- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 13, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195130413
- ISBN-13: 978-0195130416
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,846,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Kant's Impure Ethics: From Rational Beings to Human Beings 1st Edition
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Louden sets out to defend Kant from criticism that charges the Critique with empty formalism, a reality that adulterated the intentions of Kant incessantly. It bears mentioning for the lay reader that by impure is here implied the empirical realm of ethics. Another nomenclature which Kant often used to refer to impure ethics was "practical anthropology". In fact to Kant, anthropology and history were to be looked upon from this point of view, and his writings and lectures on the subject are consistent with Louden's claims.
Louden's work is not so much a retelling of Kant, rather it boldly highlights what has been neglected of the oeuvre.
Exceptional in its presentation and brilliant in its close reading, the vast knowledge of the author is here on full display. Louden, implacably invests his probing genius in ways that enlighten Kant like no other. He will open a whole new vista by his orientation that points to the importance of the sublime in Kant's moral theory. Kant's concept of the sublime is evoked in all three of his major writings on ethics, and Louden unsheathes with keen insights the significance and import of this peripheral, yet crucial inscription.
Furthermore Kant's concerns with the limits of his theoretical purity are consistently defined as a pretext to further our understanding of the German philosopher. "The feeling of the inadequacy of our capacity to reach an idea, that is a law for us, is respect". Louden raises the ante by clambering up the heights of Kantian logic and from the precipice of inadequacy allows ethics to win freedom. "The sublime is a better symbol of morality than the beautiful for Kant". These are statements that ascribe to Kant a dimension and a wisdom which we had been reluctant to render him. Since the 90s with Onora O'Neill's frustrated indignant reading of Kant's inoperative ethical presuppositions we have been dismissing Kant as abstruse and idealistic. It's as if Schopenhauer were a new favorite and a more credited advocate of truth. With Louden's work we have a more thorough and honest look, but a demanding one as well. So much so that recently Patrick R. Frierson's book "Freedom and Anthropology in Kant's Moral Philosophy" has been no less than an attack at Louden's claim, stressing Shleirmacher's critique of his contemporary Enlightenment thinker. To note here is the fact that Louden has edited the first ever English translation of Friedrich Schleiermacher's mature ethical theory.
Not to mention Allen Wood and Sandra Fairbanks's cumbersome speculations into a line of thought that has been the very declamatory frenzy leveled against Kant since the middle part of the last century: A caricature that Louden clearly illustrates as inadequate and inaccurate.
In "Kant's Impure Ethics" we have a truly remarkable work: Astounding simplicity and clarity rewards its vision and breadth. Kant seems engaged in a debate with himself as Louden functions as facilitator. Words such as "the contingency and particularity of the empirical prevent theorists from ever capturing it completely in the nets of their theories", eventuate in a phrase that by way of agreeing with such criticism, in this case Kierkegaard, lays the groundwork for a proper perspective that stabilizes the field in ways that allow for foundations to firmly edify the Kantian ethics. Louden's style is exactly what Kant needed for a proper revival and not a rewriting of his assignments. He does not wish to speak on Kant's behalf and apologize for the ritually crazed author of the Critiques, rather he allows him to speak on his own. In keeping with the above example Kant will agree with Kierkegaard that "an existential system is impossible" but condition his consensus with a qualification of joy, hope and respect, such as "a partial completion of is preferable to none at all".
Louden raises the difficult questions, never shies from controversial insinuations, delineates implausible tangents and recounts varied corruptions of Kant so as to give us a more "human" picture of the ethical theory of Kant, as a preface to Louden's untiring belief that its application is a real possibility but one that has yet to be integrated in moral discourse proper. His latest book "The World We Want" will trace the boundaries of this argument and courageously sound a clarion call to an applied ethics that is Kantian, and more broadly speaking the fulcrum of Enlightenment thought. In this sense he has been one of the few who has understood Adorno's claim that we must be Kantian, but have yet to be so. Bravo to Dr. Louden for his exemplary and astute intelligence, his powerful reading, and his frank portrayal, one that is never afraid to stand atop the fragile balance Kant's system premised.
For some time now, the once all but exclusive focus on Kant's pure ethics in the English-speaking world has been broadening to include aspects of his impure ethics, especially his philosophy of history and anthropology. Louden is at the forefront of this movement.
With that said, it is imperative however that we no longer view Louden as simply a Kantian scholar, but a philosopher who has much to say and more to teach those willing to listen and trust. You have our "respect" and may more embrace your work, not only by reading it but also by living it.