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Paul Formosa
Macquarie University
  1.  15
    Kant on Education and Evil—Perfecting Human Beings with an Innate Propensity to Radical Evil.Klas Roth & Paul Formosa - forthcoming - Educational Philosophy and Theory:1-4.
    Kant begins his Lectures on Pedagogy by stating, “[t]he human being is the only creature that must be educated” (Kant, 2007, 9:441), and he argues that it is through education that we can transform our initial “animal nature into human nature” (ibid. 2007, 9:441). Kant understands education as involving an ordered process of care, discipline, instruction and formation through enculturating, civilizing and moralizing (Formosa 2011). Further, Kant envisages that we should pursue as a species the “moral perfection” that is the (...)
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  2.  69
    Nussbaum, Kant, and the Capabilities Approach to Dignity.Paul Formosa & Catriona Mackenzie - 2014 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (5):875-892.
    The concept of dignity plays a foundational role in the more recent versions of Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities theory. However, despite its centrality to her theory, Nussbaum’s conception of dignity remains under-theorised. In this paper we critically examine the role that dignity plays in Nussbaum’s theory by, first, developing an account of the concept of dignity and introducing a distinction between two types of dignity, status dignity and achievement dignity. Next, drawing on this account, we analyse Nussbaum’s conception of dignity and (...)
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  3. Kant on the Radical Evil of Human Nature.Paul Formosa - 2007 - Philosophical Forum 38 (3):221–245.
    In ‘Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason’ Kant presents his thesis that human nature is ‘radically evil’. To be radically evil is to have a propensity toward moral frailty, impurity and even perversity. Kant claims that all humans are ‘by nature’ radically evil. By presenting counter-examples of moral saints, I argue that not all humans are morally corrupt, even if most are. Even so, the possibility of moral failure is central to what makes us human.
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  4. Is Kant a Moral Constructivist or a Moral Realist?Paul Formosa - 2013 - European Journal of Philosophy 21 (2):170-196.
    The dominant interpretation of Kant as a moral constructivist has recently come under sustained philosophical attack by those defending a moral realist reading of Kant. In light of this, should we read Kant as endorsing moral constructivism or moral realism? In answering this question we encounter disagreement in regard to two key independence claims. First, the independence of the value of persons from the moral law (an independence that is rejected) and second, the independence of the content and authority of (...)
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  5.  11
    Evil, Virtue, and Education in Kant.Paul Formosa - forthcoming - Educational Philosophy and Theory:1-10.
    For Kant, we cannot understand how to approach moral education without confronting the radical evil of humanity. But if we start out, as Kant thinks we do, from a morally corrupt state, how can we make moral progress? In response, I explore in this paper Kant’s gradualist and revolutionary accounts of moral progress. These differing accounts of progress raise two key questions in the literature: are these accounts compatible and which type of progress comes first? Against other views in the (...)
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  6.  79
    A Conception of Evil.Paul Formosa - 2008 - Journal of Value Inquiry 42 (2):217-239.
    There are a number of different senses of the term “evil.” We examine in this paper the term “evil” when it is used to say things such as: “what Hitler did was not merely wrong, it was evil”, and “Hitler was not merely a bad person, he was an evil person”. Failing to keep a promise or telling a white lie may be morally wrong, but unlike genocide or sadistic torture, it is not evil in this sense. In this paper (...)
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  7.  8
    Thinking, Conscience and Acting in the Face of Mass Evil.Paul Formosa - 2010 - In Andrew Schaap, Danielle Celermajer & Vrasidas Karalis (eds.), Power, Judgement and Political Evil: In Conversation with Hannah Arendt. Farnham: Ashgate. pp. 89-104.
    If there is one lesson that Hannah Arendt drew from her encounter with Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem it was that the moral and political dangers of thoughtlessness had been grossly underestimated. But while thoughtlessness clearly “has its perils”, (LMT 177) as the example of Eichmann illustrates, thoughtfulness has its own problems, as the example of Heidegger illustrates. In the course of her 1964 interview with Günter Gaus, Arendt recalls her distaste for “intellectual business” that arose from witnessing the widespread and (...)
