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The Journal of Aesthetic Education, Volume 48, Number 3, Fall 2014,
pp. 5-27 (Article)
DOI: 10.1353/jae.2014.0020

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Examples of Perfectionism
Paul Guyer
1. Two Kinds of Examples
Two claims stand behind my title. I will argue first that, if we read Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy the way I do, in which rationality is the means
to the end of human freedom rather than being an end in itself, then Kant
offers a fuller example of what Stanley Cavell calls Emersonian perfectionism, but which I will call Cavell’s own perfectionism, than Cavell himself
has recognized even in his most sympathetic account of Kant, and can help
us see the full power of such perfectionism. Second, I will argue that there
is a deep affinity between the views of moral education with which Kant
and Cavell accompany their examples of moral perfectionism, in that each
thinks that examples of the possibility of actually living a moral life in the
face of the inexorable imperfection of the human condition play a central
role in moral education. This claim may seem even more surprising than
the first, since Kant seems to focus on the moral education of children by
their elders, while Cavell focuses on the education of grown-ups,1 and,
for Kant, moral education seems to take place primarily in the nursery
and classroom, while, for Cavell, it can seem to take place primarily in the
theater, whether that presents live actors or flickering images on a screen.
But I will argue that there are not only similarities between their images
of what moral education must teach but also the similarity that Kant too,
like a true moral perfectionist, is clear that the process of moral education
is never ending and never ended.

Paul Guyer is the Jonathan Nelson Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at Brown
University. He is the author of nine books on the philosophy of Kant, editor and
translator of Kant’s first and third critiques, and editor of six anthologies of work on
Kant, as well as coeditor of the first collective volume on the work of Stanley Cavell,
Pursuits of Reason (1993). His History of Modern Aesthetics in three volumes appeared
in 2014. He has been president of the American Philosophical Association Eastern
Division and the American Society for Aesthetics and is a Fellow of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 48, No. 3, Fall 2014
© 2014 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

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Although Cavell does not use such academic language. which is what I mean by referring to the metaethics of his perfectionism: in his terminology. as the scene of human activity and prospects. Cities of Words. that education ultimately takes place in a relation between person and person. Cavell’s characterization of perfectionism in the introduction to Cities of Words. who took “Hum 5” as a freshman in 1965–66. but then. Cavellian Perfectionism I will base my interpretation of Cavell’s perfectionism on the account he offers in his second magnum opus. that book is very special. reformed into.6  Guyer 2. 1). its very title reminding us of one of the central educational themes of perfectionism. providing a perspective of judgment upon the world as it is. more fully.3 Cavell expresses this first point by saying that. followed Cavell’s turn to Emerson from a greater distance. having left to start my own career. And. one that we might trace all the way back to Plato’s Seventh Letter. not in a relation between a person and a printed page. The very conception of a divided self and a doubled world. if it were not so ugly. a future way we could help it become” (Cities of Words.” is the clearest he has offered. I understand perfectionism as comprising both a metaethics and a normative ethics. I mean his general account of moral thinking as taking the form of holding ourselves up to the idea of a better world and a better existence than we currently enjoy. or intervenes in. more general than any specific conception of what the perfection of human existence or the world as a whole might consist in.indd 6 7/22/14 9:48 AM . on the basis of this text. in every “variation” of perfectionism. or else the present judged to be better than the cost of achieving it. “the way in which we now hold the world is contrasted with. By the metaethics of Cavell’s perfectionism. for me at least. for someone like me. Cavell indicates that this is a general feature of all variations of perfectionism. in which we can see in a few hundred pages how Cavell’s whole career of thinking flowered from seeds planted in those early lectures. the JAE 48_3 text. Each of these variations provides a position from which the present state of human existence can be judged and a future state achieved. one that we know that we can to some degree attain but at the same time know we can never fully attain. read Cavell’s first work on film as it appeared while I was still at Harvard in graduate school. measured against the world as it may be. “In the Place of the Classroom. and perhaps to lodge the demand or desire for a reform or transfiguration of the world. we might better call Cavellian perfectionism “perfectingism”). both a souvenir of my own youth but also a time-lapse film. tends to express disappointment with the world as it is. this is “a register of the moral life that precedes. since. for perfectionism “specifically sets itself against any idea of ultimate perfection”2 (why I have previously written that.

