Philosophische Zeitschrift der Kant-Gesellschaft
Ed. by Baum, Manfred / Dörflinger, Bernd / Klemme, Heiner F.
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On the alleged Vacuity of Kant's Concept of Evil
Citation Information: Kant Studien. Volume 97, Issue 4, Pages 430–451, ISSN (Online) 1613-1134, ISSN (Print) 0022-8877, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/KANT.2006.027, December 2006
- Published Online:
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in Kant's doctrine of radical evil, arising from as diverse quarters as philosophy, psychoanalysis and the social sciences. This interest has contributed to the revival of the notion of evil, which had been displaced from the center of philosophical discussion in the 20th century. A common trait in the recent literature is that it takes the relevance of the use of the concept of evil for granted. Yet, before understanding what Kant really means by radical evil, it seems appropriate to ask first whether the notion of evil as such is necessary. For, given its religious background, this notion elicits expectations that may be incompatible with the secular concerns of moral philosophy. Such misgivings are aggravated by additional doubts about the concept's explanatory function in the first place. The pertinence of reviving a concept so allegedly flawed cannot be taken at face value. Thus, the task I set for myself here is to show the necessity of the concept of evil as it lies at the core of Kant's moral philosophy already in the Groundwork, far before he actually coins the notion of “radical evil” in the Religion. Whether this latter account is defensible or not, we will at least be sure that talk about an evil which is said to be radical is not in vain.