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  8.  79
    Understanding Evil Acts.Paul Formosa - 2007 - Human Studies 30 (2):57-77.
    Evil acts strike us, by their very nature, as not only horrifying and reprehensible, but also as deeply puzzling. No doubt for reasons like this, evil has often been seen as mysterious, demonic and beyond our human powers of understanding. The question I examine in this paper is whether or not we can (or would want to) overcome this puzzlement in the face of evil acts. I shall argue that we ought want to (in all cases) and can (in at (...)
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  9.  43
    Moral Responsibility for Banal Evil.Paul Formosa - 2006 - Journal of Social Philosophy 37 (4):501–520.
    It has often been argued that Hannah Arendt ‘let off’ Eichmann through her concept of the banality of evil. In this paper I argue, through revisiting and modifying the concept of the banality of evil, that we can reject such criticism. That is, by judging that a perpetrator, like Eichmann, commits evil banally in no way undermines the grounds for holding them to be responsible for their actions, but it does help us to understand why such perpetrators act as they (...)
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  10.  60
    Kant on the Limits of Human Evil.Paul Formosa - 2009 - Journal of Philosophical Research 34:189-214.
    Kant has often been accused of being far too “optimistic” when it comes to the extremes of evil that humans can perpetrate upon one another. In particular, Kant’s supposed claim that humans cannot choose evil qua evil has struck many people as simply false. Another problem for Kant, or perhaps the same problem in another guise, is his supposed claim that all evil is done for the sake of self-love. While self-love might be a plausible way to explain some instances (...)
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  11.  76
    Dignity and Respect: How to Apply Kant's Formula of Humanity.Paul Formosa - 2014 - Philosophical Forum 45 (1):49-68.
    Kant’s Formula of Humanity (FH) is considered by many, Kant included, to be the most intuitively appealing formulation of the categorical imperative. FH tells us that to treat persons with dignity and respect we must always treat them as ends in themselves and never as mere means. One set of issues raised by FH revolves around how FH is to be justified or grounded and how it relates to the other formulations of the categorical imperative. This set of issues, though (...)
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  12.  91
    Is Radical Evil Banal? Is Banal Evil Radical?Paul Formosa - 2007 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 33 (6):717-735.
    There has been much recent debate concerning how Hannah Arendt's concepts of radical evil and the banality of evil `fit together', if at all. I argue that the first of these concepts deals with a certain type of evil, in particular the evil that occurred in the Nazi death camps. The second deals with a certain type of perpetrator of evil, in particular the banal `nobody', Eichmann. As such, bar a localized incompatibility in regard to Arendt's early account of the (...)
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  13.  5
    The Idea of Evil. [REVIEW]Paul Formosa - 2009 - Kantian Review 14 (1):129-36.
    Review by Paul Formosa of Peter Dews' book, "The Idea of Evil".
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  14.  8
    Review of 'Evil and Moral Psychology, Written by Peter Brian Barry'. [REVIEW]Paul Formosa - 2016 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (4):495-497.
    Review of 'Evil and Moral Psychology, written by Peter Brian Barry'.
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  15.  70
    “All Politics Must Bend Its Knee Before Right”: Kant on the Relation of Morals to Politics.Paul Formosa - 2008 - Social Theory and Practice 34 (2):157-181.
    Kant argues that morals should not only constrain politics, but that morals and politics properly understood cannot conflict. Such an uncompromising stance on the relation of morals to politics has been branded unrealistic and even politically irresponsible. While justice can afford to be blind, politics must keep its eyes wide open. In response to this charge I argue that Kant’s position on the relation of morals to politics is both morally uncompromising and yet politically flexible, both principled and practical. Kantian (...)
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  16.  24
    Discipline and Autonomy: The Kantian Link Between Education and Morality.Paul Formosa - 2011 - In Klas Roth & Chris W. Surprenant (eds.), Kant and Education: Interpretations and Commentary. New York: Routledge. pp. 163--176.
    In this paper I argue that Kant develops, in a number of texts, a detailed three stage theory of moral development which resembles the contemporary accounts of moral development defended by Lawrence Kohlberg and John Rawls. The first stage in this process is that of physical education and disciplining, followed by cultivating and civilising, with a third and final stage of moralising. The outcome of this process of moral development is a fully autonomous person. However, Kant’s account of moral development (...)