by which I take him to mean both the thought that we must transform our actual world in the light of our ideal world and the thought that we can never fully do so. Cavell says that this thought. for the justification of one’s life. and of the ideal self to which we compare our actual selves. our idea of a doubled world. as he says. not inhumanly virtuous as only immortals might be. “What I characterized as making oneself intelligible is the interpretation moral perfectionism gives to the idea of moral reasoning.” by means of “confrontation and conversation as the means of determining whether we can live together. I am not sure why Cavell uses the word “perhaps”: surely his view is that.Examples of Perfectionism  7 specification of moral theories which define the particular bases or moral judgments of particular acts or projects or characters as right or wrong. we have to understand what they are aimed at.indd 7 7/22/14 9:48 AM . I take this to be an acknowledgment of the imperfectionism that is part of Cavellian perfectionism.4 But rather than pursuing that thought. the recognition that we can progress toward our ideal but never fully attain it. does lodge a demand or desire for the reform or transfiguration of actuality. “is not exactly foreign to Kant” (Cities of Words. good or bad” (ibid. accept one another into the aspirations of our lives” (Cities of Words. 1). we will be caught in an uncomfortably tight circle. “This does not mean that perfectionism is an alternative to [the] other famous positions” in normative ethics and adds this with good reason. in all variations of perfectionism. or at least correct for the mature Kant who ultimately largely drops the postulate of immortality from the conditions of the possibility of the highest good because he finally realizes that morality demands only that human beings be as virtuous as human beings can be. But the very fact that the incomplete attainability of our moral ideal is an imperfection in the world means that our idea does and must lodge a demand or desire for the reform or transfiguration of actuality.” More fully. our recognition that sometimes the cost of change is too high would not count as an imperfection.. other JAE 48_3 text. Perhaps he means “perhaps” to indicate that we sometimes judge. Cavell offers a statement of the normative ethics of perfectionism in his chapter on Ralph Waldo Emerson in Cities of Words. which sums up many previous papers: the aim of perfectionism is “making ourselves intelligible (to others. without that. to ourselves). Conversely. and. the demand for providing reasons for one’s conduct. 24). if this is only intelligibility. or of the ideal world to which we compare our actual world. for making ourselves intelligible and justifying our actions whether to ourselves or others presupposes some additional goal beyond intelligibility as such: to understand our actions and to justify them whether to ourselves or others. 2). Cavell adds. that the present is better than the cost of changing it. I will now turn to what I have called the normative ethics of Cavell’s perfectionism. for here the affinity between his thought and Kant’s may not be so apparent. and this is certainly correct.

