[SydPhil] CAVE Seminar: Lucy Allais (Wits/UCSD), "Evil and the Disunity of the Subject", 11 July, Macquarie

Centre for Agency, Values, and Ethics arts.cave at mq.edu.au
Thu Jun 29 15:27:28 AEST 2017

Hi all,

You are invited to the next Macquarie University Research Centre for Agency, Values, and Ethics (CAVE) seminar. Our speaker is Lucy Allais (Wits, UCSD), who will be speaking about Kant and evil. Paul Formosa (Macquarie) will respond to her paper.

All welcome, no registration required!

Lucy Allais (Wits/UCSD), "Evil and the Disunity of the Subject"

Date: 11 July 2017

Time: 14:00 - 16:00

Venue: W6A 107, Macquarie University (P12 on campus map)<http://www.mq.edu.au/research/research-centres-groups-and-facilities/resilient-societies/centres/macquarie-university-research-centre-for-agency,-values-and-ethics/events/?a=183556>


In the relatively late work, Religion within the boundaries of mere Reason (1793), Kant presents the claim that humans have an innate, universal yet imputable propensity to evil and that this propensity is present in all of us, ‘even the best’. There is much that is puzzling in Kant’s account of evil, including his saying that we can be known to be evil as a species, that it is a propensity that is ineradicable, universal, rooted in and woven into human nature yet imputable and based in a ‘deed of freedom’ (6: 21; 27–30); that it is incomprehensible yet somehow based in reason, that it is innate but not attributable to nature (6: 21), that it is inextirpable yet possible to overcome, that we cannot overcome it through our own unaided efforts (needing something like God’s grace), and the corruption evil involves seems to make it impossible for us to start the process of becoming better but this is still something we ought to do—and Kant holds that everything we ought to do is possible for us to do. I want to argue that there is a way of reading Kant’s account on which it in fact fits naturally together with, and even follows from, central parts of his account of practical reason. Further, I argue that his account is plausible, and that although Kant provides an explanation of the biblical notion of original sin, this account is consistent with a secular account of humans as not simply finite and imperfect moral agents, but deeply and systematically flawed. I argue that the very structure of practical reason, as Kant understands it, will lead to systematically flawed, corrupt and systematically self-deceived agency under certain conditions—those of living in injustice. I do not argue that living in injustice is the only explanation of a propensity to evil in Kant; but that it is part of the picture. My suggestion is that the way Kant thinks about the relation between practical reason and our political obligations has implications for the moral psychology of finite, embodied, imperfectly rational creatures who come to agency and realise agency in corrupt conditions. I also present a suggestion for a secular reading of our need for external help in renewing our agency.

About the speaker:

Lucy Allais did her undergraduate degree at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and post-graduate degrees at Oxford. She has a number of publications on Kant’s theoretical philosophy, primarily on transcendental idealism and on the non-conceptualism of intuition, including her 2015 book, Manifest Reality: Kant’s Idealism and his Realism (OUP). She has also published on forgiveness, restorative and retributive justice, and other topics in ethics. She is currently working on human freedom in Kant.

See you then!

Macquarie University Research Centre for Agency, Values and Ethics (CAVE)
Department of Philosophy
Macquarie University
Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia
CAVE website: mq.edu.au/cave<http://cave.mq.edu.au>

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