On What We Cannot Improve in Others

Robert N. Johnson

in Self-Improvement

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199599349
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731556 | DOI:
On What We Cannot Improve in Others

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If the thesis proposed is correct, we owe it to ourselves to develop our abilities. But don’t we owe this to others as well? Kant himself argued ‘no’ on the grounds that perfecting another is quite literally impossible. Virtually no one has taken this claim seriously, and those who are broadly sympathetic with Kant at best admit that he is exaggerating. Surely our lives are filled with acts of improving the abilities of others, even improving their moral character on occasion. The case is argued that readers in the past have not taken Kant’s view sufficiently seriously here. Our obligation is to perfect ourselves as persons. To do that, it is suggested, requires that our improvements are creditable to our own efforts of will. And that, indeed, is something it is impossible to do for another.

Keywords: duties to others; duties to oneself; perfection; personhood; Kant; Korsgaard; O’Neill; perfecting persons; Ross; Wood

Chapter.  4390 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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