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Empty, Useless, and Dangerous? Recent Kantian Replies to the Empty Formalism Objection

Freyenhagen, Fabian (2011) 'Empty, Useless, and Dangerous? Recent Kantian Replies to the Empty Formalism Objection.' Hegel Bulletin, 32 (1-2). 163 - 186. ISSN 2051-5367

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Abstract

<jats:p>Like two heavyweight boxers exchanging punches, but neither landing the knock-out blow, Kantians and Hegelians seem to be in a stand-off on what in contemporary parlance is known as the Empty Formalism Objection. Kant's ethics is charged with being merely formal and thereby failing to provide the kind of specific guidance that any defensible ethical system should have the resources to provide. Hegel is often credited with having formulated this objection in its most incisive way, and a wealth of Kantian responses has been deployed to answer it. In this paper, I take up the objection as it appears in §135R of <jats:italic>Elements of the Philosophy of Right</jats:italic> in order to scrutinise the contemporary debate between the two camps. I propose that there are, in fact, three different, albeit connected objections and examine (what I take to be) the best Kantian replies to them. I will not adjudicate which of these replies is the most accurate interpretation of Kant's texts, nor trace the particular historical context in which Hegel takes up Kant's ethics, nor the way the Empty Formalism Objection fits into Hegel's wider system. This is partly because of constraints of space, and partly because many of the contemporary Kantian replies — for better or for worse — treat the Empty Formalism Objection as a self-standing philosophical problem, irrespective of its historical context or systematic place in Hegel's theory. My limited aim here is to show that, even if one grants — for argument's sake — the legitimacy of such a non-contextual approach, significant difficulties remain.</jats:p>

Item Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Fabian Freyenhagen
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2012 16:33
Last Modified: 04 May 2019 02:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/2643

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