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Kant,Immanuel:RadicalEvil|InternetEncyclopediaofPhilosophy

ImmanuelKant:RadicalEvil
The subject of Immanuel Kants philosophy of religion has received more attention in the
beginningofthe21stcenturythanitdidinKantsowntime.Religionwasanunavoidabletopicfor
Kantsinceitaddressestheultimatequestionsofmetaphysicsandmorality.For,ashepresentsitin
hisGroundworkforthe Metaphysics of Morals and elsewhere, the universal moral law does not
entirely depend upon demonstrating the existence of God, but rather upon reason (though he
believesthatitssourcecannotbedivorcedfromtheconceptofGod).Neverthelessheshocksthe
casualreaderoftheFirstPrefaceofhisReligionwithintheBoundariesofMereReason(hereafter
Religion)byclaimingthatmoralityinevitablyleadstoreligion.
Obediencetothemorallaw,ofwhichKantbelievesreligionshouldbeanexample,appearstobean
expectationthatisneitheruniversallynorwillinglypracticed.Whatisnotableaboutthefirsttwo
chapters of Religion is that he addresses this phenomenon in a manner that his Enlightenment
predecessorshadnot:Thefailureofhumanmoralagentstoobservethemorallawissymptomatic
ofacharacterordisposition(Gesinnung)thathasbeencorruptedbyaninnatepropensitytoevil,
whichistosubordinatethemorallawtoselfconceit.Becausethispropensitycorruptsanagents
characterasawhole,andistheinnatesourceofeveryotherevildeed,itmaybeconsideredradical.However,thispropensitycanbe
overcome through a single and unalterable revolution in the mode of thought (Revolution fr die Denkungsart), which is
simultaneouslythebasisforagradualreformofcharacterinthemodeofsense(frdieSinnesart)forwithouttheformer,thereisno
basisforthelatter.Thisreformationofcharacterultimatelyservesasthegroundformoralagentswithinanethical commonwealth,
which,whenunderstoodeschatologically,istheKingdomofGodonEarth.

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Kantsaccountofradicalevildemonstrateshowevilcanbeagenuinemoralalternativewhileneverthelessbeinganinnatecondition.
Giventhegeneraloptimismofthetime,Kantsviewwasrevolutionary.ItnotonlyharkenedbacktoanolderAugustinianaccountof
humannature,butalsoaffirmedapropensitytoevilwithinhumannatureusinghisapparatusofpracticalreason.

TableofContents
1.KantontheNaturalPredispositiontoGoodandthePropensitytoEvil
2.ThePropensitytoEvil:UniversalandInnate
3.TheSourceofthePropensitytoRadicalEvil:TwoViews
4.OvercomingEvil:TheNecessityofanEthicalReligiousRevolution
5.ReferencesandFurtherReading
a.PrimaryReferences
i.German
ii.English
b.SecondaryReferences

