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The Journal of Aesthetic Education, Volume 48, Number 3, Fall 2014,


pp. 127-142 (Article)
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DOI: 10.1353/jae.2014.0023

For additional information about this article


http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/jae/summary/v048/48.3.guyer.html

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Paul Guyer
1. Klas Roth
In Klas Roths essay in this issue of JAE, Making Ourselves Intelligible
Rendering Ourselves Efficacious and Autonomous, without Fixed Ends,
his invocation of Stanley Cavells remark that we should avoid or resist
becoming ... the slaves of our slavishness (31) makes clear why he and I
are both so deeply attracted to Kant as well as to Cavell, for it was none other
than Kant, not, for example, Nietzsche, who introduced the term slavish
for everything that is to be avoided in morality. (This was in his footnote to
Part I in the second edition of Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason,
in which he was essentially arguing that Schillers conception of dignity in
Grace and Dignity was too Kantian!) So there are no great disagreements between Roth and me, but his friendly as well as thoughtful paper raises two
points that I can perhaps briefly amplify.
First, Roth stresses that, in both Cavell and Kant, autonomy is a matter
of being constantly open to self-criticism and self-transformation: in words
that he uses in reference to Cavell, engag[ing] in transforming society and
ourselves continuously (Roth, Making Ourselves Intelligible, 29), and in
words that he uses in reference to Kant, we face the task of unifying ourselves in term of efficacy and autonomy ... by attributing [to ourselves] the
capacity of setting and pursuing ... ends and by distancing ourselves from,
reflecting on, and possibly also challenging and changing the particular ends
we set to us ... an open-ended endeavor, something to strive for in terms of its
degree, because of the frailty (fragilitas) of human nature (36). This may make
it sound as if autonomy is simply self-development, something that seems
very different from the property of the will by which it is a law to itself,1
a causality in accordance with immutable laws but of a special kind.2 That
is, Kants description of autonomy may seem to stress lawfulness and immutability rather than or even at the cost of self-exploration and openness to
change or mutability. And Onora ONeill, for one, has often stressed the difference between a contemporary conception of autonomy as personal freedom
and Kants conception of autonomy as obedience to a universally valid law.3
Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 48, No. 3, Fall 2014
2014 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

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But I think that Roth is entirely right to stress the importance of individual
openness and change as part of the Kantian conception of autonomy, for the
law of the will, different from any natural law but a law for all that, which the
autonomous agent makes his own law, is nothing other than the moral law, in
its most important formulation the law to treat humanity, whether in oneself
or others, always as an end and never merely a means;4 and humanity is, in
turn, nothing but the capacity to set oneself an endany end whatsoever:5
so what Kantian autonomy commands is precisely making contemporary, individual autonomy ones end, although only in oneself always, not just now,
and only in others, not just oneself. The contemporary notion of autonomy is
at odds with Kants only if it is taken to privilege setting ones own end on any
occasion in isolation from the larger project of privileging the life-long capacity to set ends in both ones self and others; as long as it is not so understood,
then Kantian and contemporary autonomy are not competing or alternative
notions but complementary: Kantian autonomy is a second-order conception
that requires the maximization of personal autonomy at the first level, though,
again, ones personal autonomy over a lifetime, not just at a moment, and
ones personal autonomy in harmony with the harmony of others, not just on
its own. This is what Kant means by the self-consistent or greatest possible
use of freedom, as he describes it in the Lectures on Ethics. And while it is this
first- or ground-level aspect of autonomy on which Cavell concentrates, I take
it that his emphases on the fact that others can be examples of freedom for us
and, moreover, that we can only achieve our own freedom in concert with
others means that he recognizes the second level of autonomy as well.
Second, this brings us to the role of examples. What I have just said is that
the freedom of others, for example, of the heroine in a comedy of remarriage
without whom the hero finally realizes he cannot freely live, is not merely
an example for us but a condition of the possibility of our own freedom (although, to be sure, not every example of freedom for me is a necessary condition of my own freedomfor example, that of a fictional character with
whom I cannot literally interact, not being one) but at least some examples
of freedom for me must also be conditions of my freedomfor example, my
wife, my daughter, my siblings, my friends, sometimes strangers, or even
enemies whom chance or fate throws in my way. But the point I want to
emphasize here is just that there is a paradox in the idea of another being an
example of freedom for me, for I must emulate the other in being free, which
is precisely to say in not emulating him or her. This is the paradox of Socrates
as a role model that Alexander Nehamas has so elegantly described in The
Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault.6 But the answer to this
is that it only seems to be a paradox; it is not really one, at least as long as
we can think at two levels: at one level of abstraction, what we must learn
from another is to act as he or she does, namely, freely; but, at another level,
what that means is that we learn to act not precisely like the other. And this is