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  17.  27
    Kant's Conception of Personal Autonomy.Paul Formosa - 2013 - Journal of Social Philosophy 44 (3):193-212.
    A strong distinction is often made between personal autonomy and moral autonomy. Personal autonomy involves governing yourself in the pursuit of your own conception of the good. Moral autonomy involves legislating the moral law for yourself. Viewed in this way personal autonomy seems at best marginal and at worst a positive hindrance to moral autonomy, since personal autonomy can conflict with moral autonomy. Given that Kantian approaches to morality are closely aligned with moral autonomy, does that mean that the Kantian (...)
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  18.  72
    Kant on the Highest Moral-Physical Good: The Social Aspect of Kant's Moral Philosophy.Paul Formosa - 2010 - Kantian Review 15 (1):1-36.
    Kant identifies the “highest moral-physical good” as that combination of “good living” and “true humanity” which best harmonises in a “good meal in good company”. Why does Kant privilege the dinner party in this way? By examining Kant’s accounts of enlightenment, cosmopolitanism, love and respect, and gratitude and friendship, the answer to this question becomes clear. Kant’s moral ideal is that of an enlightened and just cosmopolitan human being who feels and acts with respect and love for all persons and (...)
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  19.  56
    The Problems with Evil.Paul Formosa - 2008 - Contemporary Political Theory 7 (4):395-415.
    The concept of evil has been an unpopular one in many recent Western political and ethical discourses. One way to justify this neglect is by pointing to the many problemswiththe concept of evil. The standard grievances brought against the very concept of evil include: that it has no proper place in secular political and ethical discourses; that it is a demonizing term of hatred that leads to violence; that it is necessarily linked with outdated notions of body and sexuality; and (...)
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  20.  36
    Kant on the Moral Ontology of Constructivism and Realism.Paul Formosa - 2013 - In Margit Ruffing, Claudio La Rocca, Alfredo Ferrarin & Stefano Bacin (eds.), Kant Und Die Philosophie in Weltbürgerlicher Absicht: Akten des Xi. Kant-Kongresses 2010. De Gruyter. pp. 185-196.
    There has been much recent debate on the question of whether Kant is to be best understood as a moral realist or a moral constructivist. In an attempt to resolve this debate I examine whether moral constructivism is a form of moral idealism, briefly contrast realism and idealism, and draw on work in social ontology to look at the different accounts of moral ontology implicit in realist and constructivist accounts. As a result of this investigation I conclude that Kant is (...)
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  21.  22
    Means, Ends, and Persons: The Meaning and Psychological Dimensions of Kant's Humanity Formula, by Robert Audi. [REVIEW]Paul Formosa - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (2):412-412.
    Book review of 'Means, Ends, and Persons: The Meaning and Psychological Dimensions of Kant's Humanity Formula, by Robert Audi, OUP'.
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  22.  12
    Thinking, Willing, and Judging.Paul Formosa - 2009 - Crossroads 4 (1):53-64.
    In this paper I examine Max Deutscher’s recent accounts of thinking, willing and judging, derived from his reading of Hannah Arendt’s 'The Life of the Mind', as set out in his book 'Judgment After Arendt'. Against Deutscher I argue that thinking does not presuppose thoughtfulness, that being willing is compatible with willing reluctantly, and that actor and spectator judgments are distinct types of judgments.
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  23.  35
    Evils, Wrongs and Dignity: How to Test a Theory of Evil.Paul Formosa - 2013 - Journal of Value Inquiry 47 (3):235-253.
    Evil acts are not merely wrong; they belong to a different moral category. For example, telling a minor lie might be wrong but it is not evil, whereas the worst act of gratuitous torture that you can imagine is evil and not merely wrong. But how do wrongs and evils differ? A theory or conception of evil should, among other things, answer that question. But once a theory of evil has been developed, how do we defend or refute it? The (...)
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  24.  11
    The Idea of Evil, by Peter Dews. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. Pp. 264, Hardcover. ISBN 978-1-4051-1704-3. £60.00/€72.00. [REVIEW]Paul Formosa - 2009 - Kantian Review 14 (1):129-136.