1.KantontheNaturalPredispositiontoGoodandthePropensitytoEvil
KantsaccountofradicalevilinReligionmustbeseenwithinthecontextofhisaccountofwhy,giventheforceofthemorallaw,rational
beings would actually choose evil. The presence of moral evil in human beings can be explained by their possession of an innate
propensitytosubordinatethemorallawtoinclination.Ofcourse,forKanttoevensuggestthathumanbeingshavesuchapropensity
placeshimatoddswiththeEnlightenmentZeitgeist,whichsawhumanbeingsasneitherwhollygoodnorwhollyevil,butsomewherein
between(latitudinarianism).HeultimatelyrejectedthisandinhisReligion,henotonlyshowsthatauniversalpropensitytoradical
evilispossible,butalsogivesanaccountofhowitispossible.
Contrarytothelatitudinarianism of JeanJacquesRousseau and others on the subject of human nature, Kant holds to the following
rigoristic thesis: Ethically, human beings are either wholly evil or wholly good by virtue of whether or not an agent has adopted the
morallawasthegoverningmaximforallofhisorhermaxims(Religion6:2223).Foreitherthemorallawisthegoverningmaximfor
thechoiceofmaximsoritisnotmakingthemorallawthegroundofourmaximsissufficientformoralgoodness.Thisthesisturnsona
second thesis: An individual with a morally good character or disposition (Gessinnung) has adopted a moral maxim as a governing
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maxim,andincorporatesthemorallawasabasisforchoosingallothermaxims.Ifanagenthasdoneso,thenbyvirtueofmakingall
other maxims compliant with this maxim, these subsequent maxims will be consistent with the moral law. Nevertheless, when an
alternative maximthat of selfconceitis chosen as a governing maxim, then this egoistic alternative becomes the basis for maxim
choiceandthemorallawissubordinatedtoanalternativegoverningmaximalongwitheveryothermaxim.
Consequently,theethicalchoicefacingthemoralagentiseithertosubordinateallothermaximstothemorallaw,ortosubordinatethe
moral law with every other maxim to an egoistic alternative. The fact is that human agents, although conscious of the moral law,
nevertheless do in fact incorporate the occasional deviation from it as part of their individual maxim set. When an agent mis
subordinatestherequirementsofmoralitytotheincentivesofselfconceit(howeversmallitmaybe),theresultisradicalevil(Religion
6.32).
Note that this propensity does not amount to the rejection of morality. It is in fact perfectly compatible with our acceptance of the
requirementsofthemorallaw,butonlyinsofarastheyarecompatiblewithamaximofinclination.Butthenextquestion,asalways
withKant,mustbeoneofpossibility:howisitthatradicalevilisevenpossibleforhumanagents?
Every human being possesses the incentive to adopt the moral law as the governing maxim for maxim choice by virtue of it having
arisen out of a basic predisposition to the good. As such, an individuals predisposition constitutes the determinate nature
(Bestimmung) of a human being as a whole, of which Kant identifies three basic predispositions (Anlagen): animality (Thierheit),
personality (Persnlichkeit), and humanity (Menschlichheit). They belong to us as part of our motivational DNA. By itself, a
predisposition is generally not a conscious choice, but a source of motivation for choices, some of which happen to have ethical
significance.Thebasicpredispositions,takenasawhole,areconsideredgoodinthesensethat,notonlydotheynotresistthemoral
law,buttheyalsodemandcompliancewithit(Religion6:28).Forahumanagenttohaveanoriginalpredispositiontothegoodyet
neverthelesstobecapableofevil,suggeststhatthepossibilityforthecorruptionofhumannatureisaconsequenceofthecorruptionof
oneofourbasicpredispositions.
Althoughitwouldbetemptingtodoso,itwouldbeamistaketoidentifythesourceofthiscorruptioninoursensuousanimalnature
(the predisposition to animality). This predisposition concerns itself with the purely instinctual elements of the human being qua
mammal: selfpreservation, the sexual drive, and the desire for community. While the inclinations of animality indeed influence us
ignobly,theyareneverthelessnecessaryforeverymemberofthespeciestosurviveandflourish.Hencehumansensualityandappetite
alonecouldhardlymakehumanbeingsradicallyevil.AsKantstates(Religion6:35):Fornotonlydo[thenaturalinclinations]bearno
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direct relation to evil . . . we also cannot presume ourselves responsible for their existence (we cannot because as connatural to us,
naturalinclinationsdonothaveusfortheirauthor).
Yet neither can our predisposition to personality be identified with our moral corruption, since Kant attributes to personality the
capacity not only to grasp but also to determine the maxims that are morally required of us as universal legislation. For unlike the
predispositiontoanimality,thepredispositiontopersonalityshares,withhumanity,thepropertyofrationality.Theincentivetofollow
the moral law thus requires a distinct predisposition, so that the moral law can be an incentive given from within that stands in
contrasttoacircumstantiallydependenthappiness.Itisthehighestincentive(Religion6:26n)bywhichwebothgraspandchoosethe
moral law, and it provides the basis for our personhood, if not our accountability. For this reason radical evil cannot constitute a
corruptionofthemorallylegislativereason(Religion6:35).
Thisleaveshumanityastheremainingbasicpredispositionsusceptibletocorruption.Althoughitsharesthepropertyofrationalitywith
the predisposition to personality, humanity is distinct by virtue of the fact that it is concerned with the practical and therefore
calculative elements of life. Yet this basic predisposition also possesses the inclination to seek equality in the eyes of others and to
determine whether or not one is happy by comparison with others (Religion 6:2627). It is manifestly egocentric since it relates to
others in terms of its concern for happiness. Yet it is not by itself evil. Rather, it is from these positive characteristics within our
predisposition of humanity that evil becomes a possibility and constitutes a propensity to egoistic and malignant selflove as self
conceit.

