what is the difference between Kant's "things in themselves" and Locke's secondary qualities? (I don't see the "real" difference other than semantics). thanks, Todd

Secondary qualities are properties that a thing appears topossess for certain observers of this thing. On reflection, however, secondaryqualities turn out to be ways in which certain observers are affected by thething in question. Colors are an example. Colors are not genuine propertiesinherent in things but rather ways in which human beings with normal eyesightare affected by certain things they encounter. Secondary qualities are thus to be explainedby reference to both: the object with its “primary” qualities and the perceptual apparatus of a specificobserver of this object. The doctrine of secondary qualities brings with it thethought of the object as it is apart from whatever qualities it merely appearsto possess for certain observers. You can call this the thing it itself, thething considered apart from its merely apparent, observer-dependent properties.So the two expressions you query are not at all synonymous but rathercorrelative: “thing in itself” refers to an object as it is apart...

When a philosopher describes his or her work as a "critique" of something, what exactly do they mean? Is there a general consensus among philosophers or are there different possibilities? I assume it means something different or more specific than what we ordinarily mean by "criticism", right? Thanks!

Immanuel Kant used this word in the titles of his most important books, and Kant's use has greatly influenced the sense this word has in later philosophy. By a critique Kant means a critical examination, which will sometimes criticize or undermine a view or method but sometimes also justify and vindicate it.

Do academics in particular have a moral responsibility to be outspokenly critical of social injustice?

The journal Ethics and International Affairs had a symposium on this question very recently, see www.ethicsandinternationalaffairs.org/2012/summer-2012-issue-26-2/ -- focused mostly of the topic of world poverty as addressed by the new organization Academics Stand Against Poverty (www.academicsstand.org). <Fair disclosure, I have been involved with both ASAP and the E&IA symposium.>

Hi there, I'm 17 years old and currently reading the Critique of Pure Reason in the German language (which happens to be my first language so that's no problem). While reading, one question has arised: How does Kant actually prove the existence of the thing in itself? He argues that the thing in itself stimulates the senses and thereby effects perception. This is an appliance of causality, which is -according to Kant himself- appropiate only in the realm of phenomena. Is this a mistake of Kant? Does he disprove idealism in another part of that book? Is it enough that the existence of the thing in itself is possible to think? Does this have something to do with existence being no predicate? I'm looking forward to an answer.

Kant's transcendental idealism explains the fact that experience presents us objects in a certain spatio-temporal order about which we can have some a priori knowledge by reference to a human capacity, our sensibility, through which alone we can become aware of objects. According to this explanation, space and time are then features only of objects as they appear to us. Confronted with this explanation, we are prone to ask what these objects are like apart from our sensibility, apart from how they appear to us (as spatio-temporal). Within Kant's own account, the concept of a thing in itself answers to this reflection: a thing in itself is any ordinary object (including event) considered apart from the spatio-temporal features it has by virtue of being an object for us (i.e. for beings with our human sensibility). Things in themselves are then the familiar objects of our experience, but considered in abstraction from their spatio-temporal features. And their existence is then no more problematic (if we...

Kant's contradiction of the will seems to suggest that it is inconsistent for us to allow abortion; that it is inconsistent to simultaneously will that we live and that allow that our mother could have had an abortion (meaning we wouldn't live...) However, I find this a little unconvincing but can't quite get it down. Is it not consistent to argue that the rights of me as a foetus are overridden by my mother's rights as an adult and that I will everybody to be treated according to the rights the can claim despite the consequences? Thanks a lot in advance!

Kant's contradiction in the will test suggests what you say it suggests only on the assumption that, as a rational agent, one necessarily wills one's own existence. Most human beings are happy to be alive, but it does not follow from this that any human (let alone any rational) being must will its own existence. Indeed, some philosophers have argued that, by giving birth to them, their parents violated their rights. So I think the best way to reject the Kantian argument you are suspicious about is to reject its premise that a rational being necessarily wills its own existence. Something Kant did think rational beings necessarily will is the continued existence of rational life. Using this premise instead, we might get a moral rule against abortion when the survival of the human race hangs in the balance. Suppose rational beings found themselves in a world where, if they all took themselves to be permitted to act on the maxim to have an abortion whenever doing so promises a more pleasant life,...

Is Kant's Categorical imperative overly dependent on empirical considerations? I think it is since judging the morality of an action by asking what would happen if everybody did the same thing means that the morality of an action is dependent on the contingent features of the world that produce that effect. If everyone did a certain thing then there would be chaos so that is not good Kant seems to say. Well that chaos of course depends less on the nature of the action and it underlying intentions than on the world that action took place in. If everyone stole then society would fall apart but that seems to have more to do with principles of sociology than something that pertains to ethics.

