Kant on Civilization, Moralization, and the Paradox of Happiness

In Luigino Bruni & Pier Luigi Porta (eds.), The Handbook on the Economics of Happiness. Cheltenham, UK: Elgar. pp. 110-123 (2007)
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The well-known Kantian passage on misology in the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals starts making fuller sense when located within the framework of Kant writings on philosophy of history where he contrasts civilization with moralization as two different phases in the growth of humankind. In this context, the growth of commerce and manufactures plays a distinctive role, namely that of means of fostering civilization, while pursuing a deceptive goal, namely happiness. Deception plays a basic role in the growth of mankind, in so far as it allows for a hidden twofold teleology in human action. Men, while following the dictates of self-love, are systematically mistaken about the results they actually contribute in bringing about. Commerce brings different peoples into mutual relationship and thus paves the way to a cosmopolitan society. The growth of the arts and sciences provides preconditions for the growth of learned institutions, a free press, and a public opinion that are the basis on which reason may start being used in its critical capacities. This, that is Enlightenment, is a preliminary step to moralization, that is the jump of individuals from a state of minority to a state where they are masters of themselves. The twofold teleology of human action makes room for a system of "pragmatic" ends, and of laws connected to the former, that may be studied rationally in themselves and yet are connected to the higher ends established by reason in its "practical" capacities.

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Sergio Volodia Marcello Cremaschi
Università Cattolica di Milano (PhD)


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