Kant on ‘Good’, the Good, and the Duty to Promote the Highest Good

In Thomas Höwing (ed.), The Highest Good in Kant’s Philosophy. Boston: De Gruyter. pp. 33-50 (2016)
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Abstract

Many regard Kant’s account of the highest good as a failure. His inclusion of happiness in the highest good, in combination with his claim that it is a duty to promote the highest good, is widely seen as inconsistent. In this essay, I argue that there is a valid argument, based on premises Kant clearly endorses, in defense of his thesis that it is a duty to promote the highest good. I first examine why Kant includes happiness in the highest good at all. On the basis of a discussion of Kant's distinction between 'good' and 'pleasant', and in light of his methodological comments in the second chapter of the Critique of Practical Reason, I explain how Kant’s conception of the good informs his conception of the highest good. I then argue that Kant's inclusion of happiness in the highest good should be understood in light of his claim that it is a duty to promote the happiness of others. In the final section of this essay, I reconstruct Kant’s argument for the claim that it is a duty to promote the highest good and explain in what sense this duty goes beyond observance of the Categorical Imperative.

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Pauline Kleingeld
University of Groningen

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