Ideas from 'True in Theory, but not in Practice' by Immanuel Kant [1792], by Theme Structure

[found in 'Political Writings' by Kant,Immanuel (ed/tr Reiss,Hans) [CUP 1996,0-521-39837-1]].

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20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / a. Practical reason
General rules of action also need a judgement about when to apply them
                        Full Idea: A concept of the understanding, which contains the general rule, must be supplemented by an act of judgement whereby the practitioner distinguishes instances where the rule applies from those where it does not.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], Intro)
                        A reaction: This is Aristotle's phronesis, and Hart's 'rules of recognition' in law courts. So is the link between theory and practice an intellectual one, or a sort of inarticulate intuition? I like 'common sense' for this ability.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / c. Value of happiness
Duty does not aim at an end, but gives rise to universal happiness as aim of the will
                        Full Idea: My conception of duty does not need to be based on any particular end, but rather itself occasions a new end for the human will, that of striving with all one's power towards the highest good possible on earth, the universal happiness of the whole world.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], 1B)
                        A reaction: I see nothing in the categorical imperative that demands 'all one's power', and nothing that specifies happiness as what has to be universalised. Nietzsche, for one, thinks happiness is overrated.
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 2. Duty
It can't be a duty to strive after the impossible
                        Full Idea: It would not be a duty to strive after a certain effect of our will if this effect were impossible in experience.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], Intro)
                        A reaction: 'Ought implies can' has become a familiar slogan. The quickest way to get shot of a tiresome duty is to persuade yourself that it is impossible. The seemingly impossible is occasionally achieved.
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 6. Motivation for Duty
The will's motive is the absolute law itself, and moral feeling is receptivity to law
                        Full Idea: The will must have motives. But these are not objects of physical feeling as predetermined ends in themselves. They are none other than the absolute law itself, and the will's receptivity to it as an absolute compulsion is known as moral feeling.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], 1Bb)
                        A reaction: This sounds like our natural motivation to get the right answer when doing arithmetic, which is the innate motivation towards truth. I once heard it said that truth is the only value. So why does Donald Trump fail to value truth?
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 2. Natural Values / c. Natural rights
There can be no restraints on freedom if reason does not reveal some basic rights
                        Full Idea: If there is nothing which commands immediate respect through reason, such as the basic rights of man, no influence can prevail upon man's arbitrary will and restrain his freedom.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], 2-Concl)
                        A reaction: I think this is the nearest Kant gets to natural rights. It is hard to see how basic rights can be identified by pure reason, without some inbuilt human values. Kant's usual move is to say denial of them leads to a contradiction, but I'm going off that.
25. Society / B. The State / 2. State Legitimacy / d. Social contract
A contract is theoretical, but it can guide rulers to make laws which the whole people will accept
                        Full Idea: The original contract …is merely an idea of reason, which nonetheless has undoubted practical reality; for it can oblige every legislator to frame his laws in such a way that they could have been produced by the united will of a whole nation.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], 2-Concl)
                        A reaction: The contractualist theory of morality of Thomas Scanlon approaches this. Note that Kant says it 'can' oblige the legislators. Nothing would compel them to follow such a principle.
Personal contracts are for some end, but a civil state contract involves a duty to share
                        Full Idea: In all social contracts, we find a union of many individuals for some common end which they all share. But a union as an end in itself which they all ought to share …is only found in a society insofar as it constitutes a civil state i.e. a commonwealth.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], 2 Intro)
                        A reaction: This makes a nice link between the contractarian individual morality of Hobbes and his social contract view of society. Kant seems to reject the first but accept the second. Presumably because the first implies benefit and the second implies duty.
There must be a unanimous contract that citizens accept majority decisions
                        Full Idea: The actual principle of being content with majority decisions must be accepted unanimously and embodied in a contract, and this itself must be the ultimate basis on which a civil constitution is established.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], 2-3)
                        A reaction: This is the contract which combines a social contract with democracy. We unanimously agree not to be unanimous? Cf Idea 21065. What should the minority do when the majority elect criminal Nazi leaders?
25. Society / B. The State / 2. State Legitimacy / e. General will
A law is unjust if the whole people could not possibly agree to it
                        Full Idea: If the law is such that a whole people could not possibly agree to it …it is unjust.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], 2-Concl)
                        A reaction: Kant is explicitly trying to approximate Rousseau's general will. The categorical imperative was greatly influenced by Rousseau. The key point is not whether they accept it, but that unanimous acceptance is unthinkable. Unfair laws will fail.
25. Society / B. The State / 4. Citizenship
A citizen must control his own life, and possess property or an important skill
                        Full Idea: The only qualification required by a citizen (apart, of course, from being an adult male) is that he must be his own master, and must have some property (which can include any skill, trade, fine art or science) to support himself.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], 2-3)
                        A reaction: Of course! Being one's own master evidently allows for being an employee, as long as this is a free contract, and not exploitation. Invites lots of interesting test cases. We need a Marxist commentary on this idea.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 3. Social Equality / d. Economic equality
Citizens can rise to any rank that talent, effort and luck can achieve
                        Full Idea: Every member of the commonwealth must be entitled to reach any degree of rank which a subject can earn through his talent, his industry and his good fortune.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], 2-2)
                        A reaction: This is equality of opportunity, which is a mantra for liberals, but has been subjected to good criticisms in modern times. The main question is whether there is formal and legal equality, or actual practical equality.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 4. Legal Rights / b. Alienating rights
You can't make a contract renouncing your right to make contracts!
                        Full Idea: No one can voluntarily renounce his rights by a contract the effect that he has no rights but only duties, for such a contract would deprive him of the right to make a contract, and would thus invalidate the one he had already made.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], 2-2)
                        A reaction: Kant tries to establish all of his principles by showing that their denial is contradictory. But this example is blatantly wrong. King Lear didn't nullify his previous legislation when he abdicated, and his two daughters legally kept their territories.
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 6. Liberalism
A lawful civil state must embody freedom, equality and independence for its members
                        Full Idea: The civil state, regarded purely as a lawful state, is based on the following a priori principles. 1) the freedom of every member as a human being, 2) the equality of each as a subject, 3) the independence of each as a subject.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], 2 Intro)
                        A reaction: Written in 1792, three years after the start of the French Revolution. He says that a state with an inbuilt hierarchy or aristocracy is unlawful. Which freedoms, equality in what respects, and independence from what?
25. Society / E. State Functions / 5. War
The people (who have to fight) and not the head of state should declare a war
                        Full Idea: Each state must be organised so that the head of state, for whom the war costs nothing (for he wages it at the expense of the people) must no longer have the deciding vote on whether war is to be declared or not, for the people who pay for it must decide.
                        From: Immanuel Kant (True in Theory, but not in Practice [1792], 3)
                        A reaction: I would guess that he has Louis XIV particularly in mind. Imagine if Kant's proposal had been implemented in 1914. A referendum takes ages, and the people would need the facts (from the intelligence agencies).