Kant and the Language of Reason
In his excellent Good and Evil: An Absolute Conception, 2 Raimond Gaita has recently made a forceful criticism of Kant’s moral theory, suggesting that its inadequacy arises in large measure from Kant’s blindness to the relation between ordinary moral discourse and philosophical treatments of moral deliberation — a relation which Gaita takes to be of crucial importance, especially in its application to the concept of remorse. For remorse, Gaita notes, ‘is, amongst other things, a form of the recognition of the reality of others’,3 and one that necessarily involves seeing others in their individuality. If remorse is to be lucid and sober, it must be expressive of a proper understanding of what one has done, as well as of what one has become in doing it. But for this to be possible, the evildoer must have an adequate grasp of the reality of those whom he has harmed, where this in turn involves a recognition of them as individuals, as precious, unique and irreplaceable agents whose lives unfold in a narrative that one is prepared to take seriously, to invest with a certain kind of meaning. Throughout his discussion, but particularly in Chapter 9 of his work, Gaita focuses on this notion of ethical individuality and tries to show that, in so far as Kant’s theory leaves no room for it, that theory cannot yield a proper conception of remorse and must, therefore, be inadequate.
KeywordsCategorical Imperative Moral Thinking Moral Deliberation Imperfect Duty Ethical Individuality
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