Self-Respecting Animals: Three Papers on Kant's View of Human Nature and Morality
This dissertation takes the form of three papers. Each one can be read on its own, and I present them here in a format that lends itself to such reading. However, they also center around a common topic: how Immanuel Kant conceives of immorality and how this theory informs his understanding of morality. In the first paper, I argue that Kant does not think immorality in human beings is always interpersonally arrogant, focusing in particular on what Kant means by “self-conceit.” I argue that self-conceit is a happiness-emphasizing conception of self, in which one overvalues the inclinations. When life goes well, this self-conception and the standard of assessment it implies do lead to the opinion that one is worth more than others. When life goes badly, however, they lead to the opposite (and no less harmful) misunderstanding. In the second paper, I address another motivation for the claim that Kant thought interpersonal arrogance was the central moral problem for human beings: Kant’s theory of happiness. Kant held that human beings are competitive, as can be seen in several of his doctrines about how human beings conceive of and pursue happiness. I show how Kant explains this competitive bent in human nature while maintaining the thesis that human beings are interested in happiness only because it promises to be satisfying. I argue that Kant’s understanding of human rationality and of human interdependence result in competitiveness without the assumption that human beings are arrogant. In the third paper, I turn to Kant’s theory of self-respect, using my understanding of Kant on immorality and arrogance to explain the importance of self-respect in his moral theory. I argue that self-respect is significant specifically because it is a way of valuing oneself that acknowledges the disharmony between one’s desire for happiness and one’s commitment to morality.
Arrogance; Ethical Theory; Happiness; Kant; Self-Conceit; Self-Respect; Philosophy
Markovits, Julia; Pereboom, Derk; Chignell, Andrew
Ph. D., Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis