Sunday, July 10, 2016
Addendum to Critique of Practical Reason
I neglected to mention one central feature of the Critique of Practical Reason that bothers me quite a bit, namely, Kant's apparently boundless faith in the ability of reason to create a moral code. I am a strong believer in reason, and I hardly ever do anything without reflecting on it. However, I have also come to fear reason, because apparently reasonable conclusion can lead to ghastly results, such as eugenics. One could argue, of course, that true reason could never lead to anything so inhumane, but it would be impossible, I'm sure, to prove it with any degree of certainty. The whole field of morals is covered with uncertainty. Perhaps there is a refutation for every logical argument that leads to inhumane behaviour, but what if we can't find that refutation? What if we ourselves come to a morally reprehensible conclusion that appears to us, nevertheless, to be logically airtight? I refuse to be bound by such a conclusion. I think reason helps us do the right thing on many occasions when our emotions would lead us astray; I also think that our emotions can direct us toward moral behaviour when all reason seems to suggest the contrary. Perhaps, living after the 20th century, we have a different perspective on the limitations of reason than Kant did. After all, the atrocities of the French Revolution and the Communist movements of the 20th century were done in the name of reason, in obedience to "science." These were things that he could not have anticipated, and I don't criticize him for failing to see their possibility. Still, I think it is important to call attention to this limitation in his moral philosophy.