2.ThePropensitytoEvil:UniversalandInnate
OnceKantisabletoshowhowradicalevil,asaninnatecondition,ispossiblethequestionbecomes:Howcanevil,insofarasitrestson
apropensity,constituteagenuinechoice?Inmanyways,thisquestionappearstobetheessentialproblemforKantsethics,sincehe
believesthatrationalmoralagencyentailsnotonlythecapacitytoknowbutalsotoobeythemorallaw.
Generallyspeaking,apropensity(Hang)isaninnateyetnonnecessaryfeatureofeverypersonthatservesasamotivationforactionin
distinctively human affairs. However, unlike a basic predisposition (e.g., humanity, animality, and personality), a propensity can be
representedashavingbeenacquiredbyhabitifitisgood,orifitisevil,ashavingbeenselfinflicted(Religion6:29).Itdemonstratesa
tendencytorespondoractinaparticularmanner,eitherinaccordancewith,orintensionwiththemorallaw.Takentogether,both

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predispositionsandpropensitiesservetoformanindividualsmindsetorcharacter(Gessinnung),forthedevelopmentofwhichevery
humanbeingisresponsible.
The obvious requirement for Kant at this stage is to give an account of the nature of the propensity to evil, which he provides in
psychological terms as a disordering of incentives. As opposed to other vices, this propensity is essentially depravity, and stands in
contrasttofrailty(fragilitas)andmoralimpurity(impuritas,improbitas).Depravityorperversity(perversitas),unlikefrailty,isnot
mereweaknessandaninabilitytoresistsensuousinclination(Religion6:29).Andunlikeimpurity,itismorethanmerelyobeyingthe
morallawfromalternativemotivations(insteadofasenseofduty).Instead,depravitymustbeunderstoodasthereversaloftheethical
orderasregardstheincentivesofafreepowerofchoice(Religion6:30).Thepropensitytoevilbecomesmanifestwhenhumanbeings
choosetoact(Willkr)inaccordancewiththeincentiveofselfconceit,whichstandsinoppositiontotheincentiveofthemorallaw.
(Religion6:36).
Yetmerelypossessingthepropensitytoselfconceitdoesnotbyitselfmakeanagentevil,sinceamoralagentalreadypossessesboththe
incentive of the moral law and that of selfconceit within that agents hierarchy of maxims. An agents moral character as a whole is
determinedultimatelybywhichmaximisgoingtobethedominantmaximforthechoiceofmaxims.Yet,becausebothcannotfulfill
this role, they compete with each other with the result that one is inevitably subordinated to the other (Religion 6:36). An evil
characterresultswhenthemoralagentmakesthesatisfactionofthemorallawasthebasisformaximchoice(Willkr)conditionalto
theincentivesofselflove(understoodasselfconceit)andtheirinclinations(Religion6:36).Andso,whatmakesforanevilcharacteris
deviatingfromthemorallawasthebasisformaximchoiceandadoptingselfconceitinitsplace(Religion6:29).
NotethatforKant,thefacultyofvolitionordesire,orfreedomofthewill(Wille),hastwodifferentsenses,abroadsenseandanarrow
sense.Inthenarrowsense(asWille)itreferstothepracticalwillthatformulateslawsasthefacultyofdesirewhoseinnerdetermining
ground, hence even what pleases it, lies within the subjects [practical] reason. Practical will is considered in relation to the ground
determiningthechoiceofaction(MetaphysicsofMorals,6:213),andthroughitanagentformulatesbothhypotheticalandcategorical
imperatives.Practicalwillstandsincontrastwithexecutivewill(Willkr),whichisthepowerofchoice(togetherwithwhichitforms
thewillinthebroadsense)tochoose,decide,wish,andformulatemaximspresentedtoitbythepracticalwillasimperatives.Hence,
whetherornotanagentiswhollygoodorevilisdeterminedentirelybyafreepowerofchoice(Willkr)andthispower...onthe
basisofitsmaxims[which]mustresideinthesubjectivegroundofthepossibilityofthedeviationofthemaximsfromthemorallaw
(Religion6:29).

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Thus,eithertheincentiveofthemorallawortheincentiveofegoisticselfconceitissufficientfortheagenttobeeithermorallygoodor
morallyevil.Whenthepropensitytosubordinatethemorallawtothegoverningmaximofselfconceitistakenupwithinthemindsetor
disposition(Gesinnung)asagoverningmaxim,theagentscharacterasawholeiscorruptedandbecomesradicallyevil.

