The Apple of Kant’s Ethics: i-Maxims as the Locus of Assessment

10 Mar 2023 04.00 PM - 05.30 PM SHHK Meeting Room 4 (SHHK-04-71) Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public

A maxim is a subjective principle of volition. But I want to distinguish between maxims at three levels of abstraction. At the first level are what I shall call individual maxims, or i-maxims: maxim tokens as adopted by particular rational beings. At the second level are abstract maxims, or a-maxims: abstract principles distinct from any individual who adopts them. At the third level are maxim kinds, or k-maxims: sets of various action-guiding principles that are grouped on the basis of their content. In this paper, I argue for the thesis that i-maxims are the locus of assessment in Kant’s ethics. I argue for this thesis in two ways. First I argue that there is textual evidence in favor of my thesis. Then I argue that there are good philosophical grounds in favor of my thesis. Thus, I argue that there are reasons to think that Kant thought i-maxims are the locus of assessment and, further, that he was right about this. 

About the Speaker

Samuel Kahn is currently an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. He received dual degrees in Philosophy and Bioengineering in 2005 from the University of Pennsylvania, and he received a PhD in Philosophy in 2012 from Stanford University. He has been the recipient of numerous prizes and scholarships, including a Fulbright in 2008 and a Geballe in 2011. In 2013 Samuel won the Review of Metaphysics dissertation essay contest, and in 2015 he was included in the Prindle Institute for Ethics Young Philosophers Lecture Series. His work on Kant has won the prestigious Markus Herz prize (2011), and he is the first person to win the North American Kant Society Wilfrid Sellars prize twice (2019, 2021). He has published over 30 articles and book reviews in journals including Ethics, Kantian Review, Kant Studien, and British Journal for the History of Philosophy. His first research monograph, Kant, Ought Implies Can, the Principle of Alternate Possibilities, and Happiness, appeared with an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield in 2018; his second, Kant’s Theory of Conscience, appeared in the Cambridge University Press Element series in 2021.