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precisely the resolution for which Kant gives us a model, not in his account
of the beautiful or the sublime but in his account of artistic genius, which
produces work against which others may test their own talent, letting it
serve them as a model not for copying but for imitation (Nachahmung),7
or perhaps better for emulationwhat we are to learn from the work of a
genius is not merely aping originality but actually being original.8 We
cannot easily say how this happens, Kant insists, but it does.
The implication of this, of course, is that, just as everyone is not capable
of artistic genius, so perhaps not everyone is equally capable of autonomy
at both its levelsthere will be moral mannerists or apes as well as artistic
ones. We can hope, however, that there are fewer moral than artistic mannerists and also, since as we have seen, autonomy is a two-level notion, that
many or most of those who may not be geniuses at first-level autonomy can
still achieve autonomy at the second level, treating freedom in themselves
and others always as an end and never merely a means, even if they do not
quite know what to do with it beyond that.

2. Pradeep Dhillon
In Examples of Moral Perfectionism from a Global Perspective, Pradeep
Dhillon offers a fascinating discussion of the global potential of Cavellian
perfectionism and brings examples of exemplary artworks from well outside the Cavellian canon to our attention.
Dhillon emphasizes Cavells statement that being human is the power to
grant being human. Something about flesh and blood elicits this grant from
us, and something about flesh and blood can also repel it (Examples of
Moral Perfectionism, 48). This remark has multiple implications. For one,
it reminds us that humans are made of flesh and blood but are, unlike other
creatures of flesh and blood, free, free at least to grant or withhold recognition as equally human to each other and indeed to themselves. However one
understands freedom, whether as lodged in a noumenal will or not, this requires a complex understanding of human being. Second, Cavells remark
that flesh and blood can both elicit and repel recognition reminds me of Kants
favorite image of both the natural and the moral world, as depending on both
attractive and repulsive forces, in the case of the moral world on love to draw
us together but also on justice to maintain proper boundaries among us. One
place where Kant deploys this imagery is in his account of friendship, which
he describes as the union of two persons through equal mutual love and
respect. ... For love can be regarded as attraction and respect as repulsion,
and if the principle of love bids friends to draw closer, the principle of respect
requires them to stay at a proper distance from each other.9 I think we need to
recognize this complexity of a moral relationship even to our closest friends.
Yet even hedged in this way, friendship cannot be our model for our

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moral relationships to all of humanity. Kant recognized this in his distinction between duties of justice and duties of virtue, as did other eighteenthcentury philosophers in similar distinctions, for example, Lord Kames in his
criticism of Francis Hutchesons attempt to found justice in our approbation
of benevolence rather than in a separate sense of its own,10 which was followed by Adam Smith, a student of Hutcheson but proteg of Kames, in his
argument that our revulsion at unprovoked injury to others is a separate
response from our sympathetic approbation of benevolence to them.11 In
Kants case, the key distinction is between our perfect duty not to impose
any limitation on the freedom of action of others in any way that we would
not accept for ourselves, and our imperfect duty of love to actually promote
the happiness of others by promoting their own freely chosen ends. (This
is the complement to our imperfect duty to self-perfection, which Richard
Eldridge mentions in his essay in this journal.) The implication of Kants
distinction, of course, is that, since duties of justice are essentially negative
duties of omission or noninterference, it is within our powers to extend justice to all, but that, since duties of love are positive duties of commission, the
limited resources of any of us prevent us from meaningfully acting on love
to all and require us to recognize that some have greater claims on us than
others, whether because of relations in which we stand to them involuntarily, as in the case of our relation to our parents, or because of relations in
which we stand to them voluntarily, as in the case of our spouses or lovers,
children, or friends in the ordinary senseall ceteris paribus, of course, since
even parents and children can do things that put them beyond the pale of
our love if not of bare justice.
To be sure, treating others with justice as well as with love requires that we
recognize their humanity, their similarity to ourselves; we do not owe justice
to cats and dogs, even if on some accounts we do love them and might even
owe them duties of love. (Kant himself includes our duties to nonhuman nature among the duties of virtue, not the duties of justice, and describes such
duties as duties regarding other beings but to ourselves: his objection to cruelty
or destructiveness towards nonhuman nature is that it rubs off on the way we
treat ourselves and fellow humans.) So the kind of recognition of shared humanity through art that Dhillon describes in the cases of The Constant Gardner
and the drawings of Chittaprosad Bhattachyra can certainly be crucial to our
fulfillment of the demands of justice as well as of love. Nor do I mean to imply
either that the boundary between the demands of justice and the demands of
love is always as clear cut as the abstract distinction between omission and
commission might seem to imply, or that it is always straightforward who has
first claim on our resources to fulfill the duties of love. Both of these qualifications are suggested by Dhillons discussion of the moment in which Justin
says to Tessa, I am sorry, Tessa, I have to put you first (Examples of Moral
Perfectionism, 46), whether he is apologizing to her because he cannot satisfy
her sense of justice at the same time as satisfying his own love for her or be-