3.TheSourceofthePropensitytoRadicalEvil:TwoViews
The propensity to evil is affirmed by Kant as a universal yet nonnecessary feature of every human being. However, he appears to
believethatitsuniversalqualityentailsthatthereisnoneedforproofofitsinnateness.Ashestates:Wecanspareourselvestheformal
proof that there must be such a corrupt propensity rooted in the human being, in view of the multitude of woeful examples that the
experienceofhumandeedsparadesbeforeus(Religion6:33).Suchexamplesareobvioussimplyfromanexaminationofhistoryand
anthropology(Religion6:3334).ThefactthatKantraisesthepossibilityofaformalprooffortheinnatenessofthispropensitywhile
decliningtogiveoneraisesthequestion:Whatisthebasisforcharacterizingthispropensityasinnate?
OneviewisthatradicalevilmaybecastintermsofwhatKanthasidentifiedasunsociablesociality(ungeselligeGeselligkeit The
Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View 8:20). It arises within the human agent from interactions within
society,anditsdemonstrationneednotappealtoalitanyofhumanevilsfromwhichtoderiveaninductiveproof.Instead,allthatis
necessary is an examination of the predisposition to humanity. Recall that by virtue of this predisposition, we possess a natural
tendencynotonlytocompareourselveswithothers,buttocompetewitheachotherasameansofderivingourownselfworth.From
oursocialinteractions,welearntogivepreferencetoourownconcernsandneeds,orselfconceit(Religion6:2627).Thisunsociable
socialitybecomesmanifestinourtendencytoexemptourselvesfromthemorallawwhileexpectingotherstofollowit,treatingothersas
meanstoourendsratherthanasends.Andso,inhumancompetitivenessweseektocompareandgainmasteryoverothers,making
ourownpreferencesthebasisforourgoverningmaxim.
The source of this feature of the basic predisposition to humanity manifests itself in natural and selfaggrandizing human
competitiveness. It originates out of the company of other human beings who mutually corrupt one anothers moral predispositions
(Religion6:9394).Hence,byvirtueoflivingincommunityandinourneedforsociality,theshortcomingsofourbasicpredisposition
tohumanityaccountsforourselfconceit.Oursocialinteractionsserveasakindofbreedinggroundforradicalevil.
Our natural tendencies not only to compare ourselves with others, but to compete with them as a means for deriving our own self
worth,canbedemonstratedthroughthestudyofanthropology.HoweverthisinterpretationdoesnotentailthatKantthinksthatthe
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individualisabsolvedofresponsibility.Evilremainsadeedthatistheproductofanindividualscapacityforchoice,andforthisreason
theindividualstillretainstheresponsibilityforitscommission.Evenifweclaimthatwearenotguiltyofaparticularsocialevil(e.g.,
slaveryortheHolocaust),onaccountofhavingbeencaughtupinthespiritoftheage,theninasmuchasweareparticipants,weare
stillguilty.
Thusonthisfirstview,thepropensitytoevilissimplypartofournatureassocialbeingsandisaggravatedbyourproximitytoeach
other,theexistenceofwhichisevidentfromanobservationofunsociablesociabilitywhen,andwhereitoccursinhumansociety.Itisa
universalfeaturesharedbyeveryhumanbeing,yetitdoesnotrequireholdingthateachindividualnecessarilypossessesthisfeature.
The alternative view for the basis for the propensitys innateness is that the subordination of the moral law to the incentive of self
conceitisanentirelytimelessandintelligibledeed(That).Thiswhollyintelligibleactissocalledbecauseitdoesnottakeplaceatany
one point in time, but it is nevertheless the deed out of which all subsequent evil deeds arise. It is, as Kant states, the subjective
determininggroundofthepowerofchoicethatprecedeseverydeed,andisitselfnotyetadeed(Religion6:31).
Inmakingthisclaim,KantfollowsthemorePietist(orlessorthodoxLutheran)theologiansofhisdaywhobrokefromanAugustinian
approachtowardshumanevilorsin,claimingthateachagentisaloneresponsibleforitsownevil.AdamandEvewereresponsiblefor
their own sin, and all subsequent human beings have followed their example in disobedience to the moral law (Religion 6:4243).
Humanbeings,then,approachtheirempiricalcircumstanceshavingalwaysalreadychosenthemaximbywhichtheywillact,andso
subordinatethemorallawtotheincentiveofselfconceit.
AnaprioriprooffortheinnatesourceofthisradicalevilcaneasilybedrawnoutthroughanexaminationofKantsobservationinthe
CritiqueofPracticalReasonthatthemorallawstrikesdownthisincentive.Herehestatesthatonlytwopropensitiesareapplicableto
beingscapableofapprehendingthemorallaw:tofollowthemorallaweithergladly(gern)orreluctantly(ungernCritqueofPractical
Reason5:82).Whetherornotthemorallawisfollowedgladlyorreluctantlyisinpartafunctionofitsabilitytogeneraterespect,which
serves as an incentive for its adoption. As an incentive, the moral law competes with inclination for acceptance by the practical will,
against which inclination sometimes wins. Viewed positively: Respect for the moral law, while illuminating to a certain extent our
limitations, also reveals our dignity as rational beings. However, the incentive of respect for the moral law competes with sensuous
inclinationswhichariseoutofselfregard(Selbstsucht,solipsismusCritiqueofPracticalReason5:73).

