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Royal Institute of Philosophy

Kant's Psychological Hedonism


Author(s): A. Phillips Griffiths
Source: Philosophy, Vol. 66, No. 256 (Apr., 1991), pp. 207-216
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of Royal Institute of Philosophy
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Kant's
Psychological
Hedonism
A. PHILLIPS GRIFFITHS
As far as consideration of man as
phenomenon,
as
appearance,
as an
empirical
self,
is
concerned,
Kant
appears
to be a
thoroughgoing
psychological
hedonist.1
It is
necessary immediately
to
qualify
this in
one,
though only
one,
respect.
For
Locke,
for
example,
the will
(willkiir)-what
Hobbes
called endeavour-towards or endeavour-fromwards-could be deter-
mined
only by pleasure
or
pain,
a mechanical relation of cause and
effect. For
Kant,
the human will could never be so
determined,
but
only
influenced. This he makes
trenchantly
clear in the lectures on
ethics,
given
just
before
publication
of the First
Critique,
and its
possibility
and
necessity argued
in the resolution of the third
Antinomy
of the First
Critique,
in the Second
Critique,
in the
Groundwork,
and
elsewhere. It
requires conceiving
a
person
as
having
a noumenal as well
as
phenomenal aspect.
This is
something
a man cannot lose.
Hence,
if
someone allows himself to be
wholly
influenced
by
what is
pleasant
or
painful,
he becomes more like a
beast,
but nevertheless
radically
unlike
a
beast,
since a beast's actions are
pathologically compelled,
as a will
arbitnrum
brutum,
whereas a man's actions are
only pathologically
influenced,
even if
wholly
so,
as a will arbitrium liberum. For the
beast,
the relation between stimulus and action is
mechanical,
as cause and
effect. Kant
says
when a
dog
is
hungry
and sees
food,
he must eat
whereas a man can restrain himself. But this need not be
so;
a
dog
can
be trained not to eat until
given
the
command,
even when he is
hungry
and in the
presence
of food. Now how is this different from another
example
Kant
gives,
of a man who claims
that,
when moved
by
lust,
he
must enter a
brothel;
of whom Kant
points
out that he would
not,
if
there were a
gallows
outside on which he knew he would be
hanged
on
coming
out? We can
say
that the
dog
does not restrain
himself,
but is
restrained
by
fear of his
master;
equally,
the man does not restrain
himself,
but is restrained
by
his fear of the
gallows.
The man
might
also
I do not know what were the
important
antecedents of this view for
Kant,
whether
Hobbes, Locke,
Hume or
Helvetius;
in
my
view Hobbes is
quite mistakenly regarded
as a
psychological hedonist,
and Hume is
hardly
straightforwardly
one;
the more
plausible
antecedents would be
Locke,
and,
perhaps
even more
so,
Helvetius
(L'Esp'rt
was
published
in 1758 and
was of course well known in
Germany,
which Helvetius visited in
1765).
Philosophy
66 1991 207
A.
Phillips
Griffiths
be restrained
by
his consciousness that
going
into the brothel would be
contrary
to the moral
law;
but it is
clearly
Kant's view that in both cases
the man would be
actively restraining himself,
and not
merely being
passively
restrained.
The difference for Kant is that the man deterred
by
the
gallows
is
not,
like the
dog, wholly compelled by
a
conjunction
of
hunger
and
fear,
but that he allows himself to be
wholly
influenced
by
the
conjunction
of
hunger
and fear. But that is to assert of the man
only
a
negative
freedom. There is so far no
ground
for
attributing
it to the
man,
no
more than there would be for
saying
that
dogs
could restrain all their
sensuous
inclinations,
but as a matter of fact on
every
occasion decide
not to do so.
Equally,
for
Kant,
it is no
good saying
that we observe that
men act
against
all their sensuous
inclinations,
because,
he
points out,
we can never know that there is not some hidden inclination not taken
account of. To make this distinction between the man and the
dog (or
the
wholly mythical dog-we
are not here concerned with animal
psychology)
we must
point
to some
positive ground
for it. It is that the
man,
unlike the
dog,
can be moved
by
reason.
