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Objective and Subjective Ends in Kant's Realm of Ends

Stijn Van Impe (2010) Second Annual Dutch Conference on Practical Philosophy. p.35-35
abstract
In the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant assesses his idea of a moral world as a ‘realm of ends’ (‘Reich der Zwecke’) defining it as ‘a whole of all ends in systematic connection (a whole both of rational beings as ends in themselves and the ends of his own that each may set himself)’ (IV:433). The importance of this topic for Kant’s moral philosophy can hardly be overestimated for Kant strikingly holds that ‘Morality consists, then, in the reference of all action to the lawgiving by which alone a realm of ends is possible’ (IV:434). Yet, in the literature, rather little attention has been devoted to Kant’s realm of ends. First, I shall briefly examine what it is that makes a being a rational being and what Kant exactly means by calling rational beings ‘ends in themselves’ or ‘objective ends’. In contrast to these ‘objective ends’, I shall use the notion of ‘subjective ends’ for referring to the ends that a rational being sets. Secondly, I shall show that Kant’s paradoxical claims (i) that the realm of ends contains the subjective ends that each may set for himself and (ii) that its realisation at the same time requires abstraction from the content of these subjective ends (IV:433), are not incompatible if we distinguish two stages that Kant probably has in mind. First, we have to abstract from the content of the ends in determining which maxims of action are to be universalised and in universally legislating for a moral community, for if this were not to be the case, we would act for the sake of our own ends and we would not legislate universally. Secondly, once we have decided – in abstraction from the content of ends – to act on universalisable maxims, legislating within a realm of ends according to such maxims will yield the pursuit of particular as well as common ends that can be recognised as morally legitimate and that sketch a vivid image of what our moral conduct leads to. Finally, I shall argue that the subjective, morally legitimate ends in the realm of ends can be understood as (i) morally permissible ends, i.e., ends that a subject wishes to pursue and that may be value-neutral or amoral but that do not violate or conflict with the moral law, and (ii) morally obligatory ends, i.e., ‘ends as duties’ as developed in Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals. Moreover, I suggest to combine this distinction with a second division into (i) individual ends and (ii) shared or social ends. Hence, a four field taxonomy is generated: (i) individual, morally permissible ends (e.g. listening to a piece of music), (ii) social, morally permissible ends (e.g. sharing a dinner), (iii) individual, morally obligatory ends (one’s own perfection) and (iv) social, morally obligatory ends (promoting others’ happiness). My interpretation thus also suggests to interpret Kant’s realm of ends as a meaningful connection of ethical liberalism and ethical socialism.
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
year
type
conference
publication status
published
subject
keyword
realm of ends, ethical socialism, objective ends, shared or social ends, Kant, ethical liberalism, individual ends, morally obligatory ends, subjective ends, morally permissible ends
in
Second Annual Dutch Conference on Practical Philosophy
pages
1 pages
publisher
OZSE Landelijke Onderzoeksschool Ethiek
place of publication
Groningen
conference name
Second Annual Dutch Conference on Practical Philosophy
conference location
Het Kasteel, Groningen
conference start
2010-10-08
conference end
2010-10-09
language
English
UGent publication?