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Note that for Kant selfregard is a complex phenomenon. As a rational and guided concern for ones own livelihood and well being
(Eigenliebe,philautiaCritiqueofPracticalReason5:74)selfregardconstitutesahealthybenevolencetowardsourselves.Forwefind
ournatureassensiblebeingssoconstitutedthatthematterofthefacultyofdesire(objectsofinclination,whetherofhopeorfear)first
forcesitselfuponus(CritiqueofPracticalReason5:74).However,selfregardalsosubsumesamoremalignantformofselfconcern,
thatofselfconceit(Eigendnkel,arrogantia),inwhichthepathologicallydeterminableselfdesirestomakeitsclaimsprimaryand
originallyvalid,justasifitconstitutedourentireself(CritiqueofPracticalReason5:74).InthelanguageofReligion,ahealthyself
regardismechanicalselflove,thatisanextensionofthepredispositiontoanimalityinthehumanbeing.Itisakindofselfconcernfor
whichnoreasonisrequired,butitisnotimmunetotheplentitudeofvices,includinggluttony,lust,andwildlawlessness(Religion
6:2627). But mechanical selflove is entirely different from the malignant selfregard that is selfconceit, which, in conflict with the
morallaw,arrogantlyprescribesthesubjectiveconditionsof[selflove]aslaws(CritiqueofPracticalReason5:74).
So,whilethemoralagentrecognizestherequirementsofthemorallawandwishestopracticeselfrestraintbyvirtueofitsnormative
requirements,themorallawisneitheruniversallyadoptednorgladlyacceptedinallcasesandatalltimes.Thefactthatthemorallaw
doesnotmerelyinfringeuponourselfconceit,buthumiliateseveryhumanbeingwhenhecompareswithitthesensiblepropensity
ofhisnature,illustratesthatthismalignantconditionisasunavoidableasitisuniversal(CritiqueofPracticalReason5:74).
ToreturntotheissueofradicalevilintheReligion,humanbeingsaregenerallysusceptibletonaturalinclinationsthatneveractually
agreewiththedictatesofthemorallaw.Ratherthannaturallypossessingapropensitytofollowthemorallaw,humansinsteadpossess
apropensitytofollowtheirownselfservinginclinations.Since,aswesawearlier,humanbeingsarewhollygoodorevilbyvirtueof
whetherornottheychooseamoralgoverningmaximoranegoisticalternativeatthetopoftheirhierarchyofmaxims,thispropensity
mustbeevilandimputabletohumannature.

