<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Discussion 2

Agenda for Discussion: Wednesday, January, 23, 2008

Our discussion has two goals: a) to consider different types of arguments for why some Enlightenment critics went bad; and b) boldly (perhaps even foolishly) to touch the surface of Kant’s thoughts about epistemology; ethics; and human agency (freedom). We will begin with you summarizing for me the points I made about the course’s agenda in our first class.

I. Discussion of the readings and implications of the arguments of Aron, Popper, Holmes, Wolin, Arendt (2, first on Marx, then on Heidegger)

II. Kant: the goal of this discussion is not to develop expertise in Kant’s philosophy but to acquire just enough knowledge to understand what Kant is trying to accomplish in the readings we will discuss next Wednesday. Review the Kant quotations below. If you can get a basic grasp of these issues before we leave class, I will be pleased. Please begin reflecting on them now. Also, comment on our listserv presentations up to this class.

A. Epistemology:

1. What do we know and how can we account for this knowledge? Consider this: Our relationship between what we are as reasoning beings and the world that is “external” to us.

2. What can we not know and why is this important? Why might not everyone be happy with Kant’s answer to this question?

What does Kant mean in the following quotation?

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, preface to the second edition:

“When Galileo caused balls, the weights of which he had himself previously determined, to roll down an inclined plane; when Torricelli made the air carry a weight which he had cal- culated beforehand to be equal to that of a definite column of water; or in more recent times, when Stahl changed metal into lime, and lime back into metal, by withdrawing some- thing and then restoring it, a light broke upon all students of nature. They learned that reason has insight only into that which it produces after a plan of its own, and that it must not allow itself to be kept, as it were, in nature's leading-strings, but must itself show the way with principles of judgment based upon fixed laws, constraining nature to give answer to ques- tions of reason's own determining.”

B. Ethics:

1. How should we go about making moral choices and why?

2. What are the implications of this position? Is everyone going to be happy with Kant’s answer?

Consider this statement by Kant:

“Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good, without qualification, except a good will.”

Now, apply it to the following formulations of Kant’s “categorical imperative” (the duty that compels us to make moral choices). The second rule (of which there are three) proceeds logically from the first:

Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals:

"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."

"Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means."

C. Agency:

What kinds of beings are we talking about ideally when we speak of humankind? Why is this good news for some people? Why might some philosophers worry about its consequences?

Kant, Critique of Practical Reason

“The concept of freedom is the stone of stumbling for all empiricists, but at the same time the key to the loftiest practical principles for critical moralists, who perceive by its means that they must necessarily proceed by a rational method.”

Kant, “What is Enlightenment?

“If only freedom is granted, enlightenment is sure to follow.”

III. Agenda for Next Class: Turning to the Primary Sources.