Philosophy Seminar Series: Jennifer Mensch (Western Sydney University)
Philosophy Seminar Series
Jennifer Mensch, Western Sydney University | 3:30pm, 22 March, 2023
In this discussion I start with one of Kant’s most familiar texts, the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, in order to focus on his example of moral failure presented by the person who has chosen an easy path in life; one who has let their ‘talents rust,’ to use Kant’s phrase. I contend that this is an odd example, but once we follow the trail back to Kant’s immediate context, we can begin to make better sense of Kant’s choice to include it. I then identify four subsequent counter examples offered up by Kant during this period, each meant to offer negative portraits of non-Europeans in a manner that can provide further moral instruction for his readers on this point. This is significant insofar as it reveals the way in which Kant’s racism and his urge toward moral guidance were wholly compatible from his own point of view; a conclusion that is not so easily shrugged off in light of any change of heart in the last years of his life, and one which certainly calls into question claims regarding a purported deep contradiction between Kant’s moral and anthropological views.
Philosophy Seminar Room (N494), the Quadrangle
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Image: Photo by Micha Frank