Patrick Kain

Department of Philosophy

Purdue University




REVIEW ESSAY: Reclaiming the History of Ethics, ed. Reath, Herman, and Korsgaard

Kantian Review 3:114-122 (1999). (3,273 words)

This collection invites further reflection on the nature and influence of a "Rawlsian" reading of Kant and the history of ethics.  We may question various details of the essays and even wonder whether the shared devotion to the presumed "questions of the present" ("worldly", social, and skeptical of theory as some of the contributors take them to be) might color the readings or prematurely encourage controversial reconstructions of Kant's philosophy of religion or his views on revolution.  While there are good reasons to understand these questions in the light of a different perspective on the relation between past and present and to allow the texts to challenge some of the very presuppositions of these questions, this collection is a fitting tribute to John Rawls because of the way the essays manifest the serious philosophical engagement with classic texts in the history of ethics that has been exemplified in and inspired by Rawls' own writing and teaching.

REVIEW: Kant on Practical Justification: Interpretive Essays, ed. Mark Timmons and Sorin Baiasu (2013).  Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2014.12.03 (December 2014). 


REVIEW: The Form of Practical Knowledge: A Study of the Categorical Imperative, by Stephen Engstrom (2009). Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2010.11.11 (November 2011).  ISSN:1538-1617.

REVIEW: Kantian Ethics, by Allen Wood. Philosophical Review 119 (2010):104-108. (2,206 words)

REVIEW: Kant's Ethical Thought, by Allen Wood.  International Studies in Philosophy 36 (2004): 366-368. (735 words)

REVIEW: Kants "Grundlegung  zur Metaphysik der Sitten": Ein einführender Kommentar, by Dieter Schönecker and Allen W. Wood. (Schöningh 2002) Ethics 114 (2003):189-193. (1,690 words)

REVIEW: Categorical Principles of Law: A Counterpoint to Modernity, by Otfried Höffe, trans. Mark Migiotti. (Penn State University Press, 2002). Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2003.05.06 (May 2003). ISSN: 1538-1617. (2,737 words)

Höffe defends Kant's theory of categorical principles of law, appealing to Kant's distinction between law (or right) and virtue (or morality), his layered moral anthropology, and his metaphysical modesty.  In spite of the plausibility of these claims, the normativity of Kantian categorical principles of right, for both the state and the individual, may depend upon more "moralizing" of politics and/or more of the more demanding "practical metaphysics" (or metaphysical anthropology) associated with Kantian morality than may be explicitly acknowledged here or in Kant's texts.

TRANSLATION: Werner Stark, "Historical Notes and Interpretive Questions about Kant's Lectures on Anthropology."  Essays on Kant's Anthropology, ed. Brian Jacobs and Patrick Kain, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).  pp. 15-37. (9,151 words)

Stark, a co-editor of the German critical edition of Kant's lectures on anthropology, summarizes his research into the historical circumstances surrounding the note-taking, copying and compilation process that generated the extant student notebooks.  Stark then examines the origins and philosophical motivation for the anthropology course and what they reveal about its relation to Kant's moral philosophy.  Stark argues that Kant's introduction of the separate course on anthropology was motivated by his adoption of a "pure" conception of moral philosophy and claims about the "dual nature" of human beings.  Pointing to connections between the conception of "character" developed in the anthropology lectures of the 1770s and the developing moral philosophy of that period, Stark argues that there is a reciprocal relationship between anthropology and moral philosophy, which parallels the reciprocal relation between the empirical and intelligible character of the human being.

TRANSLATION (with Jaimey Fisher): Reinhard Brandt, "The Guiding Idea of Kant's Anthropology and the Vocation of the Human Being."  Essays on Kant's Anthropology, ed. Brian Jacobs and Patrick Kain, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).  pp. 85-104. (8,001words)

Brandt, the other co-editor of the German critical edition of Kant's lectures on anthropology, suggests that the lack of a  "guiding idea" anchoring the discipline of anthropology renders apparent connections between anthropology and moral philosophy accidental.  Brandt's survey of the Anthropology and lectures leads to an interpretation of anthropology as an aggregate of three historical layers with several points of contact with other aspects of Kant's philosophy, but no unambiguous moral focus.  Even the discussion of character, he argues, has a pragmatic rather than moral point.  In a second section, Brandt contrasts Kant's conception of the vocation or destiny of the human being with its rivals, suggesting that Kant's focus on the destiny of the species, rather than the individual, and his emphasis upon the "invisible hand" of the inclination mechanism relies upon a Christian-Stoic teleology that can bring good out of evil.  This Kantian theodicy, Brandt argues, is intended to show how moral good will result, perhaps in spite of individual choices.