chapter  4
17 Pages

Kant: Action, the Good and their Common Categories

Many have followed Rawls’ view that the Aristotelian conception of the Good is opposed to the Kantian procedural conception of the Right. According to this picture, Kant’s universal moral law is independent of any ontology of action, let alone of any Aristotelian identifi cation of actions with perfect activities. If this were actually the case, my argument regarding the prominent role of the concepts of action and prakton in ethics would run the risk of being alien to modern ways of thinking and ill-suited to assimilate the post-Kantian concept of freedom. Hence I intend to exploit Kant’s complementary strategy of latently bringing into play a specifi c ontological description of action, which is indispensable not to the very recognition of the moral law as such, but to rendering the moral law as practically instructive as possible. My aim will be to show that both Aristotelian and Kantian ethics integrate an ontology of action and, what is more, that they share a common view about how the concept of action enables us to think of the good. This, it seems to me, may be the interpretative key to reaching a synthesis of Aristotle’s and Kant’s ethics, a synthesis to which current moral theories often aspire. In particular, following a long tradition of Kantian scholars, I will suggest that the moral law cannot admit of any intuitive content unless illuminated by the categories of action as such, namely, by the categories of freedom. Conversely, if one renounces any appeal to the categories of freedom, then moral law, while still intelligible and compelling, will not supply us with practical knowledge of how to detect or understand the moral salience of our actions and deeds. This re-interpretation of the categories of freedom will also serve to enrich the sort of moral realism I defend with a conception of the categories proper to the moral world.