Without this
capacity
to be moved
by
reason,
there would be no
possible
ground
for
making
this distinction. The man outside the
brothel has the
capacity
to be moved
by
reason,
whether he is or not.
Indeed,
we
may
even
say
that even if it is
only
the
thought
of the
gallows
which deters
him,
he is moved
by
reason,
though only
in
part;
for he
sees that
going
into the brothel
is,
because of the
gallows, incompatible
with his
enjoying
life,
and hence that not
going
into the brothel is a
necessary
and
indispensable
means to that
end;
hence he
accepts
the
rational
imperative,
'I
ought
not to enter the brothel'. But while this is a
rational
principle, dependent
on the
analytic principle
that he who wills
the end must will the
means,
it is
only partly
rational,
because it
depends
in
part
on
something
not
given by
reason,
the
end,
which is
given by
his sensuous inclination towards
enjoyment.2
2
Kant obscures this somewhat
by saying
that such a
man,
being only
partly
determined
by
reason,
is
only partly
free;
but his main doctrine is that
such a
man,
since he is
capable
of
acting wholly
in accordance with rational
principle,
is
wholly
free;
not so much half a
dog
as no
dog
at all. It is the
former
way
of
talking
into which Kant
frequently slips
which leads to the
misinterpretation
that a man is
only
free when
acting
from
duty,
and hence
wholly
determined,
and hence
wholly
unfree,
and hence not
subject
to
moral
blame,
when he acts
wrongly.
Kant's remark
(in
the Lectures on
Ethics)
that the freer a man is from
stimuli,
the more he can be
compelled
morally,
and the
degree
of his freedom
grows
with the
degree
of his
morality, similarly
leads to the
misunderstanding
that a man is
wholly
free
and
wholly
moral
only
when he is
totally
indifferent to
everything except
the moral
law; if, indeed,
it is
entirely
a
misunderstanding
rather than a
208
Kant's
Psychological
Hedonism
Another
way
of
representing
this difference between a man and a
dog
is to
say
that the man as a rational
being
acts from
maxims, which are
rules
having
a certain
generality,
which a
dog presumably
cannot. That
is,
in
acting
a man conceives his action as
falling
under a certain rule. An
action in the full sense must be one in which he conceives himself
(though
not
necessarily bringing
this to full
explicit consciousness)
as
doing something
as
following
from a rule for the
will,
rather than
just
finding
himself
doing something,
like
sneezing.
Kant's references to and
examples
of maxims and of their formulation
are sometimes
perplexing,
and have been the
subject
of a
great
deal of
discussion. I can
only
cut into such discussion
here,
by asserting
that
Kant's
position
is that a maxim must be a rule for the will from which the
action
follows;
otherwise it is no more than a
specification
of the action
itself. This does not mean it is a rule which commits the
agent
to
any
future
action,
still less a statement of how he
consistently
behaves;
an
agent
can
change
his ends. But it must be
something
which,
if
fully expressed,
would
have to be
vastly
more
complex
than the
examples
Kant
gives.
Take his
example:
I make it
my
maxim 'to increase
my property by
every
safe
means',
which I take to be 'whenever it is safe to do
so,
I shall
do whatever increases
my property'.
This formulation is
good enough
to submit it to the test of the
categorical imperative,
but it is clear no
sane man could
adopt
it tout
court,
since it would mean he could never
buy
food or
go
to
sleep,
unless it was unsafe not to do so. This is not an
unserious
point;
Kant must think a maxim
implies
the
agent's willing-
ness to
adopt
all the actions
following
from
it,
because
of
the use he
wishes to make
of
maxims in
applying
the test
of
universal law. In this
case,
particularly,
it
implies
the action of
denying
a loan has been made
to him when the
contrary
cannot be
proved.
He thinks,
quite
extraor-
dinarily,
that if this were
universally
done,
there would never be
any
loans;
but that this is
quite silly
does not affect
my point;
that in
adopting
a maxim one is
thereby willing
to act on
everything
which
follows from
it; otherwise,
Kant's test could not be
applied. So,
in so far
as a maxim can
seriously
be
adopted,
it must
envisage
all that it
might
commit one to.
This throws doubt on
my
ever
having
maxims of the
required
kind.
