Patrick Kain

Department of Philosophy

Purdue University





The determination of individual moral status is a central factor in the ethical evaluation of controversial practices such as elective abortion, human embryo-destructive research, and the care of severely disabled and those in persistent vegetative states.  A comprehensive review of recent work on Kant's conception of moral status reveals the need for a careful examination of the content of Kant's biological and psychological theories and their possible relation to his conclusions about moral status.  Examination of Kant's "naturalistic" biological and psychological theories reveals his commitment to the view that each human being, in virtue of being generated as a member of the human species, possesses a certain set of "predispositions" from the point of its procreation and throughout its life.  Kant's doctrine of radical evil and his practical-metaphysical analysis of the origins of freedom reveal his commitment to a universally possessed practical predisposition ("personality") which is the basis of moral status.  These disparate and oft-forgotten elements of Kant's modest system provide a coherent "apology" for Kant's inclusive claim that all human beings possess moral status, a defense more principled than the influential "pragmatic decision" interpretation suggests.  The proposed interpretation clarifies a number of Kant's central commitments in the natural sciences and ethical theory and sheds new light on one important moment in the history of philosophical reflection on questions of moral status.

"Kant's Defense of Human Moral Status"

Journal of the History of Philosophy 47 (2009):59-102.