You suggest that Kant's criterion of wrong conduct turns on this question: "If everyone acted the way I am proposing to act, would this have undesirable consequences?" I think Kant's actual question differs in two respects. Kant is not asking whether the agent would like some fictional world (find it desirable), but whether the agent can will it and her own proposed conduct in it. And the world Kant envisioned is not one in which all act the way the agent is proposing to act, but one in which all are permitted (and take themselves to be permitted) so to act. So Kant's question is: "Can I will the action I am considering along with its universal permission?" The basic idea here is that I should not permit myself an action that I cannot permit all others at the same time. Let's see how this plays out in Kant's promising example. The agent considers extricating himself from financial difficulty by making a false (lying) promise. He then asks himself whether, in a world in which all took themselves to...

Have philosophers before the 20th century had anything good to say about women? Schopenhauer and Nietzsche obviously did not have very nice things to say and Kant said they were better for matters of beauty and Hegel compared them with plants but I don't know if that is a bad thing since he compared men with animals but I don't know if any philosopher ever said anything good. (I just remembered Mill said good things but I don't who else.)

Plato calls in his Republic for women to participate as equals in the activities of citizenship, saying that surely many women are more excellent than some men and that less excellent women should be disqualified from various roles (along with less excellent males) on account of their lesser excellence rather than on account of their gender.

It seems to me that Kant's categorical imperative implies that we all have a duty to procreate. Is this actually the case? I say this because it seems that any person choosing not having children would be forced to admit that, if their behavior was made a universal law, society would collapse, with a slowly aging and ailing population and nobody to take care of them. Society would die out, and the last generation before the end would be helpless geriatrics suffering the problems of old age with nobody younger to look after them. So do Kantian ethics actually demand that we have children? Or is there a subtler way of looking at the issue?

I used exactly this example in an essay published over 20 years ago as one of the arguments in support of a more subtle interpretation that had been first proposed by Tim Scanlon. On this reading, it is the permission one is claiming for oneself that is to be universalized. So instead of asking whether one can will that all people act on one's maxim of remaining childless, one is to ask instead whether one can will that all people be permitted to remain childless. In the world as it is, we can certainly will this universal permission (because enough others would decide to conceive even without a duty to do so), and therefore each of us is permitted to act on the maxim in question.

Was there any recorded case of Kant exercising his ethics and perhaps being put in an awkward social situation (I will not lie, I do want to see Kant put in an awkward situation!)? In every day life, one must tell lies every now and then, and it is an accepted part of society (so I think). I find it really hard for Kant to exercise his ethics.

A case very similar to the one you imagine is found in Kant's writing. The case is so widespread in academic life that we can be pretty sure that Kant was speaking from experience. An author comes up to you and asks: "How do you like my publication?". Well, you actually don't think much of it at all. So what to do? Kant considers that there may be some (perhaps humorous) way of avoiding a straight answer; but it must be found very quickly, because the author has his eyes firmly fixed on you and will be distraught at the slightest hesitation. So is it alright to mislead this poor author -- perhaps with adjectives such as "interesting", "amazing", "unexpected", "special", "solid", "painstaking", which, in his hunger for confirmation, he will understand as praise for the quality of his work? Is it alright to stretch words beyond ordinary vagueness, saying that it's a "good" book, or at least a "decent" one -- or that you "got a lot out of it" or "enjoyed reading it"? Kant doesn't answer his question....

I guess Kant said that it is ALWAYS wrong to lie, even in the most extreme circumstances (and not only Kant, see Jonathan Westphal's answer to question 2701). I do not want to discuss that. But would you explain me why did he think that? Why didn't he just say that "in normal circumstances" it's wrong to lie. Or that it is wrong to lie "when no other value is disregarded by not lying"? Or something like that... Why did Kant (and some modern philosophers) feel he should make such an extreme claim? It's just that Kant's opinion seems to be so contrary to common sense that there must have been a good reason for him to have it... What reason was (or is) that?

Kant believed that you should only permit yourself to do what you could will all others to be permitted to do as well. So you are to ask yourself: what if the maxim on which I am about to act were available to all others as well? Here is an example. Hijackers are holding 200 passengers hostage in a plane. They are threatening to kill passengers one by one unless their demands are met. Being the designated police negotiator, you might be able to win time by telling them, falsely, that the government is making arrangements toward meeting some of their demands. Here Kant would say: suppose your proposed maxim -- lie to hijackers to postpone the execution of hostages -- were universally available. Then everyone would understand that such lies are permissible. And then hijackers could not be influenced by such lies -- they, too, would know that in a situation like the present you are permitted to lie. So the lie you are about to permit to yourself can work only because this permission isn't universal...