This
point
must not be confused with the
difficulty
that it is
impossi-
ble to
give
the
full,
conscious formulation of a
maxim;
that would not be
disputed by
Kant.
Elsewhere,
he is
willing
to allow
cognitions
which
cannot be
consciously
exhausted-for
example,
the definition of
given
caricature of himself that Kant was
prone
to fall
into;
or,
indeed,
it now
occurs to me with
regard
to this
particular remark,
the inattention of
Frederico
Brauer,
who took down notes of Kant's lectures which include
references to a
painter
called
Argasti
instead of
Hogarth.
209
A.
Phillips
Griffiths
concepts,
or the
concept
of
'right'
in
jurisprudence.
That alone would
not vitiate the
possibility
of
using
Kant's test of universal
law,
any
more
than one's
inability
to set out all the
implications
of a
geometrical
proposition
would make
any
reductio
proof impossible
to
give, though
it
might
make it
impossible
to
give every
reductio
proof.
The
difficulty
is that
any
maxim I
might sanely adopt
would
surely
have
to have an ineradicable ceteris
paribus clause, orprimafacie
character. It
is not
just that, given
certain difficult
circumstances,
I do not know what I
could now steel
myself
to
do,
though
that is
pertinent;
it is that I do not
know
what,
in all sorts of
possible
circumstances,
I would want to
do,
still
less
approve
of the whole world
doing.
This is because I have all sorts of
different
complexly
related or
independent
interests and
concerns,
any
or
many
of which
might
be
brought
to bear in a
particular
situation,
but
which I cannot
possibly arrange
in some order of
priorities
or
any simple
or
even
complicated system.
I know
roughly
what sort of fellow I am but not
fully
what I
am,
if indeed I am
exactly anything
rather than a centre of all
sorts of
disjunctive possibilities. Perhaps,
sometimes,
when I
choose,
I
become
something
there never was before. I do not know of
any
schematic
general principle
which I could
accept
as
being
the Kantian maxim of
any
action,
still less of all
my actions,
(cf.
Kant's remarks on Schematism, and
in
particular
on the
necessity
for
judgment
in the
particular
case,
in the first
Critique.)
Nevertheless,
Kant thinks there are
two,
though only
two,
such
maxims. The first is the maxim of
acting
on that maxim which is in
accordance with universal law
(which
I test
by seeing
whether I could
will it to be a universal law of
nature);
the second is that of
doing
whatever
gives
more
pleasure
than
pain. Anything
which does not fall
under the
former,
must fall under the latter. It does not matter that I
may
not know in advance what
things-perhaps things
I have not
yet
heard of-will
give
me
pleasure.
It does not matter that I
may
not know
in advance of
examining
them what actions
may
not be in accordance
with universal law. That is
merely
an
ignorance
of how the rule will
apply,
not of the rule itself. It is not like the
difficulty
I
spoke
of
before,
of
having
all sorts of
things
I care for for their own
sake,
which are in
various
vastly complex ways
related or
independent.
There can
only
be
two
things
I care about for their own
sake, one, qua
rational
being,
acting
in accordance with
pure
reason,
the
other,
as a
phenomenal
being, acting
for the sake of
pleasure.
Even a
psychological
hedonist would not have to
adopt
Kant's
egregious
thesis,
if he
rejected
Kant's account of maxims. Someone
who holds that
every
action is done for the sake of
pleasure
need not
hold that one is
aiming
at whatever will
give
most
pleasure,
nor would
that follow. Still less need he
hold,
or does it
follow,
that one is
always
aiming
at what
gives
a
preponderance
of
pleasure
over all actions
210
Kant's
Psychological
Hedonism
(Kant's
notion of
happiness), any
more than it follows that someone
who aims to hit each of a hundred
targets
is ever
aiming
to hit more than
one
target,
let alone a hundred
targets.
But if one were a Kantian
psychological
hedonist,
though
without
the
qualification
to it he
makes,
one would have to think the maxim of
following pleasure
was the
only possible one,
in so far as one were
rational.