4.OvercomingEvil:TheNecessityofanEthicalReligiousRevolution
AlthoughKant,forthemostpart,dedicatesonlythefirsttwochaptersoftheReligiontoradicalevil,heanticipatessomeofitsissuesin
the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (as heteronomy), in the Critique of Practical Reason, and in the Metaphysics of
Morals.HededicatestheremainingtwobooksofReligiontocultivatingtheideaofanethicalcommunitywhichrequiresasanecessary
condition for participation that an individual possesses a disposition transformed by a revolution. While the revolution may be
characterized as a singular event, it is also the first step in a new life of unending progress toward goodness (Religion 6:67). Only
through a revolution can an individual claim to have acquired a holy will. The Kingdom of God on earth, or the ethical
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commonwealth,iscomposedofindividualswhohaverecognizedboththisneedforarevolutionandtheprimacyofthemorallawas
theirgoverningmaxim(Religion6:95ff).
Whileradicalevilmustbeunderstoodintermsofapropensitythatisasinexplicableasitisuniversal,itisneverthelessimputedtous
asadisposition(Religion6.43).Howwecometochooseagooddisposition(andovercomeevil),isequallyunfathomable.Thedifficulty
liesinthefactthatacquiringsuchadispositioncannotmerelybeamatterofaresolutiontotryhardernexttime(thoughsuchresolve
isofsomemerit).Norisamerechangeinthehabitualpracticeofvirtuessufficientbyitselftoacquireagoodcharacterbecausethe
disposition remains corrupted in the midst of such efforts. The only solution is to undergo a revolution in our mode of thought
(DenkungsartReligion6:47).Acquiringanoriginalgoodnessthatconstitutesholinessofmaximsistheacquisitionofadispositionin
compliance with our duty to the maxim of obedience to the moral law and serves as the basis for our subsequent maxims (Religion
6:47). It should be noted that Kants use of revolution should not be confused with a social or political revolution, since this would
ultimatelyleadtotheTerrorwitnessedintheFrenchRevolution.
Theacquisitionoftheholydispositionthroughsucharevolutionrequiresthatwetakeupthedispositionofthehumanpersonification
oftheholywill,presenttousinourreasonasthearchetypeofmoralperfection.Toelevateourselvestothisidealofmoralperfection
constitutesouruniversalhumanduty(Religion6:6162).Kantidentifiesthehistoricalhumanpersonificationofthisarchetypeasthe
SonofGod.ThisindividualisdescribedinreligioustermsastheonewhohasdescendedfromHeaven,whomwecometobelievein
through practical faith. When an agent acquires this disposition, then that agent, by emulating it, may be considered as not an
unworthyobjectofdivinepleasure(Religion6:62).Wearenolongersubjecttosufferingthemoralconsequencesofourownsinor
debt. Yet we are nevertheless obliged to continue to experience the consequences of the life lived prior to the revolution (Religion
6:75n).Indeed,accordingtoKant,toundergosufferingastheconsequenceofapreconversionlifeisconsistentwithhisviewsabout
thedevelopmentofagoodcharacter(Religion6:69).
The revolution, then, is not merely an intellectual undertaking. It also involves a practical and continual process of reformation of
maxims in accordance with the newly acquired governing maxim of holiness of maxims. An intelligible (Denkungsart) revolution
takes place when a human being makes a singular decision which instantaneously reverses the supreme ground of his maxims
(Religion6:48),andprecedesagradualempirical(Sinnesart)reformationofcharacter.Theformeristhevolitionalovercomingofthe
propensitytoevilthatservesasabasisformaximchoice,amodethatisdistinctfromthatoftheempiricalreformation(forKant,they
areinfact,twosidesofthesamecoin).For,onceanindividualhasexperiencedthisinnerrevolution,heisagoodhumanbeingonlyin

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incessant laboring and becoming, i.e. he can hope in view of the purity of the principle to find himself upon the good (though
narrow)pathofconstantprogressfrombadtobetter(Religion6:48).
Theoperativeinquestionhereisthatofmanifestationofthegoodprinciple,orhumanityinitsmoralperfection,asdisplayedinthe
dispositionoftheSonofGodinhistory(Religion6:77).Ouracquisitionofareneweddispositionrequiresakindofmoralhabituation.It
isadispositionthatresultsfromadoptingholinessofmaximsasagoverningmaxim,andsubsequentlynotonlyservestosystematically
root out vice, but aids in the resolution to resist backsliding from temptationbecause for Kant, ought implies can. It involves a
commitmenttothestruggletorestructureonesincentivesfromtoptobottom,asitwere,fromselfconceittowardsvirtueitistobegin
tofulfillonesdutiesfromdutyitself.
We may note that by means of this revolution, moral reform does carry with it a degree of uncertainty as to whether or not we will
succeed. Hope for success rests on considering our efforts from the divineperspective. For, from this perspective, what matters is a
changeofheart,ortheacquisitionofatransformedmoraldispositionorcharacter.Throughsuchachange,Kantsays,inthesightof
thedivinejudgeforwhomthedispositiontakestheplaceofthedeed,theagentismorallyanotherbeing(Religion6:74).Becauseone
whohastakenonthedispositionofthearchetypeofhumanityhasbecomeanewcreation,thedispositionofthepersonifiedarchetype
comestobeconsideredakindofworkimputedtousbygrace(Religion6:7576).Atthesametime,Kantalsoappearstorecognize
that,inpracticaltermsandfromthehumanperspective,wemightneedreassurancethatoureffortsaresuccessful.
Onthismatter,Kantappearstooffersomeconsolationusingthedistinctionbetweennarrowandperfectdutiesontheonehand,
and wide or imperfect duties on the other (Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, 4:424). Narrow or perfect duties clearly
constitute tasks that we are required to do or accomplish and are therefore exact in their stipulation. On the other hand, a wide or
imperfectdutyisonesuchthat,althoughwearerequiredtostriveforit,isnotsomethingthatwecanbeexpectedtoattain.Holinessof
willissuchaduty.Forwhileholinessisnarrowandperfectandconstitutesaqualitativeidealpracticallyconsidered,itcanonlybe
considered a wide duty because of the frailty (fragilitas) of human nature. That is: It is a human beings duty to strive for this
perfection, but not to reach it . . . and his compliance with this duty can, accordingly consist only in continual progress (The
MetaphysicsofMorals6:446).Holinessofwillisforussuchanideal,thefulfillmentofwhichwecannotbecertainofattaininginthis
lifetime
Kantsaccountofradicalevilasapropensityhasreceivedmuchdiscussionattheturnofthetwentyfirstcenturyandhasgenerateda
fairdegreeofcontroversy.Onecriticismisthathedoesnotallowforthepossibilityofdiabolicalevil.Asecondisthat,whileKantis
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committedtoholdingthatthepropensitytoevilisuniversal,hispositionsontherevolutionfailtoproperlyallowforthepossibilityof
grace,thedoctrinethatGodisabletoactinhumanaffairsandeffectchangewithinapersonsmoraldisposition.Thispaperdoesnot
attempttoadjudicatebetweenthesetwoconcerns,andtheydonotaffectthemainthesisthatforKant,evilislargelyamoralcategory,
presentuniversallyinhumanbeingsasapropensitytoselfconceitthatinfluencestheadoptionofmaxims.

