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International conference
KANTIAN ETHICS AND MORAL LIFE 2012

Venue: City Campus, University of Antwerp, Belgium
Date: 20-21 September 2012
Organizers: University of Antwerp, Ghent University & Tilburg University

CONFIRMED SPEAKERS

Marcus Duewell (Universiteit Utrecht)
Paul Guyer (University of Pennsylvania)
Barbara Herman (UCLA)
Pauline Kleingeld (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen)
Jens Timmermann (University of St. Andrews)

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS

In addition to the plenary sessions there will be room for presentations of short papers (20-30 min). If you wish to contribute, please send an abstract of 500 words to liesbet.vanhaute (at) ua.ac.be. The deadline for submission is 30 September 2011. Participants whose abstract is accepted will be asked to send in a full paper by May 2012.

THEME

A vast amount of literature on Kant’s moral philosophy tends to focus on the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and the Critique of Practical Reason, discussing Kant’s views about the ground of morality and its supreme principle, the categorical imperative, (the relation between) its formulas, the good will and moral motivation, and the problems and requirements of rational agency. This focus tends to reaffirm the image of Kantian ethics as an abstract, formalistic and rigorist theory. Asking to adopt the law of pure reason as the only principle of morality, while sketching human beings as weak, deficient and often irrational creatures, Kantian ethics seems to suggest that the gap between its ideal of virtue and human nature is unbridgeable.

In the last decades however, a number of scholars has shown that a less formalistic and rigorist reading of Kant’s moral philosophy is possible. A more complete, detailed and balanced picture of Kantian ethics appears by focusing on the views Kant presents in The Metaphysics of Morals and Lectures on Ethics. These works offer a fruitful analysis of themes like human virtue, moral feeling and the role of moral education. Also, Kant’s Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason and Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View provide insightful discussions of the human existential moral condition. The theory of human morality that Kant develops in these writings provides a vital antidote to the so-called abstract rationalism and formalism of his moral philosophy. It shows that Kantian ethics is capable of offering us an attractive and feasible moral theory.

Even this new approach cannot conceal, however, that Kantian ethics is very demanding. It requires that the standards of pure practical reason are taken into account as overriding concerns in every practical deliberation. And even though one can argue that Kantian ethics is right to ask this, it still leaves open the question of how to meet these standards in various concrete situations. Thus, even for contemporary Kantian ethics, a number of questions remain unanswered. How to live a moral life in the Kantian sense? How to take into account Kantian moral concerns as a citizen, a politician, a businessman, a member of a family, etc.? How to give shape to Kantian virtue as an individual? How to estimate the moral import of features that are inextricably bound up with our existence as human (finite and sensuous) beings?

The conference Kantian Ethics and Moral Life aims at bringing together influential authors and young Kant scholars, permitting the participants to engage into a debate concerning the various facets of Kant’s views on how human beings can lead a moral life and on what features are necessary and distinctive for leading a moral life. It welcomes exegetical papers on topics related to Kant’s account of moral life as well as papers that present a Kantian approach to specific problems in (applied) ethics. Papers are also invited to question and challenge Kant’s thought for its present-day relevance. Over the last decades, the new, more balanced Kantian approach has taken root in various fields of applied ethics, such as animal ethics, human rights and international solidarity, medical ethics and business ethics. The conference welcomes contributions from moral philosophers who have been inspired by recent Kantian thinking to reflect on urgent issues such as our duties towards (farm) animals, our duties towards (far away) strangers, the nature of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the moral status of the corporation.


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