yes
classification
C3
copyright statement
I have retained and own the full copyright for this publication
id
1046438
handle
http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-1046438
alternative location
http://www.ozse.nl/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=25&Itemid=33
date created
2010-09-27 18:33:41
date last changed
2017-01-02 09:52:40
@inproceedings{1046438,
  abstract     = {In the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant assesses his idea of a moral world as a {\textquoteleft}realm of ends{\textquoteright} ({\textquoteleft}Reich der Zwecke{\textquoteright}) defining it as {\textquoteleft}a whole of all ends in systematic connection (a whole both of rational beings as ends in themselves and the ends of his own that each may set himself){\textquoteright} (IV:433). The importance of this topic for Kant{\textquoteright}s moral philosophy can hardly be overestimated for Kant strikingly holds that {\textquoteleft}Morality consists, then, in the reference of all action to the lawgiving by which alone a realm of ends is possible{\textquoteright} (IV:434). Yet, in the literature, rather little attention has been devoted to Kant{\textquoteright}s realm of ends. First, I shall briefly examine what it is that makes a being a rational being and what Kant exactly means by calling rational beings {\textquoteleft}ends in themselves{\textquoteright} or {\textquoteleft}objective ends{\textquoteright}. In contrast to these {\textquoteleft}objective ends{\textquoteright}, I shall use the notion of {\textquoteleft}subjective ends{\textquoteright} for referring to the ends that a rational being sets. Secondly, I shall show that Kant{\textquoteright}s paradoxical claims (i) that the realm of ends contains the subjective ends that each may set for himself and (ii) that its realisation at the same time requires abstraction from the content of these subjective ends (IV:433), are not incompatible if we distinguish two stages that Kant probably has in mind. First, we have to abstract from the content of the ends in determining which maxims of action are to be universalised and in universally legislating for a moral community, for if this were not to be the case, we would act for the sake of our own ends and we would not legislate universally. Secondly, once we have decided -- in abstraction from the content of ends -- to act on universalisable maxims, legislating within a realm of ends according to such maxims will yield the pursuit of particular as well as common ends that can be recognised as morally legitimate and that sketch a vivid image of what our moral conduct leads to. Finally, I shall argue that the subjective, morally legitimate ends in the realm of ends can be understood as (i) morally permissible ends, i.e., ends that a subject wishes to pursue and that may be value-neutral or amoral but that do not violate or conflict with the moral law, and (ii) morally obligatory ends, i.e., {\textquoteleft}ends as duties{\textquoteright} as developed in Kant{\textquoteright}s Metaphysics of Morals. Moreover, I suggest to combine this distinction with a second division into (i) individual ends and (ii) shared or social ends. Hence, a four field taxonomy is generated: (i) individual, morally permissible ends (e.g. listening to a piece of music), (ii) social, morally permissible ends (e.g. sharing a dinner), (iii) individual, morally obligatory ends (one{\textquoteright}s own perfection) and (iv) social, morally obligatory ends (promoting others{\textquoteright} happiness). My interpretation thus also suggests to interpret Kant{\textquoteright}s realm of ends as a meaningful connection of ethical liberalism and ethical socialism.},
  author       = {Van Impe, Stijn},
  booktitle    = {Second Annual Dutch Conference on Practical Philosophy},
  keyword      = {realm of ends,ethical socialism,objective ends,shared or social ends,Kant,ethical liberalism,individual ends,morally obligatory ends,subjective ends,morally permissible ends},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Het Kasteel, Groningen},
  pages        = {35--35},
  publisher    = {OZSE Landelijke Onderzoeksschool Ethiek},
  title        = {Objective and Subjective Ends in Kant's Realm of Ends},
  url          = {http://www.ozse.nl/index.php?option=com\_content\&task=blogcategory\&id=25\&Itemid=33},
  year         = {2010},
}

Chicago
Van Impe, Stijn. 2010. “Objective and Subjective Ends in Kant’s Realm of Ends.” In Second Annual Dutch Conference on Practical Philosophy, 35–35. Groningen: OZSE Landelijke Onderzoeksschool Ethiek.
APA
Van Impe, S. (2010). Objective and Subjective Ends in Kant’s Realm of Ends. Second Annual Dutch Conference on Practical Philosophy (pp. 35–35). Presented at the Second Annual Dutch Conference on Practical Philosophy, Groningen: OZSE Landelijke Onderzoeksschool Ethiek.
Vancouver
1.
Van Impe S. Objective and Subjective Ends in Kant’s Realm of Ends. Second Annual Dutch Conference on Practical Philosophy. Groningen: OZSE Landelijke Onderzoeksschool Ethiek; 2010. p. 35–35.
MLA
Van Impe, Stijn. “Objective and Subjective Ends in Kant’s Realm of Ends.” Second Annual Dutch Conference on Practical Philosophy. Groningen: OZSE Landelijke Onderzoeksschool Ethiek, 2010. 35–35. Print.