5.ReferencesandFurtherReading
a.PrimaryReferences
i.German
ImmanuelKant.BereitstellungundPflegevonKantsGesarmmeltenWerkeninelektronisherForm.2008.
ReferencesandquotationsinthisencyclopediaarticlehaveusedtheEnglishtranslationofKantsworksprovidedbyCambridgeUniversityPress,butthetextual
referencesthemselvesaretoKantsGesarmmeltenWerkenthatisavailableonline.

ii.English
Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. and ed. by M. J. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Cambridge:
CambridgeUniversityPress,1995.
Kant,Immanuel.CritiqueofPracticalReason,transanded.byM.J.Gregor.InImmanuelKant:PracticalPhilosophy.Cambridge:CambridgeUniversity
Press,1996.
Kant,Immanuel.TheMetaphysicsofMorals, trans. and ed. by M.J. Gregor. InTheCambridgeEdition of the Works of Immanuel Kant. Cambridge:
CambridgeUniversityPress,1991.
Kant,Immanuel.ReligionWithintheBoundariesofMereReason.InImmanuelKant:ReligionandRationalTheology,trans.anded.byA.W.Woodand
G.diGiovanni.Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1996.

b.SecondaryReferences
Allison,Henry.KantsTheoryofFreedom.Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1990.
FirsttoproposetheRigorismThesisandIncorporationThesis,andthepropensitytoevilasanintelligibleact.

Allison,Henry.OntheVeryIdeaofaPropensitytoEvil.TheJournalofValueInquiry36(2002):33748.
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Defends propensity to evil as intelligible act against Woods thesis that the propensity to evil is mere unsociable sociality. Many subsequent articles tend to
defendeitherAllisonorWood.

AndersonGold,Sharon.GodandCommunity:AnInquiryintotheReligiousImplicationsoftheHighestGood.InRossiandWreen(1991),pp.113131.
AnimportantcontributiontothediscussiononthesignificanceofevilwithinKantsanthropology.

AndersonGold,Sharon.UnnecessaryEvil.NewYork:StateUniversityofNewYorkPress,2001.
AndersonGold,Sharon,andPabloMuchnik(eds).KantsAutonomyofEvil:InterpretiveEssaysandContemporaryApplications.NewYork:Cambridge
UniversityPress,2010.
Caswell,Matthew.KantsConceptionoftheHighestGood,theGesinnung,andtheTheoryofRadicalEvil.KantStudien97(2006):184209.
OffersdiscussiononimportanceofthedispositionfortheacquisitionofevilasanalternativeincentivetotheGood.CaswelllargelyfollowsAllisonsthesis.

Caswell,Matthew.TheValueofHumanityandKantsConceptionofEvil.JournaloftheHistoryofPhilosophy44.4(2006):63563.
Fackenheim,Emil.KantandRadicalEvil.UniversityofTorontoQuarterly23(1954):33953.
RaisesquestionsaboutwhetherKantsapparentclaimthateachpersonisresponsibleforselfredemptionisconsistentwithinhisReligionasawhole.

Grimm,Stephen.KantsArgumentforRadicalEvil.EuropeanJournalofPhilosophy10:2(2002):16077.
ByandlargeadefenseofWoodsposition.

