Spring 2018 Colloquium Series - 17 May
Lucy Allais, UCSD/University of the Witwatersrand :: The Disunity of Self
Thursday, May 17 2018 | note room change: WMC 3260
Abstract: Kant claims, in the relatively late work, Religion within the boundaries of mere Reason (1793), that humans have an innate, universal yet imputable propensity to evil and that this propensity is present in all of us, ‘even the best’. My focus in this paper is on presenting a secular interpretation of Kant’s account of the radical evil in human nature. Kant holds, as I read him, that humans are not merely finite and imperfect agents who sometimes get it wrong as to how they should act, but that we are structurally deeply flawed moral agents and that this can be known to be an empirically universal claim about humans. My aim is to give an account of how this view, while in many ways puzzling and seeming to be in tension with Kant’s autonomy and reason based moral philosophy, in fact follows naturally from central parts of his account of practical reason. I present some reasons for thinking that Kant’s account of practical reason will lead to systematically flawed, corrupt and systematically self-deceived agency under certain conditions—those of living in injustice, as Kant understands injustice. My argument is not that living in injustice is the only explanation of a propensity to evil in Kant; but that it provides part of the picture and that it gives an argument (otherwise seemingly missing from his account) for his view that evil can be known to be empirically universal in humans. My suggestion is that the way Kant thinks about the relation between practical reason and our political obligations has implications for the moral psychology of finite, embodied, imperfectly rational creatures who come to agency and realize agency in corrupt conditions.