Perfecting Kant's highest good
Jackson, Daniel Lee
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The highest good is to Kant’s moral philosophy what things-in-themselves are to his metaphysics. Kant's system is incomplete without it, but the system itself seems to reject any notion of content at the level needed. In this thesis, I take a look at the debate between Eoin O'Connell and Andrews Reath as to whether the relation between the constituents of the highest good, virtue and happiness, should be regarded as one of proportionality or one that tells us only that should both be maximized. With an eye on content and the threat of heteronomy, I track the highest good as the necessary idea of the unconditioned totality of the object of pure practical reason. I demonstrate that O'Connell's and Reath's positions stem from a misreading of the typic of pure practical judgment and argue that, counter to O'Connell's claims, the proportionality relation Kant has in mind when introducing the impartial spectator does not entail a notion of just desserts. In the end, I conclude that although neither a maximization nor a proportionality thesis are acceptable, Kant's introduction of the impartial spectator gives us an idea of the highest good that both preserves the formal aspect of Kant's system and, although cutting short the project to establish the unconditioned totality of the object of pure practical reason, makes the highest good an objective and possible end for moral agents.
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