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Title: De wet in het verkeerde daglicht gesteld
Subtitle: Kant over deugd, autocratie en de hang naar het kwaad
Author(s): VAN EEKERT, Geert
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Filosofie
Volume: 74    Issue: 1   Date: 2012   
Pages: 65-101
DOI: 10.2143/TVF.74.1.2152713

Abstract :
In Metaphysical Principles of Virtue (1797) Kant wants to demonstrate how human beings should put the moral law into practice in their individual lives. This article intends to contribute to the research on the picture of human nature Kant had in mind while defining virtue and specifying the duties of virtue. First of all, it is shown that this picture is not only more refined than is generally assumed, but also compatible with Kant’s theory of radical evil that was developed in the first part of Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793). With the exception of one footnote however, Kant seems to pass over that theory without comment in Metaphysical Principles of Virtue. He even seems to assume time and again that the enemy of virtue is the human being’s sensuous nature, while according to the first part of Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone sensuous nature contains too little to provide a ground of moral evil. Does Kant’s 1793 theory of evil play no part anymore in his 1797 theory of virtue? In the remainder of this article I want to argue from two different angles that this is too rash a conclusion. First of all, I will criticize Anne Baxley’s objections to the way in which Kant, while introducing the concept of autocracy, distinguishes between human beings and finite holy beings. I will argue that this distinction, despite Baxley’s comments, does make sense if it is associated with Kant’s theory of radical evil. Secondly, I want to show why it appears to be so difficult from a Kantian perspective to confront the human being’s propensity to evil in a direct manner. The difficulty at stake will appear to be the human individual’s tendency to misrepresent the moral law, thereby inevitably deceiving itself regarding the moral worth of its own intentions. I will conclude that the virtuous human being is dependent on indirect strategies (the virtues) in order to confront this tendency and that, from this perspective, Kant’s ‘one-sided’ attention to the human being’s sensuous nature in his 1797 theory of virtue becomes more obvious.

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