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cause he cannot satisfy both the demands of his love for her and of his love for
the other young woman and her newborn baby. Of course, we have to make
hard choices in spite of the simplicity of our abstractions. My point is just that
we always have to work to balance the ubiquity of the demand to recognize
the humanity of others with the complexity of what we owe them. To expect a
mechanical solution to this problem would be analogous to expecting a theoretical refutation of skepticism according to Cavell: the problem of balancing
justice and love is not one that we can solve by a clever argument but one we
have to learn to live with.

3. Viktor Johansson
Like Alice Crary (see below), Viktor Johansson, in Perfectionist Philosophy
as a (an) (Untaken) Way of Life objects to my characterization of Cavellian perfectionisms requirement for self-intelligibility as merely a necessary
condition for freedom as the ultimate aim of perfectionism. Since Johansson concludes with several comments with which I would hardly wish to
disagree, such as that striving for intelligibility and rendering oneself free
[are] inseparable. Both rendering oneself free and striving for intelligibility,
in moral perfectionism, [mean] forming ones own moral position in ones
own terms (Perfectionist Philosophy, 6970), and what we can gain from
reading Kant and Cavell together ... is not a better interpretation of them,
but a way of breaking free of our conditions by ... reforming our words into
untaken ways of life (ibid., 71), I take it we do not really disagree about the
substance of perfectionism but about some more superficial question of how
best to describe it. Without putting too much weight on the formalities of
philosophical discourse, let me say why it seems useful to me to foreground
freedom rather than mere intelligibility in the way that I have.
First, Johansson argues that, according to Cavell, perfectionism is not a
matter of making my actions intelligible by clarifying their aim but at making
myself intelligible. But since Kants Paralogisms of Pure Reason (long before
Foucault) demonstrated that there is little sense in talking of a substantial
self distinct from its states, I see no room for a sharp contrast between myself
and my actions, and, metaphysics apart, neither am I sure that I would understand what it would be to render either myself or my actions intelligible
without reference to my aims in general or my aims in particular actions.
Unless one is prepared to reify the self in a way that Kant does not want
to, that Cavell does not want to, and that I would not want to, the self is, at
least in part, its actions or pattern of actions. To be sure, its actions may not
be all there is to the self: there may also be what we might call its reactions
feelings, memories, everything that we might think of as more passive than
activebut I am quite sure that this distinction between action and reaction
is not very sharp either. But in any case, surely a major way of making my
actions intelligible to myself or others is clarifying what I am trying to ac-

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complish through them, and a major way of making myself intelligible to
myself or others is clarifying what I am trying to accomplish through my
actions. That may not be allwe can press on, as in psychoanalysis, to try to
explain or understand why I have those aims and not others, so aims may be
both explanans and explanandum; but either way, clarifying my aims seems to
me to be inseparable from making myself intelligible. Once again, I do not
see how the idea of intelligibility stands entirely on its own without some
such an account of what we are making intelligible.
Second, Johansson stresses Cavells emphasis on taking responsibility for
our actions, words, or thoughts, being answerable for them; but traditionally, at least, some form of freedom, although, of course, philosophers have
disagreed over precisely what form of freedom, has been taken to go hand
in hand with responsibility or answerability or, to borrow my own term, to
be a necessary condition of it. Again we could quibble over the precise form
of the relationship between freedom and responsibility as well as over the
precise nature of freedom itselffreedom may be a necessary condition of
responsibility rather than intelligibility being a necessary condition of freedombut I do not see Cavell as attempting to break the traditional link
between responsibility and freedom in some form or other, although, as I
say in my response to Crarys paper below, I hardly see Cavell as plumping
for a libertarian conception of the freedom of the will.
Finally, I think that Cavellian perfectionism as Johansson interprets it is
consistent with my interpretation of Kantian morality as aiming at the greatest possible use of freedom, the greatest freedom for each compatible with
the greatest freedom for all. Johansson says that When Cavell says that
there are actions that are for us categorically imperative, I understand him
to mean that such actions can reveal our moral standing to ourselves and
others, that our actions are our choice, that they reveal our will. But this
rethinking of the imperative focuses less on respect for moral law as derived
from our will in the Kantian sense and more on respect for others positions
(Perfectionist Philosophy, 60). I do not accept the contrast implicit in the
second of these sentences, between respect for the moral law and respect for
the positions of others. In its most fundamental formulation, the ground
of a possible categorical imperative, the moral law tells us always to treat
humanity, the capacity to set our own ends, as an end and never merely a
means, whether in ourselves or others.12 It is the moral law itself that commands us to respect our own freedomnot merely to be answerable for
our actions like a free agent should be but also to preserve and promote our
freedom, to act in ways that do not undermine but rather enhance our ability
to set our own ends, to set new ends, to transform ourselvesand to preserve and promote the like freedom in others. Johansson quotes me quoting
Cavell as saying that Perfectionism proposes confrontation and conversation as the means of determining whether we can live together, accept one

