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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

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

Barbara Hannan (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

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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