Manual The Ways of the Will: Selected Essays, Expanded Edition

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In the first place, Guyer claims that we can understand Kant's moral theory as a species of moral perfectionism. Although Kant rejects certain forms of perfectionism, especially the traditional version of it held by his rationalist predecessor Wolff, Guyer claims that Kant does not reject the view that perfection is the goal of morality.

As he interprets Kant, Kant holds that the end of morality is precisely to perfect ourselves, by perfecting our quality of will, or our power of choice Kantian perfectionism entails striving to exercise our capacity for free choice in a way that is consistent with itself and with the exercise of that same capacity by others, which is to say, in a way that satisfies the rational constraint of universalizability In the second place, Guyer explains that freedom is foundational for Kant's moral theory in that it is the very source of our moral obligations.

In other words, Kant's central concept of duty can be understood in terms of preserving and promoting intra- and inter-personal freedom -- to abide by duty and to conform one's actions to the moral law is to act in ways that protect and promote freedom of choice. With respect to perfect duties, in abiding by them, we preserve the possibility of further choices for ourselves and for others affected by them. With respect to imperfect duties, in acting in ways to fulfill them, we promote our freedom of choice or that of others, by expanding rather than contracting the range of possible ends that can be set or willed.

Selected Essays

In the third place, Guyer explains that freedom as the capacity to set our own ends brings with it its own kind of satisfaction. Although the pursuit of self-chosen ends will inevitably expose us to the frustration of failing to realize at least some of them, the satisfaction we find in having freely chosen our own ends will ultimately outweigh such frustration Several of the essays contain thoughtful discussions about the relationship between positive freedom, satisfaction, and happiness. As I read Guyer, he thinks that Kant recognizes a particular feeling of satisfaction we feel in exercising our freedom of choice positive freedom that is distinct from both the satisfaction of inclination empirical happiness as well as the tranquility that results from avoiding difficult-to-satisfy desires and confining ourselves to readily satisfied ones the value of negative freedom.

Guyer's account of the special sense of satisfaction we find in exercising and realizing our freedom of choice strikes me as an important and overlooked aspect of what might ultimately be a broader Kantian conception of happiness or, perhaps better, well-being. Readers interested in understanding Kant's views on happiness and its relation to what Kant tends to characterize as a form of moral self-contentment or rational satisfaction that follows from the recognition of one's virtue will benefit from paying special attention to Guyer's account of the contentment we experience in exercising and realizing our freedom to set our own ends.

Issue #43, Fall/Winter 2011

A second major theme is that Kant can be understood as holding a view Guyer labels "normative essentialism. When Guyer introduces the notion of normative essentialism, he initially defines it as follows:.

This is the position, whether it can be understood empirically, as Kant did in the late s, or can only be understood through the metaphysics of transcendental idealism, as he did after , that human beings are capable of setting their own ends and to treat them otherwise is as it were to deny the most obvious truths about them, the impermissibility of which needs no explanation other than logic alone viii.

Guyer's suggestion that we can read Kant as a normative essentialist merits careful consideration, but I was unclear about exactly how we should understand the view. At times, Guyer seems to understand normative essentialism as a position in normative ethics, or to represent a normative claim or principle concerning how we ought to treat all rational agents ourselves and others.

Here, the idea is that we ought always to treat rational beings as if they were free in all of their actions; failing to do so amounts to contradicting the essential concept of what it is to be a human being and is morally objectionable for that metaphysical reason 49; cf. In other words, Kant presumes that freedom belongs to us as part of our very essence, and because of this metaphysical fact, to be treated in a way that minimizes or undermines one's freedom is to be treated in a way that contradicts one's true essence as a rational being More specifically, Guyer sees the contradiction tied up with violating this normative principle as a logical contradiction, for it amounts to treating a being that has free agency and a will as if she does not.

At other times, Guyer characterizes normative essentialism slightly differently, as if it is best understood as a position in metaethics more generally. Understood as a metaethical approach to the question of normativity, normative essentialism attempts to derive the moral "ought" from a description of our rational nature or essence. Although metaethical normative essentialism need not rely on transcendental idealism, it looks as if Guyer thinks that Kant's attempts to employ this strategy in arguing for the validity of the moral law often appeal to transcendental idealism.

Guyer claims, for instance, that normative essentialism might have been anticipated by Plato, but that Kant's defense of it on the basis of the distinction between our phenomenal and noumenal selves is decidedly novel Of course, this need not imply that transcendental idealism is always part of normative essentialism, but at times it seems as if Guyer views the doctrine of normative essentialism as more often than not involving attempts to prove the validity of the moral law by appeal to metaphysical claims about our noumenal selves 17; cf.

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Finally, there are passages in which Guyer treats normative essentialism most simply as an axiological commitment on Kant's part about what has unconditioned value in his ethics. For example, Guyer notes that the substance of normative essentialism is "the idea that the freedom of all, humanity in my own person and that of every other, is the inner worth of the world" It might well be the case that normative essentialism is usefully understood as capturing a Kantian normative ethics, a Kantian account of value, and a Kantian metaethical view about the nature of normativity -- something that would indeed be an interesting result based on Guyer's original interpretation.

I take it that, as a metaethical approach, normative essentialism is a form of moral realism, which holds that we can derive normative claims from an account of facts about our essence as rational beings. Kant often appeals to transcendental idealism in making such arguments, but he and Kantians need not do so.

Collected Essays

This second broad theme in Guyer's volume should be a rich source of further research for anyone interested in Kantian metaethics, especially because it seems to provide a viable alternative to what now seems to be a dominant constructivist interpretation of Kant's account of value, most prominently advanced by Christine Korsgaard. All of the essays advance scholarly debates about Kant's philosophy in notable ways.

Guyer's analysis reflects a mastery of Kant's corpus and a deep knowledge of the relevant views of Kant's most important predecessors and contemporaries. Guyer is also adept at showing how Kant's systematic concerns about normativity and freedom of choice connect with contemporary debates in ethical theory and metaethics. The psychologist Leslie Farber, who died in , has been revered as one of the most astute observers of the human condition and a writer of penetrating wisdom.

His essays, on topics as diverse as the pornographic anguish of jealousy and the despair of psychotherapy, were collected in The Ways of the Will and Lying, Despair, Jealousy, Envy, Sex, Suicide, Drugs, and the Good Life and have been out of print for nearly twenty years. Based partly on his experiences as a therapist, but more importantly on his special insight, Dr.

The Ways Of The Will : Selected Essays, Expanded Edition -

Farber's observations provide us with a unique glimpse into ourselves that is frequently startling, but in the end always consoling. About the Author Leslie H. Farber was Chairman of the Washington, D. He was a frequent contributor to Commentary, Times Literary Supplement, Harper's, and other magazines.

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He died in Emily Fox Gordon, author of Mockingbird Years. A treasure-trove of insight, wit, and wisdom…keeps alive a major contribution to our ongoing struggle to understand ourselves.

  • Preface to the English-Language Edition.
  • A Tour on the Prairies (Western Frontier Library).
  • Prospect in Pediatric Diseases Medicine;
  • The Kalahari Environment;
  • Boron Science: New Technologies and Applications.
  • Reader Reviews.

Stephen A. Mitchell, author of Freud and Beyond. This book is that rarest of things in psychoanalysis: an essential and pleasurable text. Adam Phillips, author of Darwin's Worms. This new publication will be a teaching boon: a means of handing along a deservedly respected sage to our students. Farber's legacy is both delicate and profound.