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The Riddle of the WorldA Reconsideration of Schopenhauer's Philosophy$
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Barbara Hannan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195378948

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195378948.001.0001

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Schopenhauer’s Anti-Kantian Account of Morality

Schopenhauer’s Anti-Kantian Account of Morality

Chapter:
(p.71) chapter three Schopenhauer’s Anti-Kantian Account of Morality
Source:
The Riddle of the World
Author(s):

Barbara Hannan (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195378948.003.0003

This chapter gives an overview of Kant's ethical theory, including both its appealing features and its problematic points. It notes that the following possess intuitive appeal: (1) Kant's notion that the maxim of a moral act must be universalizable; (2) Kant's insistence that rational beings are worthy of respect because they can overcome (at least some of) their desires and inclinations and act out of a sense of duty. It is argued, however, that Kant's theory of human psychology is unrealistic; reason alone cannot motivate action without any admixture of desire or inclination. The idea of a “categorical imperative” is criticized as unfounded and nonsensical, and it is argued that all imperatives are necessarily hypothetical. Kant's remarks condemning suicide are compared with Schopenhauer's; both are criticized. Schopenhauer's ethics of compassion is defended. Wittgenstein's views on ethics, and his “saying”/“showing” distinction, are discussed, and it is argued that these views have Schopenhauerian roots.

Keywords:   categorical imperative, compassion, duty, hypothetical imperative, inclination, maxim, motivation, saying/showing, suicide, universalizability

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