Kantian Ethics and Utopian Thinking

Thomas E. Hill, Jr.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA | thill@email.unc.edu

Received: 3-October-2019 | Accepted: 21-December-2019 | Published: 31-December-2019
Disputatio [Dec. 2019], Vol. 8, No. 11, pp. 505–529 | DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3596159
Article | [SP] | Full Text | Statistics | Copyright Notice [sp] | Vol. 8 No. 11

How to cite this article:
Hill, Thomas (2019). «Kantian Ethics and Utopian Thinking». Disputatio. Philosophical Research Bulletin 8, no. 11: pp. 505–529.


Abstract | Is Kantian Ethics guilty of utopian thinking? First, potentially good and bad uses of utopian ideals are distinguished, then an apparent path is traced from Rousseau’s unworkable political ideal to Kant’s ethical ideal. Three versions of Kant’s Categorical Imperative (and their counter–parts in common moral discourse) are examined briefly for the ways that they may raise the suspicion that they manifest or encourage bad utopian thinking. In each case Kantians have available responses to counter the suspicion, but special attention is directed to the version that says “Act on the maxims of a universally law–giving member of a kingdom of ends.” Interpretations vary, but here primary focus is on one contemporary reconstruction and development of this central idea. Several objections suggest that this idea encourages bad utopian thinking are briefly addressed: that we cannot count on everyone to follow ideal rules, that even conscientious people disagree in their moral judgments, and that theories that allow exceptions to familiar moral rules create a “slippery slope” to moral chaos.
Keywords |
Kantian Ethics · Categorical Imperative · Exceptions · Utopias · Utopian Thinking.

Ética kantiana y pensamiento utópico

Resumen | La ética de Kant ¿es culpable de pensamiento utópico? Primero se hace una distinción entre los usos potencialmente buenos y malos de los ideales utópicos. Luego se traza lo que parece ser una ruta del ideal político inviable al ideal ético de Kant. Se examinan brevemente tres versiones del imperativo categórico (y sus contrapartes en el discurso moral común) en cuanto a las maneras en que podrían hacer surgir la sospecha de que podrían manifestar o inspirar un pensar utópico malo. Un kantiano dispone en cada uno de estos casos de respuestas para argumentar contra esta sospecha. Se presta atención particular, sin embargo, a la versión que dice «actúa sobre la máxima de un legislador universal de un reino de fines». Las interpretaciones varían, pero el enfoque principal se pone aquí sobre una reconstrucción y un desarrollo contemporáneos de esta idea central. Se tratan brevemente varias objeciones que sugieren que esta idea inspira un pensar utópico malo: que no podemos confiar de que todo el mundo sigue reglas ideales, que hasta gente escrupulosa discrepa en sus juicios morales y que las teorías que dan lugar a excepciones de reglas morales conocidas generan un caos moral de «situación resbalos».
Palabras clave | Ética kantiana · Imperativo categórico · Excepciones · Utopías · Pensar utópico.


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