    Review of 'The Idea of Evil' by Peter Dews.
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  25.  27
    A Life Without Affects and Passions: Kant on the Duty of Apathy.Paul Formosa - 2011 - Parrhesia 13:96-111.
    An apathetic life is not the sort of life that most of us would want for ourselves or believe that we have a duty to strive for. And yet Kant argues that we have a duty of apathy, a duty to strive to be without affects (Affecten) and passions (Leidenschaften). But is Kant’s claim that there is a duty of apathy really as problematic as it sounds? In arguing that it is not, this paper investigates in detail in Kant’s accounts (...)
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  26.  10
    Book Review : "Kant's Anatomy of Evil". [REVIEW]Paul Formosa - 2011 - Kantian Review 16 (2):150-156.
    Book review of Sharon Anderson-Gold, and Pablo Muchnik, "Kant's Anatomy of Evil", Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010, Pp 251, ISBN 9780521514323.
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  27.  6
    Levinas and the Definition of Philosophy: An Ethical Approach.Paul Formosa - 2006 - Crossroads 1 (1):37-46.
    Emmanuel Levinas’ thought seems to be strictly neither rational, phenomenological nor ontological, and it thus intentionally exposes itself to the asking of the question ‘why call it philosophy at all’? While we may have trouble containing Levinas’ thought within our traditional philosophical boundaries, I argue that this gives us no reason to exclude him from philosophy proper as a mere poser, but rather provides the occasion for reflection on just what it means, in an ethical manner, to call something ‘philosophical’. (...)
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  28.  41
    Saying the Unsayable: Wittgenstein's Early Ethical Thought.Paul Formosa - 2007 - Sorites 19:74-87.
    In this paper I present an account of Wittgenstein’s ethics that follows from a so-called ‘metaphysical’ reading of the Tractatus. I argue Wittgenstein forwards two distinct theses. Negatively he claims that there can be no ethical propositions. Positively he claims that the ethical good, or good in-itself, is the rewarding happy life. The happy life involves living in perfect contented harmony with the world, however it is, because how the world is, is a manifestation of God’s will. Given the negative (...)
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  29.  18
    The Role of Vulnerability in Kantian Ethics.Paul Formosa - 2014 - In Catriona Mackenzie, Wendy Rogers & Susan Dodds (eds.), Vulnerability: New Essays in Ethics and Feminist Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 88-109.
    Does the fact that humans are vulnerable, needy and dependent beings play an important role in Kantian ethics? It is sometimes claimed that it cannot and does not. I argue that it can and does. I distinguish between broad (all persons are vulnerable) and narrow (only some persons are vulnerable) senses of vulnerability, and explain the role of vulnerability in both senses in Kantian ethics. The basis of this argument is to show that the core normative focus of Kantian ethics (...)
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  30.  30
    Patriotism: Philosophical and Political Perspectives.Paul Formosa - 2009 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (1):175 – 176.
    A review of Patriotism: Philosophical and Political Perspectives.
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  31.  7
    Kantian Ethics, Dignity and Perfection.Paul Formosa - 2017 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    In this volume Paul Formosa sets out a novel approach to Kantian ethics as an ethics of dignity by focusing on the Formula of Humanity as a normative principle distinct from the Formula of Universal Law. By situating the Kantian conception of dignity within the wider literature on dignity, he develops an important distinction between status dignity, which all rational agents have, and achievement dignity, which all rational agents should aspire to. He then explores constructivist and realist views on the (...)
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  32.  10
    Politics and Teleology in Kant.Paul Formosa, Avery Goldman & Tatiana Patrone (eds.) - 2014 - University of Wales Press.
    The fourteen essays in this volume, by leading scholars in the field, explore the relationship between teleology and politics in Kant’s corpus. Among the topics discussed are Kant’s normative political theory and legal philosophy; his cosmopolitanism and views on international relations; his theory of history; his theory of natural teleology; and the broader relationship between morality, history, nature, and politics. _Politics and Teleology in Kant_ will be of interest to a wide audience, including Kant scholars; scholars and students working in (...)
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