Schopenhauer’s Anti-Kantian Account of Morality

Barbara Hannan

in The Riddle of the World

Published in print June 2009 | ISBN: 9780195378948
Published online May 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199869589 | DOI:
 Schopenhauer’s Anti-Kantian Account of Morality

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This chapter gives an overview of Kant's ethical theory, including both its appealing features and its problematic points. It notes that the following possess intuitive appeal: (1) Kant's notion that the maxim of a moral act must be universalizable; (2) Kant's insistence that rational beings are worthy of respect because they can overcome (at least some of) their desires and inclinations and act out of a sense of duty. It is argued, however, that Kant's theory of human psychology is unrealistic; reason alone cannot motivate action without any admixture of desire or inclination. The idea of a “categorical imperative” is criticized as unfounded and nonsensical, and it is argued that all imperatives are necessarily hypothetical. Kant's remarks condemning suicide are compared with Schopenhauer's; both are criticized. Schopenhauer's ethics of compassion is defended. Wittgenstein's views on ethics, and his “saying”/“showing” distinction, are discussed, and it is argued that these views have Schopenhauerian roots.

Keywords: categorical imperative; compassion; duty; hypothetical imperative; inclination; maxim; motivation; saying/showing; suicide; universalizability

Chapter.  12982 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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