Shared Ends: Kant and Dai Zhen on the Ethical Value of Mutually Fulfilling Relationships

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This paper offers an account of an important type of human relationship: relationships based on shared ends. These are an indispensable part of most ethically worthy or valuable lives, and our successes or failures at participating in these relationships constitute a great number of our moral successes or failures overall. While many philosophers agree about their importance, few provide us with well-developed accounts of the nature and value of good shared-end relationships. This paper begins to develop a positive account of such relationships. In the interest of highlighting some strengths and weaknesses of competing approaches, it contrasts the theories that are proposed by the Confucian philosopher Dai Zhen 戴震 (1724–1777) and the influential moral philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). Both philosophers share many of the same core ethical commitments, but as the author shows, Dai Zhen’s approach to thinking about the nature and value of good shared-end relationships is superior to Kant’s because it highlights the fact that such relationships must be motivated by ethically-shaped forms of other-concern and self-interest, whereas Kant does not picture self-interest as an important source of morality or ethically valuable relationships. The author considers clarifications and revisions to Kant’s theory that seem to make more room for the mixture of motives required for good shared-end relationships, but concludes that these ad hoc modifications do not succeed at providing a recognizably Kantian theory that can account for them as well as Dai Zhen’s.
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First archival date: 2020-03-10
Latest version: 2 (2021-06-19)
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