[lit-ideas] Re: Can we do what we ought to do?

  • From: wokshevs@xxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 19 Aug 2006 20:36:02 -0230

Quoting Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>:

> Walter Okshevsky wrote:
> "I think K. believes that if we have an obligation to P, then we can P."

To which Phil Replied:

> We are justified in believing this only if there is a harmony between
> the causality of the world and the dictates of the moral law.  We can't
> know this.  

>If we can't know that such a harmony exists, two fundamental
> questions must be answered:
> 1. Why does the obligation to P entail any conclusions about what is
> possible in nature?
> 2. What ensures that any action in nature satisfies the obligation?

W: I'm desperately trying to keep the discussion secular and humanist, as K.
himself did. How's this?:

For Kant, I have a (perfect) duty to not commit suicide and not make
lying-promises to promote my self-interests. Re 2 above: respectively, the fact
that I'm still alive and have never attempted to take my life, and the fact
that I have not made a lying-promise yesterday even though if I had I'd have
more BP/Amoco stock today. 

Re 1 above: (Very complicated but I think I'm on the right track. Help much
appreciated.) What is possible in nature is defined by transcendental
subjectivity. No theoretical knowledge of nature is possible independent of the
a-priori contributions  made by the subject's faculties of intuition and
understanding. Similarly, no moral knowledge is possible that is not
transcendentally structured by freedom and practical reason. The moral universe
is as such projected by (the project of) transcendental subjectivity. What is
understood to be an obligation is understood to be necessary for an agent to
perform. But nothing can be necessary for a subject to perform that cannot
possibly be performed. An impossible obligation is as self-contradictory as
contradictory obligations in a moral universe. But the moral universe is not
"nature" as understood in some empiricist, theist or other non-transcendental
way. The form of law that is common to both "the starry heavens above" and "the
moral order within" possesses transcendental status. Neither of these realms
refer to a "nature" that exists as if external and adventitious to
transcendental subjectivity such that we could intelligibly ask "How do we get
to obligation from nature?" or conversely. 

Walter C. Okshevsky
Memorial U

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