This conclusion does not
require
a laborious
combing
of
passages
in
the Lectures on
Ethics,
the
Groundwork,
the First
Critique,
or his
Religion
within the Bounds
of
Reason
Alone,
though
I have combed
them and find
many
such
passages
which
impressively
reinforce it. It is
one established
beyond
cavil
by
what must be the most authoritative
expression
of Kant's
position: namely
Theorem
I,
Theorem II and its
corollary,
and Theorem
III,
of
theAnalytic ofPure
Practical Reason in
the Doctn'ne
of
the Elements
of
Pure Practical Reason in the
Critique of
Practical Reason.
Theorem I starts
by claiming
that all
principles
which
presuppose
an
object
as the
determining ground
of the will are
empirical.
It is
clear,
and made
abundantly
clear from Kant's classification of all
possible
practical principles
in the second remark to Theorem
IV,
that this
refers to all
practical principles
whatever
except practical
universal
laws. In the case of all
empirical principles,
the
object
is not itself the
determining ground,
since it
may
never exist or come to
be;
it is rather
the
conception
of the
object
as
giving pleasure
to the
agent
if it becomes
real. This
pleasure
is a
feeling
or sensation. It is not however the
sensation which determines the
will,
but the
expectation
of it.
(It may
seem that what
distinguishes
autonomous from heter-
onomous motivation is that in the former case it is a mere
thought-of
what is in accordance with a universal law-which motivates. But what
is the
expectation
of
pleasure,
more than a mere
thought?
It is
not,
however,
easy
to
pursue
this
point through
the thickets of Kant's
account: as we shall see
below,
even the mere
thought concerning
law
must have its
phenomenal
motivational
counterpart.)
Thus
expectation
of
pleasure
is the
only possible
motive other than
respect
for the law. Even where it
may
seem that the motive must be
respect
for the
law,
we can never be sure that it
may
not
really
be a
hidden
expectation
of
pleasure-one
hidden even from the
agent.
Given
that,
it is
extremely
difficult to show that Kant must be
wrong;
one can no more
produce
a
counter-example
than one could
produce
a
counter-example
to the
principle
that
every
event has a cause or that in
every
act of affection towards
any living thing
there is an arcane sexual
motive. It is no
good pointing
out cases where the
determining
object
or
state of affairs is one from the existence of which the
agent
could not
possibly expect
to
get pleasure,
such as
making
a
bequest.
It cannot be
211
A.
Phillips
Griffiths
said that the
object
here is the
making
of the will or
testament,
which of
course can be conceived as
giving pleasure
to the
living agent,
since this
may
be a mere
means,
and the
end,
the inheritance of the
bequest by
someone,
that for which the means is
adopted;
so
that,
for
example,
if
one found out that the intended
beneficiary, say
one's
wife,
would
necessarily
inherit
by
law,
so that one need not do
anything,
then one
would not do
anything.
No,
the
object
here is
clearly
a state of affairs
which would obtain
only
after the
agent
is dead. But Kant could
reply
that even if the
agent
would not
expect pleasure
after
death,
he
could,
though
without
knowing
it,
be motivated
by
the
expectation
that he will
avoid
present pain
if he can avoid
having
to think his wife
might
be left
penniless;
something
which would be
removed,
if she is to inherit
whatever he does. Such
ingenuity
can
always fudge up
some such
entirely
baseless and
completely
irrefutable
supposition
which would
save this a
priori principle.
I
reject
this doctrine as false not because I can show it to be false but
because there is not the
slightest
reason to believe it to be true and
very
good
reason to think it
utterly repugnant, derogatory
and
degrading.
It
implies
that
apart
from the end of
acting
in accordance with
universal
law,
no end is better than
any
other: where all that can be
appealed
to is the
degree
of
intensity
of
pleasure; given
that that is the
same in both
cases,
pushpin
is as
good
as
poetry.
Mill recoiled from this
and
suggested
that
pleasure
itself can be rated
good
or better not
only
in
terms of its
intensity
but its
quality.
Its status as
higher
or lower is
conferred on it
by
its
object,
for
example
whether its
object
has its
origin
and status in the
understanding;
a
suggestion
on which Kant
pours
scorn in advance. 'However dissimilar the
conceptions
of the
objects'
Kant
says
in Remark I to Theorem
II,
'the
feeling
of
pleasure
(since
it is the
agreeableness
and
enjoyment
which one
expects
from the
object
which
impels
the
activity
toward
producing it)
is
always
the
same.' There can be
nothing
to choose between
expected
occasions of
pleasure, except
the sheer
magnitude
of
pleasure.
