"The Open Secret of Kant’s Soul"


Location: 131 Decio Hall (View on map.nd.edu)

Patrick Frierson (Whitman College)


131 Decio Faculty Hall


This paper responds to Joshua Greene’s recent references to “the secret joke of Kant’s soul” Greene 2007, 2014), namely that deontological moral philosophy consists merely of post hoc rationalization for irrational, emotional moral judgments.  Greene uses this accusation to defend consequentialist moral theory and utilitarianism for everyday moral judgments.  I argue that Greene’s description of Kant’s philosophy and the moral judgments that it supports coheres well with Kant’s own descriptions of his philosophical methodology and the nature of pure practical reason; there is nothing “secret” about these features of deontology.  Moreover, they are not a joke because whatever the evolutionary origin or neurological basis of pure practical reason, it picks out a sort of value that humans consider to be unconditional, and Kant provides good arguments to support this commonsense judgment.  Nonetheless, there are reasons for caution in some of the observations Greene makes about deontological judgment, but these are reasons to more carefully distinguish what Kant calls “pathological” feelings from true exercises of practical reason and its related feeling of respect, not reasons to group together all such feelings."


This talk is part of the "Kant and the Self" workshop.