Kant and Equality

7623 Words Mar 9th, 2013 31 Pages
KANT AND EQUALITY
Some readers of this essay will have become impatient by now; because they believe that the problem that perplexes me has been definitively solved by Immanuel Kant. It is certainly true that Kant held strong opinions on this matter. In an often-quoted passage, he reports a personal conversion from elitism: “I am myself a researcher by inclination. I feel the whole thirst for knowledge and the eager unrest to move further on into it, also satisfaction with each acquisition. There was a time when I thought this alone could constitute the honor of humanity and despised the know nothing rabble. Rousseau set me straight. This delusory superiority vanishes, I learn to honor men, and I would find myself more useless than a
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Individuals who equally have the capacity to set an end may well differ in the quality of their end-setting performances. Some are able to set ends more reasonably than others. But these differences in performance do not gainsay the fundamental equal capacity. It is just that having a high or low level of associated capacities enables or impedes successful performance. So the fact that individuals differ in their abilities to do arithmetic and more complex mathematical operations that affect their ability to make rational choices should have no tendency to obscure the more basic and morally status-conferring equality in the capacity of each person to make choices. In response: First of all, if several of these no degree capacities were relevant to moral status, one must possess all to be at the top status, and some individuals possess more and others fewer of the relevant capacities, a problem of hierarchy, though perhaps a manageable one, would emerge anew. More important, I doubt there is a plausible no degree capacity that can do the work this argument assigns to it. Take the capacity to set ends and make choices. Consider a being that has little brain power, but over the course of its life can set just a few ends and make just a few choices based on considering two or three simple alternatives. It sets one end (lunch, now) per decade three times over the course of its life. If there is

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