Realizing the Good: Hegel's Critique of Kantian Morality
journal contributionposted on 23.10.2018 by Nicolás García Mills
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Although the best-known Hegelian objection against Kant’s moral philosophy is the charge that the categorical imperative is an ‘empty formalism’, Hegel’s criticisms also include what we might call the realizability objection. Tentatively stated, the realizability objection says that within the sphere of Kantian morality, the good remains an unrealizable ‘ought’ – in other words, the Kantian moral ‘ought’ can never become an ‘is’. In this paper, I attempt to come to grips with this objection in two steps. In the first section of the paper, I provide an initial reading of the objection, according to which Hegel agrees with Kant’s formulation of the realizability problem but disagrees with the specific Kantian solution, namely, with the Kantian idea of the highest good and the doctrine of the postulates. In the second section, I go on to argue that this reading is potentially too superficial and offer a more far-reaching interpretation whereby Hegel is ultimately targeting fundamental distinctions (between, for instance, reason and sensibility) of Kant’s moral theory. I end by employing these more far-reaching results of Hegel’s objection to sketch some features of Hegel’s alternative ethical view.