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another into the aspirations of our lives (ibid., 60). This quote makes it clear
that, for Cavell, confrontation and conversation are not ends in themselves
but means, so there you have Cavell employing the language of means and
more ultimate aims; and surely what is meant by living together and accepting one another into the aspirations of our lives here is exercising our own
freedom in a way compatible with (and, we could add, enhanced by) the
freedom of others.
I welcome the second and third parts of Johanssons paper. It has always
seemed to me crucial to Cavells conception of our response to art that we respond not to works of art themselves but to the characters in them as if they
were real people: not that we can run up and save Desdemona, of course, but
that we take characters seriously and can think about our own lives through
them. Perhaps this is reflected on Cavells emphasis in The World Viewed on
our relation to the star and not just his or her role in a particular film; the
reality of the star blurs the boundary between a mere role and a real character. So, naturally, Cavell takes our conversations with texts including philosophical ones to be part and parcel of our perfectionist conversation: after
all, texts are products of the thoughts and actions of real people, even if there
are all sorts of facts about their authors that are irrelevant to their textslike,
lets suppose, how much more Hume weighed when he wrote the Dialogues
concerning Natural Religion than he did when he wrote the Treatise of Human Natureand even if authors may use all sorts of devices in their texts
to distance themselves from or mask some of their thoughtsas Hume, to
stick with this example, did in his complex distribution of arguments among
Demea, Cleanthes, and Philo in those Dialogues. But the point that I want to
make here is just that Johansson cannot avoid sliding from the language of
making oneself intelligible to the language of freedom in describing perfectionist conversation, including our conversation with texts: In a sense, it is
a form of conversion of us as free from the chains of conformity by transforming the words we inherit from philosophy, from our community, into
our words ... conversation ... is also a way to render ourselves intelligible
by using the terms of the text, not by letting them determine what I can say,
but by converting them to become my terms (Johansson, Perfectionist Philosophy, 63). Making oneself intelligible is inseparable from exercising ones
freedom and would not clearly have a value unless it were. I think that is all
I am trying to say about both Kantian and Cavellian perfectionism.

4. Richard Eldridge
Richard Eldridge has accepted my parallels between Kantian and Cavellian
ethics while insisting on epistemological and phenomenological differences
between them. I would hardly wish to deny these differences, but only to

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moderate them a little or, more precisely, to say that there is at least a little
room for Cavellian open-ended experimentalism within Kantian apriorism.
Before I get to the main point, however, I want to demur just a little from
Eldridges opening remarks, in which he assimilates my approach to Kant
to one that finds Kants essential norm in the very idea of what it is fully to
act. Although Eldridge did not mention her name, a contrast, subtle as it
would have to be, between my interpretation of Kant and that of Christine
Korsgaard might be relevant here. (I am thinking in particular of the way
in which Korsgaard has presented her approach to Kant in her most recent
book Self-Constitution.13) For me, it is crucial that our goal in action is not
just, so to speak analytically, a unified self but, synthetically or substantively,
a way of exercising our freedom on one occasion that is compatible with the
possibility of our own freedom on other occasions, and likewise compatible
with the possibility of freedom of others as well, ideally all others, although
as Eldridge rightly points out, there may be something fanciful or at least
unattainable in such an idealthat is precisely what makes it for me at least
a relative of Cavellian perfectionism. One reason that I want to insist on freedom in this distributed sense as a norm that is over and above mere unity
or completeness of action, apart from the fact that I think it makes sense in
its own right and also brings out what I regard as the most important affinity between Kant and Cavell, is suggested by a work a sense of whose
importance Eldridge and I share, namely, Kants Religionthe work, after
all, that Cavell chose to represent Kant in the original form of Hum 5. For it
is crucial to Kants argument there that a radically evil act, one that destroys
ones own future freedom or the freedom of some or many others, is not
mere nature, not mere happenstance, but just as much an exercise of ones
freedom and, therefore, as fully imputable as an act that instead preserves
and promotes freedom. At least as far as the assessment of responsibility is
concerned, an act that destroys the possibility of other exercises of freedom
is, considered by itself, just as free an act as one that does not, although, of
course, what is wrong with it is just that, even though it is an exercise of freedom, it effectively denies the universal value of freedom. That is precisely
what makes it radically evil, and not just, as Korsgaard would have it (in
Self-Constitution), defective.
But back to the main point. Eldridge argues that Kant is committed to
reason-driven cultivation guided (but not determined) by a standing principle; Cavell [is] more improvisatory and resistant to any standing guidance
in matters of cultivation in cultural circumstances (Kant, Cavell, and the
Circumstances of Philosophy, 79), and further that For Kant, what is commanded by reason is essentially the inauguration of a free and reciprocally
meaningful life, while In Cavell, it is more erotic than that (ibid., 8182).
Kant hardly goes very far in offering a phenomenology of a free life under the real conditions of human existence, although in a way that is what

