples’ minds. Since I know his philosophy of mind and epistemology far better than the rest of his work, let me single out his claims about the interplay of the constructive, concept-using aspects of the mind and input to which we are and must remain passive, and his claims about the centrality of the unity of consciousness.

Jefrrey EdwardsI suspect that my response to this question will be quite similar to the replies of many other interview participants. The fact is that I would be extremely hard-pressed to name any of Kant’s fully articulated ideas and well-grounded positions that are not of universal and enduring value. (Whether they are “mistaken” or not is, of course, another question.) My difficulty in this is, I think, something more than just evidence of a Kant scholar’s prejudice for his preferred subject, though it certainly may be that to some degree as well. Its source is a far more inclusive question—namely, how could one possibly go about deciding which of the major ideas of Western philosophy are not of enduring value, even if some of them are not (or ought not to be) of universal validity? Since it cannot be seriously maintained that Kant was not a major thinker firmly embedded in the historical context of Western philosophy, I might be able to answer question (1) if I could first eliminate from the pool of universally and enduringly valuable ideas an array of ideas that were, historically, “opposed” to those put forward by Kant. But I don’t think that philosophy really allows for this kind of thinking about the relationship between the history and the value of ideas—especially since the major positions of Kant’s theoretical and practical philosophy have historically played such crucial roles in determining which ideas we in fact hold to be of particular value. They continue to do this whether we like it or not, so we might as well finally get used to it. They’re not going away any time soon.

Paul Guyer: I think that the basic ideas of Kant’s moral and political philosophy have universal and enduring value. As I interpret it, the basic idea of Kant’s moral philosophy is that no matter what else they value, all human beings value the freedom to make their own choices, free of domination by either their own irrational impulses or those of others, and that the only way for any human being to preserve the freedom of his or her choice from such domination is if all human beings act in accordance with a conception of reason requiring consistency within the free choices of each and among the free choices of all. Kant presupposes that each human being could come to acknowledge these fundamental premises through genuine reflection on their own motivations, and I don’t think that history has shown him to be wrong; but history certainly has shown how prejudice and especially claims to have been vouchsafed divine revelation can stand in the way of such reflection, and the greatest challenge is to get human beings to listen to the voice of their own reason rather than other voices. In political philosophy, I believe that Kant’s greatest contribution is to have shown that the state should exist to provide security and justice, not to address every possible human desire, but that there can be no genuine security or justice anywhere unless there is genuine security and justice anywhere, so that global security and global justice must be the ultimate aim of every just state.

Robert Howell: At the core of Kant’s theoretical philosophy is the idea that our a priori cognition of objects concerns only «what we ourselves put into» those objects. This idea goes along with a specific conception of the a priori and of our a priori knowledge of synthetic judgments. Kant then develops this idea as a form of ontological idealism about the objects of knowledge. Twentieth-century research has shown that we need to rethink his detailed views about the a priori/a posteriori and the analytic/synthetic distinctions. Post-Kantian thinkers have also pointed out serious flaws in his arguments for transcendental idealism. However, underlying the above idea is a basic research project that does not depend on the fine details of Kant’s own views. That is the project of investigating how far we have a fundamental, structural knowledge of the world that is constrained in one way or another by the structure of our mind and language. This project, which Kant initiated, remains open. Moreover, the particular points that Kant makes as he develops the above idea also raise open, foundational questions: about space and time, the nature of mathematical and physical knowledge, first-person self-awareness, judgment and the possibility of a priori categories, the nature of objectivity and of causality, and our ability to achieve a complete knowledge of the totality of facts about the world. These questions will remain fruitful subjects of investigation for a long time. I believe that Kant’s specific answers to many of these questions, for example the details of the Transcendental Deduction of the Categories, are open to doubt. But the depth to which he pursues these questions, and the depth of the many further issues that his answers to them raise, are unmatched. As the twists and turns of thought since 1804 show, a similar depth and influence surely belong also to Kant’s practical philosophy and to his work in aesthetics.


Patricia KitcherOn the theoretical side, I think that the enduring value of Kant’s work lies in attempt to show that cognition is an incredibly complex process that involves input from the structure of the mind as well as from the senses. What Kant tried to show, I believe, was that empirical knowledge, that is, knowledge based on sensory evidence, was not possible on its own. Rather, knowledge had to be constructed by the mind on the basis of the sensory evidence. This idea has been incredibly influential in fields as different as theories of poetry and theories of the function of different areas of the cortex. What was different about Kant’s view, as opposed to many that came later, was that although cognition was mind-dependent, it was not for that reason subjective in the sense that it varied from subject to subject.

On the practical side, I think the centerpiece of Kant’s view is the idea that morality is egalitarian and and autonomous, hence a matter of laws that apply to all. Although Rawls and his students have popularized the idea that Kant gave the right priority over the good, I think that his view was in fact driven by a certain conception of the good. What is good is to live in a world where you and everyone is subject to no moral law other than those that you and everyone recognize as such. I think that this simple, but crucial, idea stands behind the elaborate proceduralisms of Rawls and others.

And in your point of view? which of Kant’s ideas have  universal and enduring value?


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Un commento su “In your opinion, which of Kant’s ideas have universal and enduring value?

  1. kantian ha detto:

    I think the most enduring contribution Kant made to philosophy is to develop a theory of practical judgment. He created two new courses, one in physical geography and the other in pragmatic anthropology which were intended to teach his students how to have practical judgment. He made progress over the scholastic and Aristotelian views of practical judgment in that he believed that we also needed to think teleologically and that we needed to understand human beings to know the right thing to do and say. Kant was unfortunately the last enlightenment figure to develop a theory of practical judgment and then it was forgotten by the science enamored interpreters in 19th century. But we can go back and recover what he taught and learn from it and move forward with it.

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