Kant’s Practical Philosophy: Reason, Morality, and Freedom
At the epicenter of Immanuel Kant’s broad philosophical project regarding nature, the self, aesthetics, and history is an ultimate concern with morality and the good. How must we re-conceive of our moral obligations to each other in the light of declining religious authority and belief? Can we understand morality on the basis of the nature of human reason alone? For Kant, there is an essential, necessary relationship between reason and freedom, morality and autonomy. It’s a conception of freedom and autonomy that has had a lasting impact on moral and political philosophy, not only in terms of his immediate reception by the German Idealists such as Hegel, but also within 20th century moral and political thought—from the Frankfurt School to Hannah Arendt to John Rawls and beyond. Twenty-first century debates about human rights, cosmopolitanism, and liberalism still turn to Kant, some 220 years later. How can we understand Kant’s moral philosophy and it continued salience today?
In this class we’ll survey the breadth of Kant’s practical philosophy, including his views on morality, politics, theology, and the philosophy of history. What is the source of our moral duties and obligations to others and ourselves? How does morality relate to human needs and the desire for happiness? Is religious faith necessary for a consistent moral worldview? Is humanity progressing, morally speaking, throughout the course of history? Readings will be drawn from the Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, the Critique of Practical Reason, On Perpetual Peace, the Metaphysics of Morals, Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone, among others.
“Kant’s Practical Philosophy: Reason, Morality, and Freedom” will also run on Thursdays, from 6:30-9:30pm ET, starting January 28th. For more information, please visit the course page.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
January 26 — February 16, 2021