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his late Metaphysics of Morals, as contrasted to the earlier Groundwork for the
Metaphysics of Morals, is supposed to provide, yet the differences that Eldridge has described are hardly to be denied. But still I would draw them
a little less drastically or find a little more room for Cavell in Kant than Eldridge does. The crucial point here is that Kant draws a threefold distinction
between our fundamental maxims, in terms again from Religion, our choice
to subordinate self-love to morality or morality to self-love, whatever this
might involve; maxims of duty, such as to refrain from suicide for the sake
of self-love or to cultivate our talents for all sorts of possible ends; and the
particular acts that we might do in the name of some duty or other and,
therefore, also in the name of our fundamental maxim. Now, Kant makes
a distinction that figures nowhere in Cavell (but one that Eldridge reminds
us figured in his own early work), namely, the distinction between perfect
and imperfect duties, which assumes that in some cases it is fully determinate what duty requires of us and in other cases not, so that we must use
judgment to determine what to do. Some of Kants examples of perfect duty
are controversial, such as his insistence that it is always our duty to tell the
truth no matter what consequences we foresee because we have a duty not
to others but to ourselves not to misuse our natural capacity for communication; but Kant is quite clear that the duties of both self-cultivation and the
promotion of the particular ends of others are imperfect duties, thus never to
be freed from the demands of judgment. About these duties, I think it is fair
to say that Kant shares Cavells sense, as Eldridge describes it, that they are
standing problem[s] that [are] not completely solvable, even in principle
(ibid., 82). I think it is also fair to say that for most of us, who are rarely
faced with would-be murderers at the door or choices between tending to
sick mothers or joining the Resistance, the moral life is largely comprised
by the imperfect duties, figuring out how best to perfect ourselves and contribute to the happiness of others or, in the terms I prefer, figuring out how
to promote rather than merely preserve freedom. So I do not think the difference between Kant and Cavell is absolute, at least not when we take into
account the quantitative question of where most of our moral life actually
takes place.
Briefly, on the point of eroticism: There can be no doubt that Kant does
not emphasize the importance of the erotic in our lives as much as Cavell
does and, therefore, does not emphasize the potential for disappointment
in this huge dimension of our lives as much as Cavell does. And there is
no doubt that his view of marriagenot based on his own experience, of
courseis, once we get past the initial shock of his description of it as a
contract for the reciprocal use of sexual organs, actually rather idealistic. But
here all I want to say is that Kants potentially off-putting location of his discussion of marriage in the Doctrine of Right rather than in the Doctrine
of Virtue actually reflects his assumption that sexuality is an inseparable

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element of human embodiment, as basic a fact about our condition as finite
rational beings as the fact that we need a place on the earth to eat, to work,
and even to stand or lie, but that, since we must share the earth, and share
our sexuality, with others, we need to figure out how to do all these things
in a way that is compatible with the fundamental maxim of moralitythe
preservation and promotion of freedomrather than that of self-love. Kant
may well not have a fully Freudian conception of the likelihood of disappointment in sexor at least, following the Baconian maxim, he may have
chosen not to discuss thisbut he certainly does recognize that sexuality is
an essential feature of the human condition.
Close to Eldridges conclusion is the sentence that Arriving at maturity
(Mndigkeit) [literally, being able to speak for oneself] is for Kant largely a
matter of living up to what is impersonally necessarythe command of pure
practical reasonand both the content of this command and its requirements
in situ can be laid out more or less systematically in completed ideal moral
and political theory (Kant, Cavell, and the Circumstances of Philosophy,
83). Although Kant did not linger over the phenomenological implications
of this, I think that he recognized that fully accomplishing and perhaps even
understanding its requirements in situ can only ever be a matter of the endless progress of the human species, not a problem solved once and for all.
Even more importantly, I think that Kants moral philosophy of the greatest
possible use of freedom insists on the universal principle of a realm of ends
precisely so that each may be maximally free to set his or her own ends, thus
that the entire point of Kants moral philosophy is to create an impersonal
framework for the realization of the personal. That is above all the point that
I want to make in my interpretation of Kants practical philosophy and in my
enlistment of Cavell in the cause of my approach to Kant; and on this point, I
think there is no deep disagreement between Eldridge and myself.