If the determination
of the will of an
agent depends
on the
feelings
of
agreeableness
or
disagreeableness
which he
expects
from
any
cause
then,
says
Kant 'it is
all the same to him
through
what kind of notion he is affected. The
only
thing
he considers in
making
a choice is how
great,
how
long-lasting,
how
easily
obtained,
and how often
repeated,
this
agreeableness
is.'3
What makes this so
repugnant
is not that it reduces all human non-
moral
(in
Kant's sense of
moral)
ends to the same level of
value,
but that
it seems to rob all
except
one
possible
one of
having any
value at all.
3
It would be a nice
thought
if it could be shown that these desiderata
were the
origin
of Bentham's
categories
of
intensity,
duration,
propinquity,
and
fecundity
in the calculus of
pleasures.
212
Kant's
Psychological
Hedonism
What is
good
about
playing
football,
composing
music,
being
married,
or whatever is
thought
to be
good? Nothing
at all about what it is to
play
football or
compose
music or be married. It is
just
the far from universal
fact that
people get pleasure
out of
them;
though
it
might
as well have
been
painting
their noses
red,
or
sucking
rubber
teats,
if the
empirical
causes of sensation had
happened
to be different.
Any
such
goods
are
merely
instrumental,
conditionally
on their external relation to the
merely causally
and
contingently
connected sensations of
pleasure.
But
is this
good any
different from the
good
we can see in
thistles-they
are
very generally good
for
causing pain;
or in
putrid sewage-it
is
very
generally good
for
causing
the sensation of nausea? Unless of
course,
unlike
pain
and
nausea,
pleasure
is
good.
Kant
does,
admittedly,
seem to think it somehow is. He thinks that
happiness,
which is the realization of all a man wants or wishes in life-
what
gives
him
pleasure-is
not
only good,
but an essential constituent
of the summum bonum. The
morally good
deserve
pleasure,
and the
summum bonum consists in all rational
beings enjoying pleasure
to the
extent that
they
have a
good
rational will.
Perhaps
that
possibility
will
be realized if in the next life the
only
desire left to rational
beings
is for
soft
drinks,
and the sea is turned to lemonade. But
why
is
pleasure
or
happiness
a reward?
Why
not
pain
or
nausea,
or
any
other neutral
sensation? Kant
gave up
this
doctrine,
in the
Opus
Postumum:
Vleeschauwer
says
for reasons unknown to us. But I do not know what
his reasons were for
holding
it in the first
place.
The
fragment
dated
by
Menscher 1775 does
give
a
reason,
but
only by
there
making
the
concept
of
happiness
an idea derived a
priori
from
pure
reason.
There,
the essential constituent of
happiness
is contentment or
self-sufficiency
which is
entirely
a
priori
and
independent
of
empirical
laws. What is
pleasurable depends
on
empirical
laws,
so 'one who
possesses happiness
can well
dispense
with
pleasures'.
But this is a
totally
different
concept
of
happiness-though
a no less
legitimate
one-from the
concept
of
happiness
dealt with in the Second
Critique,
the consciousness of
agreeableness
of life. It
may
be that
by
then,
having
had a lot of other
things
to think
about,
Kant retained his confidence in an earlier con-
clusion while
forgetting
the
premises
which
gave
it a
quite
different
sense.
Kant's thesis
is,
I
said,
not
only repugnant,
it is baseless.
However,
one
might respond by pointing
out that without some such
thesis,
human action becomes
inexplicable. Why
do
people, having
the same
beliefs,
that is the same view of the circumstances in which an action is
proposed,
act
differently? Why
does one
person
do one
thing
rather
than another?
Initially
one
gives
the
explanation
of the action in terms
of the
agent's
beliefs;
the
agent,
Fred,
sent
money
to a
charity
because
he believed it would
help
to relieve those
suffering
in the Sudan floods.
213
A.
Phillips
Griffiths
That
explanation
makes
sense;
it is not as if he had
just
thrown
money
into the
sea,
and
explained
that
by saying
that the sea
is,
after
all,
saline.