Kosch,Michelle.FreedomandReasoninKant,Schelling,andKierkegaard.Oxford/NewYork:Clarendon,2006.
AdiscussionofKantsethicsofautonomy,andoffersanaccountofthechallengefacedbyradicaleviltoKantsethicsofautonomyforthemostpartfollows
WoodsthesisagainstAllison.

Maria,Jacqueline,KantonGrace:AReplytoHisCritics.ReligiousStudies33(1997):379400.
PresentsadefenseofKantagainstWolterstorfandMichalsonforthecompatibilityofKantsReligiononthetopicofthepossibilityofgrace.

Matutk,MartinBeck.RadicalEvilandtheScarcityofHope.Bloomington/Indianapolis:IndianaUniversityPress,2008.
Chapter8offerscontemporarycriticismofKant,largelyfollowingSilber,arguingthatKantsaccountofevilisrestrictedbyhiscommitmenttoresistingdiabolical
evil.

MichalsonJr.,Gordon.FallenFreedom.Cambridge/NewYork:CambridgeUniversityPress,1990.
WhileofferingexcellentcommentaryonReligion1&2,critiquesKantstreatmentofgraceandChristiantheismgenerally.

Morgan,Seiriol.TheMissingProofofHumanitysRadicalEvilinKantsReligion.ThePhilosophicalReview114.1(2005):63114.
Offersalternativeproofforthesisthatthepropensitytoevilisanintelligibleact.

Muchnik,Pablo,AnAlternativeProofoftheUniversalPropensitytoEvil.InSharonAndersonGoldandPabloMuchnik(2010),pp.116143.
PresentsanalternativeproofforevilasaninnatepropensityfromWoodandAllison.

Quinn,Philip.InAdamsFall,WeSinnedAll,PhilosophicalTopics16(1988):110118.
Quinnwasthefirsttopresentthepropensitytoevil,anditsadoptionbythedisposition,understandingthedisposition(Gesinnung)asthemetamaxim.

Quinn,Philip.SavingFaithfromKantsRemarkableAntinomy,FaithandPhilosophy7.4(1990):418433.
Reath,Andrews.KantsTheoryofMoralSensibility:RespectfortheMoralLawandtheInfluenceofInclination,inhisAgencyandAutonomyinKants
MoralTheory,Oxford:Clarendon(2006),pp.832.
Providesanexcellentanalysisoftheimportanceinunderstandingrespectasanincentiveforthemorallaw.
Rossi,PhilipJ.andMichaelJ.Wreen.KantsPhilosophyofReligionReconsidered.Bloomington:IndianaUniversityPress,1991.
Savage,Denis.KantsRejectionofDivineRevelationandhisTheoryofRadicalEvil.RossiandWreen(1991),pp.5476.
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PresentsskepticismofKantswillingnesstoallowforrevelationinhisReligion.

Silber,John.TheEthicalSignificanceofKantsReligion.InImmanuelKant,ReligionWithintheLimitsofReasonAlone.Trans.T.M.GreeneandH.H.
Hudson,NewYork:HarperandRow,1960.
SilbersintroductionraisesquestionsabouttheviabilityofKantstreatmentofevil,giventhatitdoesnotallowforthepossibilityofdiabolicalevil.
Silber,John.KantatAuschwitz.ProceedingsoftheSixthInternationalKantCongress.Ed.byG.FunkeandT.Seebohm,CenterofAdvancedResearch
inPhenomenologyandResearch:UniversityPressofAmerica,1991.
Adefenseofhisearlierclaim(1960),thatKantsaccountofradicalevildoesnotdojusticetoinstancesofdiabolicalevilinthetwentiethcentury.

Wolterstorff,Nicholas.ConundrumsinKantsRationalReligion.InRossiandWreen(1991),pp.4053.
RaisesquestionsaboutwhetherornotKantsReligionisconsistentwithChristiantheism.

Wood,Allen.KantsMoralReligion.IthacaandLondon:CornellUniversityPress,1970.
AdiscussionofWoodsearlierviewsonKantsreligion.

Wood,Allen.KantsEthicalThought.Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1999.
Chapter9developshisviewsofradicalevilintermsofunsociablesocialityagainstAllison.

Wood,Allen.KantandtheIntelligibilityofEvil.InSharonAndersonGoldandPabloMuchnik(2010),pp.144172.
MakesextensiveuseofKantsAnthropologyforadefenseofhisthesisofradicalevilasunsociablesociality,implicitlyagainstAllison.

AuthorInformation
ErikM.Hanson
Email:ehanson2@uccs.edu
UniversityofColorado
U.S.A.

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