5. Alice Crary
I appreciate Alice Crarys acceptance of some of my parallels between Cavell
and Kant. And I would hardly deny the claim that there are significant differences between Kants and Cavells versions of perfectionism. But I am not
persuaded by Crarys claim in her essay, A Radical Perfectionist: Revisiting
Cavell in the Light of Kant, that Cavells perfectionism is part of an empirical alternative to science in a way that Kants is not, nor am I persuaded
that the difference between our two authors on whether self-intelligibility is
merely a necessary condition of the end of morality or inseparable from it is
as great as she thinks. Let me comment on these two points.
First, I would have thought that Kant was the very model of a modern
major philosopher who was not persuaded that our approach to ethics has
to be constrained by our approach to natural science. He is rather the model

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of a modern major philosopher who is quite convinced that our approach to
ethics cannot be constrained by the limits of the scientific worldview, justified and necessary as those are in their own sphere of theoretical rather
than practical cognition. Kant was, after all, the source of the distinction in
direction of fit later emphasized by Anscombe, the distinction that, in the
theoretical domain, our task is to make our ideas conform to how the world
is but, in the practical and specifically the moral domain, our task is to make
the world conform to our ideas of how the world ought to be. Further, of
course, Kant notoriously insisted that morality requires the possibility of a
kind of freedom of will that cannot be recognized within the scientific point
of view. On that point, I think that Kant draws a more radical separation
between science and ethics than Cavell ever intended, because I do not think
that an a priori argument for the liberty of indifference is any part of Cavells
conception of freedomjust how far anyone might get in realizing his or
her conception of freedom would be for Cavell, I think, an empirical matter.
Here is indeed a difference I might have emphasized more: for Kant, moralitys alternative to natural science has its own a priori foundationwhat Kant
calls metaphysics of morals in Groundworkwhile, for Cavell, moralitys
alternative approach is as empirical as is that of natural science. Thus, the
difference between Kant and Cavell to which Crary properly points is not
that Kant assimilates ethics to science while Cavell does not, but that Kant
bases the distinction on moralitys source in pure reason while Cavell, as on
Crarys account, bases it on sensitivity (and for this reason to suggest that
there is any common ground between Kant and contemporary experimental philosophy would be entirely misleading).
So here a case might be made that Cavell is in a way an heir to the moral
sense tradition in eighteenth-century philosophy, although to be sure neither Hutcheson nor Smith figure at all in Cavells canon nor Hume very
largely. But then again, Hume especially thought that the ethics of sentiment
was part of the science of man: that human feelings and our responses to
human feelings were just as real as anything else of which we have impressions, so perhaps Crarys entirely proper insistence on the role of sensitivity
in Cavells perfectionism threatens her claim that Cavells ethics, in this supposedly unlike Kants, is in some essential way an alternative to a unitary
scientific worldview. There is surely much to discuss here; just to throw one
more log on the fire, I would mention my view that, at least in some of
Kants very earliest reflections on ethics, the notes in his copy of the Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime,14 written in 1764 or 1765, Kant
himself suggests that our attraction to freedom as the fundamental goal of
morality is itself rooted in feeling rather than reason.15 These notes were not
available in English until very recently, and I do not mean to suggest that
they ever played a part in Cavells reading of Kant or his own thinking;
perhaps there is here just another unexpected affinity.

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The second point on which I want to comment is Crarys insistence that
self-intelligibility is not merely a necessary condition for freedom but inseparable from it. I am not sure how much of an argument there should really be here, for, in one sense, a necessary condition is inseparable from what
it conditions even if it may be conceptually separated from itthat is what
makes it a necessary condition. But the real issue, I think, is how we should
understand the relation between understanding ourselves in a manner relevant to ethics and exploring new cultural and evaluative perspectives, as
Crary puts it in A Radical Perfectionist (93). Here my point would be that,
since surely not everyone is open to exploring new cultural and evaluative
perspectives or not always already open to such perspectives, there must be
a difference between being intelligible to oneself in general and recognizing
that one ought to be open to new cultural and evaluative perspectives, a
difference that would lie in whether one recognizes as normative the kind of
freedom for self-development and transformation that goes hand in hand
with such openness. Alternatively, if one wants to say that self-intelligibility
would entail such openness because there is really no way in which one
could make a refusal of such openness intelligible to oneself, no reason one
could give oneself for not being open to others and the possibilities for living ones own life they offer, that would only be because one already accepts
a normative conception of how one ought to live, namely, with a freedom
from the constraints of ones present condition that can only be exercised by
being open to how others might live and feel as well. Understanding oneself
will not lead to perfectionism by itself if one finds oneself closed to change
and thinks that is quite alright. But if one gives a normative interpretation
to the idea of self-intelligibility, that it includes openness to change, whether
change dictated by a changing worldview or just by responsiveness to the
claims of others around one, then my basic point is already conceded.