But other
people
with
equal
financial resources who know
perfectly
well what Fred knows about the effect of
sending money
to the Sudan
do not do it at
all; instead,
they
donate
money
to the World
Congress
of
Philosophy,
which Fred does
not,
though
he knows
just
as much about
the effect of
doing
that as
anyone
else. There must be some factor which
underlies and
explains
these differences.
Putting
it in Kant's
terms,
the
material of
desire,
the conceived
object,
which is the
determining
cause
of the action of
giving money,
is in the two cases
different;
hence there
must be a
mediating
factor. From a common sense
point
of
view,
we
readily accept
that in some cases the difference can be accounted for
by
taste-by
what
people variously
find
pleasurable:
some
coffee,
some
tea. In the absence of
any
other
general explanation, why
not
generalize
this,
in an arcane
way
even to those cases where the
agent
denies that
any thought
of
pleasure
enters his head at all?
One reason would be that there are cases where the
explanation
a
priori
cannot be of this sort. And of course- this is the
qualification
with which we
began-Kant
thinks there is
just
such a case: the case of
acting morally.
If there is such a
thing,
then it
necessarily
is not
acting
just
for the sake of
pleasure;
and we do have moral
experience.
Even
here, however,
Kant's resolution falters. There can be no
explanation,
he
says, why anyone
takes an interest in the moral law.
Acts of
pure
freedom,
determined
by nothing
but the form of law
itself,
are
unintelligible.
We can
only say
that
they
are from a theoretical
point
of view
negatively possible
and
through
our moral
experience positively
possible.
Yet he finds it
necessary,
and
explains why
it is
necessary,
that
there should be on the
phenomenal
level an
incentive,
in the realm of
feeling,
towards
acting
in accordance with law. There must be some
explanation,
some
subjective determining ground
of the
will,
he
says,
why
a will not necessitated to conform to law nevertheless does so. This
ground
must be
unique-which
means in effect
quite
distinct from
pleasure-and
sufficient. It is not
good enough
to think that Kant is
saying only
that this
feeling
is as it were
epiphenomenal,
that it is
consequent upon acting
from
respect
for the law. It must
really
be an
active
incentive,
a determinant. This could not have been more tren-
chantly put
than in this
passage
from the
Metaphysic of
Morals
(1797):
No man is
entirely
without moral
feeling (like pleasure
and
pain
in
general),
for were he
completely lacking
in a
capacity
for it he would
be
morally
dead. And if
(to speak
in medical
terms)
the moral life-
force could no
longer
excite this
feeling,
then
humanity
would
dissolve
(by
chemical
laws,
as it
were)
into mere
animality
and be
mixed
irrevocably
with the mass of other natural
beings.
214
Kant's
Psychological
Hedonism
This
suggests
that this
feeling
fails the test of
being subjectively
suffici-
ent;
since the man who is
nearly
but not
quite morally
dead has the
feeling
but is never moved
by
it. More
important,
however,
is the other
demand,
that it be
unique,
and exclusive to the determination of moral
acts.
The
uniqueness
of moral
feeling depends
on more than its
being
appropriate only
to one distinct
object,
the moral law. One could as
easily say
that the
feeling
of desire for ice-cream is
unique,
in that it
could never
explain
determination towards
any object
other than ice-
cream;
it could never
explain drinking
lemonade,
the
feeling
of desire
for which must be of its own
unique
kind. Moral
feeling
is
unique
in
that it differs
completely
from all other determinants of the will: it is a
feeling concerning
an
object,
an
end,
which unlike all others is not to be
found in nature. That
end,
the moral
law,
is universal and a
priori,
and
hence
non-empirical.
It is also linked to the
feeling
of
respect
for the law
not
contingently
but
necessarily;
whereas all other
objects
of the will
are
phenomenal, empirical objects,
and the
feeling
which makes them
objects
of the will-the desire for
pleasure-is only contingently
related
to them.
Obviously
I cannot here enter the well discussed
question
of whether
Kant's doctrine of the noumenal determination of the will is not
only,
as
he
says, unintelligible,
but incoherent. But if I am
allowed,
albeit
unintelligibly,
to attribute to
myself
action in accordance with the
moral law for its own sake,
why
cannot I attribute to
myself
action for
the
good
of
my country
for its own sake
(call
it
patriotism)
or for the
sake of
my marriage
for its own sake
(call
it one form of
love)
or for the
good
of
my
children
(call
it
fatherhood).
I cannot see
why classifying
these as
empirical objects
makes
any
difference,
especially
since
they
are not.
People
all over the world are
killing
each other and
prepared
to
sacrifice themselves and the whole of
humanity
for the sake of various
objects
which
they
all call
democracy:
what kind of
empirical objects
are these? When a man
goes
to
wed,
what is this
empirical concept
of
marriage
which determines his action in virtue of his
conception
of the
expected pleasure
he will derive from it? Where does he
get
it? From
observing
the
mating
habits of birds?
Sociobiologists may say
that it
arises in him in much the same
way
as the
mating
habits in
birds;
but it
is
just
about such matters that
they
are most vulnerable. In
any
case,
what the
sociobiologists
would describe is
hardly
the
acquisition
of a
concept by empirical
methods,
but the
biological generation
of what
(like
the
mating
habits of
birds)
is an innate idea. And this will be
quite
wrong
if it is treated as a reduction rather than an
explanation
of how
something
the like of which has never been seen before comes about.
Nothing
in culture is to be found in nature.
215
A.
Phillips
Griffiths
My
choice of
examples
here
suggests
that I am
adumbrating
some
general
distinction of
objects: objects
of
culture,
such as
marriage,
art,
democracy,
as
opposed
to mere
empirical objects
such as ice-cream.
But I want to
say
just
the same
thing
about
ice-cream,
as an
object
determinant of the human will. Put an ice-cream under the nose of a
dog
or a little
baby,
and the
patient
will
lick,
willy-nilly.
That is not
what
eating
an ice-cream is for
agents
like me. What it
is,
is
something
vastly complex:
it is not
just
eating
an
ice-cream,
but
eating
an ice-
cream not in
church,
not in front of
my
children if it
encourages
them to
make themselves
sick,
not while I am
reading
a
paper
on the Second
Critique,
not if it is stolen
property;
that
is,
the maxim is
convolutedly
rich,
and embedded in a life which like
everyone
else's is
part
of the
culture of a
society.
(It
is
often,
if not
always,
easier and safer to find out what I would
do,
if . . .-
by looking
at that culture than
by asking
me to
introspect.)
I have said that the
empirical
hedonism of Kant
derogates
from
humanity.
How it
does,
has been
put
as follows:
Holbach
represents every activity
of individuals in their
reciprocal
intercourse,
e.g. speech,
love, etc.,
as a relation of
utility
and
exploita-
tion. These relations are thus not allowed to have their own
significance
but are
depicted
as the
expression
and
representation
of a third relation
which underlies
them, utility
or
exploitation.
This
paraphrase only
ceases to be senseless and
arbitrary
when these individual relations no
longer
have value on their own
account,
as
personal activity,
but
only
as
a
disguise
. . . for a real third
purpose
and
relationship,
which is called
the relation of
utility.
The
linguistic masquerade only
has sense when it
is the conscious or unconscious
expression
of a real
masquerade.
In this
case the relation of
utility
has
very
definite
meaning, namely
that I
profit
myself
when I harm someone else.
That is
Marx,
The German
Ideology.
The severe
interpretation
of the
underlying reality may
be
thought
harsh when
applied
to
Kant,
though
he does
say things
here and there which hint at it.
That we are interested
in, value,
something
just
for what it
is-whether it is
simply
our
duty
or
anything
else-raises
questions
and
demands for
explanations
which
may
remain
unsatisfactorily
answered.
Certainly,
we have no
general theory
of action which
answers all of
them,
and that
may
be because there cannot be one. But it
is better to do without such a
theory altogether
than to
accept
a baseless
a
prion
thesis which distorts and demeans
humanity
in one's own
person
and that of others.4
University of
Warwick
4
This
paper
was contributed to the
symposium
Kant's
Critique of
Practi-
cal Reason at the World
Congress
of
Philosophy, Brighton, August
1988.
216