6. Martin Gustafsson
First, let me concede Martin Gustafssons objection in What is Cavellian
Perfectionism? that my use of the mathematical term asymptotic to characterize an essential feature of Kantian as well as Cavellian perfectionism is
misleading, because, in mathematics, the concept of an asymptote implies
an ever-closer approach to a well-defined goal, while the goal of the perfectionist life is by definition not well defined in this way; on my own account
of this goal in Kantian terms as the greatest possible use of freedom, it cannot be, given that freedom is precisely freedom to undermine any predetermined notion of how one ought to live ones life or how many ought to
live theirs. I might try to respond to the objection by drawing a distinction
between freedom and what anyone does with it, what choices they make or
ends they set in its exercise and enjoyment, and then arguing that the ideal

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of the greatest possible use of freedom is sufficiently well defined to permit
of my talk of an asymptotic approach to it, even though what approximation
to the greatest possible use of freedom entails is precisely that we cannot determine in advance very much about how anyone should actually live his or
her lifeonly that he or she should live it in a way that does not undermine
his or her own continued freedom or the freedom of others. But even here,
I think that the caution not to be misled by a false promise of mathematical
determinacy is well taken, for the boundaries between undermining ones
own freedom or not and between maximizing the freedom of all or not are
not well defined. In the first-person case, of course, every choice that one
makes in the exercise of ones freedom also abridges ones freedommy
choice at eighteen or nineteen to try to become a philosophy professor put
an end to my previous thoughts about becoming an architect, after alland
we need to engage in a bit of acrobatics to explain how a single choice that
determines so much of ones subsequent life is nevertheless an expression
rather than limitation of ones freedom as long as one continues to endorse
that choice (ditto for the case of marriage). In the third-person case, things
are perhaps even more difficult, for there are many situations in which there
is nothing one could do that would preserve or promote the freedom of everyone involvedKants example of Cato, who might have had sufficient
reason to take his own life and, therefore, his own freedom in order to save
the freedom of his fellow Romans, is his acknowledgment of that factso
there is always potential for an element of indeterminacy in the idea of maximizing freedom.
Perhaps, then, we should recognize a paradox of freedom analogous to
the paradox of exemplarity: we cannot be too concrete in what we learn
from others because then we cannot learn originality or self-perfection from
them, and we cannot be too concrete about what constitutes maximization
rather than minimization of freedom because then it will no longer be freedom. But I think that the basic point that both Kantian and Cavellian perfectionism aim at more rather than less freedom as well as more rather than less
intelligibility remains.
This brings me to the other main objection that Gustafsson makes to my
paper: that there is a fundamental difference between the perfectionisms of
Kant and Cavell because what the latter calls perfectionist invention and
transformation are modes of change where we have not yet made our goal
intelligible (What is Cavellian Perfectionism, 101) and that it is important that Cavell consistently describes perfectionist invention and transformation in terms of responses to situations where our lives, our senses
of ourselves and of what, and whom we are prepared to consent to, are at
stake (ibid., 101). I do not think that a philosopher who, like Kant, characterizes every moral choice we make as an expression of our choice between
the fundamental maxims of good and evil, between morality and self-love,

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can be described as anything less than a philosopher who thinks that our
senses of ourselves and of what and whom we are prepared to consent to
may be at stake in any and every morally significant choice. As for Gustafssons first point, I think it may confuse two levels at which we can think
about goals: I concede that the goal of maximizing our own freedom and the
freedom of all others is a very abstract goal, and we should perhaps think
of it as a second-order goal that has to be realized in and through our choice
or invention of particular goalslike a Kantian theoretical category such as
substance or causation, it is not a concept that we can apply to ends directly,
but rather that must form or inform our choice of particular goals. And that
means that our project can be making our particular goals intelligible to ourselves when they are not already so precisely by finding a way to choose
particular goals in light of our overarching goal of perfecting our collective
freedom. If Gustafsson will allow me this way of looking at the issue of intelligibility, then the difference between Cavellian and Kantian perfectionism
will not be as great as he makes it seem.

7. Timothy Gould
One point I want to take from Timothy Goulds wide-ranging remarks in
Eight Types of Unintelligibility: Guyer on Cavell on Making Sense of Yourself is that to be human is not only to be flesh and blood but also to be in
time or that to be flesh and blood is also necessarily to be in time. This point
should hardly be a surprise to a Kantian, of course: for Kant, time is the form
of inner sense, and through that of outer sense, thus of all our experience,
and though at some conceptual level we can conceive of the possibility of
a nontemporal existence or experience, we can hardly imagine such a possibility. And to be inexorably in time, as philosophers of various stripes have
pointed out, is always to be poised on the edge between future and past
or on an edge since the edge is constantly moving. And this means, as becomes clear at numerous points in Goulds paper, that the project of making
ourselves intelligible to ourselves, and I should think to each other as well,
is always temporally bidirectional, or, to switch from Greek imagery to Roman, Janus-faced: it involves coming to understand how we have gotten to
be where we are but also where we seem to be headed, where we could be
headed, where we would like to be headed. And the project is not only bidirectional but also multileveled, for, as several others of my teachers, Morton
White in person and R. G. Collingwood in text, stressed, the explanation of
human action does not take place in a vacuum but in a context of particular
puzzles to be solved: what needs to be explained is how I got into this position given that I do not like where I am, and what needs to be understood is
how I could transform myself this way given that everything I understand
or you understand about my past predicts that I would go on that way. All

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of this, in turn, is to say, as I have been stressing in my comments on many
of the papers presented here, that intelligibility and aims are inseparable:
making my past intelligible is surely in some good part a matter of making
intelligible how I came to have the aims I have and to conceive of the aims
I would like to have, making my ever-moving present intelligible is surely
in some good part a matter of explaining what aims I am currently trying to
achieve, making my future intelligible is surely in some good part making
clear on the basis of my past and present both what aims I am likely to have
and what aims I might have and on a variety of grounds should have. Put
another way, if human beings are agents and actions have aims, then making oneself intelligible as a human being is making ones aims intelligible in
both the senses of explaining how one came to have them and explaining or
justifying why one should have them.
Much of this is, I believe, implicit in Goulds remark that The standard
of intelligibility that perfectionism imposes is neither reducible to historical
conditions nor is it a transhistorical measurement of eternal human possibilities. The dimension of its reflectiveness cannot be reduced to so simple a
dichotomy (Eight Types of Unintelligibility, 115). There are at least two
reasons that we must reject a simple dichotomy here: first, that, although
part of intelligibility is explaining how the present has come from the past,
part of that is precisely explaining what possibilities for the future have
come from the past; second, that ones possibilities for the future are not
simply eternal human possibility, determined solely by generic features
of human nature and the human condition, but also ones own possibilities,
created in part by human nature but in part by ones own historyand at
least in part open to ones own imagination as well. As Goulds Plato (as
well as Freud) realizes, not only has the state that we desire to return to
never actually existed in any ordinary sense (ibid., 116, but our conception
of it is determined by both our past and our imagination. Making ourselves
intelligible involves both explaining our actuality and imagining our possibility. In this way, perhaps, perfectionism can make sense of Platos image
that We rise past the beautiful particulars, to the source, or Form, of beauty (ibid., 116): perfectionism recognizes that, in moral choice, we need not
be playing a zero-sum game of losses and benefits but have the possibility
of expanding possibilities for both ourselves and others. Perhaps I should
say that part of my attraction to freedom as a conception of our ultimate
goal in both Kant and Cavell is precisely that freedom is so closely related to
possibility: by defining our goal in life as freedom, we at the same time say
that we cannot define or well define our goals in advance of getting to them,
that we can know what we want and not know what we want at the same
time, indeed that we can know that what we want is, at least to a degree, not
to know what we want. This is, of course, why the moral life must include
the possibility of comedy as well as tragedy and why Gould must complete

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his discussion of so many tragedies with comments on one of the brilliant
comedies Hollywood was once capable of creating, at least for the likes of
Cavell.

Notes
1.

Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary J. Gregor


(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 4:440.
2. Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, 4:446.
3. See Onora ONeill, Bounds of Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2000), 29.
4. Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, 4:428.
5. Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary J. Gregor (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1996), Doctrine of Virtue, Introduction, 8, 6:392.
6. Alexander Nehamas, The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).
7. Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 48, 5:309.
8. Ibid., 49, 5:318.
9. Kant, Metaphysics of Morals, Doctrine of Virtue, 46, 6:46970.
10. Henry Home, Lord Kames, Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Theology (1751), ed. and with an introduction by Mary C. Moran (Indianapolis, IN:
Liberty Fund, 2013).
11. Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), ed. D. D. Raphael and A. L.
Macfie (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976).
12. Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, 4:42829.
13. Christine Korsgaard, Self-Constitution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).
14. Immanuel Kant, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime and Other
Writings, ed. Patrick Friersson and Paul Guyer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
15. For more on this, see Paul Guyer, Freedom as the Foundation of Morality:
Kants Early Efforts, in Kants Observation and Remarks: A Critical Guide, ed. Susan Meld Shell and Richard Velkley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2012), 7798.

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