But Cavell has not really confused a merely necessary condition of successful moral reasoning with its whole aim. at worst. he has overstated the nevertheless undeniable importance of this indispensable condition of moral perfection. before I do that. our fundamental substantive rather than epistemic aim in self-perfection? A further passage in the Emerson chapter of Cities of Words points in the right direction. implying our need of invention and of transformation. That is entirely consistent with the status of intelligibility as only the necessary and not the sufficient condition for morality. in demonstrating our lack of given means of making ourselves intelligible (to ourselves. let me note that the requirement of intelligibility to self and others as at least a necessary condition of moral reasoning was not something that Cavell learned only from Emerson (which is part of why I would rather refer to Cavellian perfectionism than Emersonian perfectionism). was always the cause of tragedy. the failure of intelligibility to self and others. but. Intelligibility to self and others is a necessary condition of successful moral reasoning but not its whole aim. I will turn in a moment to his conception of the as it were material or substantive rather than formal or epistemic requirement of perfectionism. this is what Kant calls moral self-knowledge and conscience—but that is so that we can see what we are really aiming at in our actions and whether we are aiming at what we ought to be aiming at. (Cities of Words. 26) JAE 48_3 text. it was a theme of his work from the outset.8  Guyer normative ethical theories presuppose that we must be able to understand and justify our actions to ourselves and others—to anticipate. not ancestral curses or contradictory demands of family and state. expresses two dominating themes of perfectionism. For did the actions of the monitory figures of Lear and Othello end in tragedy for any reason except their failures to make their actions intelligible to others but first to themselves? Cavell did not use the term “intelligibility” in his accounts of Lear and Othello.indd 8 7/22/14 9:48 AM . In Cavell’s conception of tragedy. and demonstrates that they are at hand. details the difficulties in the way of possessing those means. and Othello’s anger at Desdemona could not have been assuaged by her production of the purloined handkerchief but only by a better understanding of his own insecurity at the good fortune of her love for him and an honest communication of that insecurity to her that would have given her the opportunity to reassure him of its needlessness. But what is Cavell’s conception of this further aspect of the normative ethics of perfectionism. This thought. to others). but that is what the problem was: Lear’s failures of vision could not have been corrected by better glasses but only by his having more fully understood his need for declarations of love from his daughters and his having made more intelligible to them what he wanted. in other words. Here Cavell says that Emerson’s writing.

But the doings of the characters are not JAE 48_3 text. indeed do seem childish to all the other characters (except the sympathetic Major) when they do not seem downright insane. in the earlier stages of the story. is itself a necessary condition for the self-invention and self-transformation of each. is such a central theme of Cavell’s work on film. friendship. But. but here too I think we should think more in terms of a necessary rather than sufficient condition: intelligibility to self and others is what makes friendship possible.” Cavell begins this essay with his own reference to Kant. which. let me amplify my interpretation of Cavell with an illustration from Cavell’s classical interpretation of the film Bringing Up Baby. is only a formal rather than a substantive goal of morality: there is friendship among thieves. in any case.Examples of Perfectionism  9 This remark might suggest that we need invention and transformation in order to make ourselves intelligible. after all. including that between a man and a woman who have discovered the possibility of their (re)marriage in the possibility of their genuine friendship. the exercise of our freedom—is the substantive goal of moral perfectionism. and are certainly “purposive without purpose” in the sense that David. especially friendship between man and woman. but friendship. 27) and thus turns to the issue of friendship. at least. has very little idea of what he is doing or better. In other words. like intelligibility.”5 There can be no question that the antics of the hapless paleontologist David (Cary Grant) and the reckless ingenue Susan (Katherine Hepburn) can seem childish. before I turn to Kant. stating that this movie “presents the purest example” of the relationship between the principal man and woman in the comedies of remarriage as “the achievement of purposiveness without purpose (or say directedness without direction)” and explains that “[i]n thus invoking Kant’s characterization of the aesthetic experience I am thinking of his idea of providing an access to the connection of the aesthetic experience with the play of childhood. Or at least self-invention and self-transformation are the products of friendship as well as the conditions of the possibility of friendship.. In the compressed context of the Emerson chapter. Only that friendship that allows for as well as perhaps depends on self-invention and self-transformation is morally significant friendship. and not every friendship is morally significant. let alone the aim of morality. of what is happening to him. the aim of perfectionism is the perfection of our own use of our freedom. But.indd 9 7/22/14 9:48 AM . “Leopards in Connecticut. that we need to make ourselves intelligible in order to realize our potential for invention and transformation and that the latter—in other words. This is clearly the point at which Cavellian perfectionism comes into contact with the normative as well as metaethics of Kant. but I think that Cavell’s larger point is the converse. Cavell quickly glosses the “second dominating theme” as the thought “that the other to whom I can use the words I discover in which to express myself is the Friend” (ibid.

will be settled” (Pursuits of Happiness.” or eventually. rather. but also “in good time. that is. that they might be lovers and friends. The specific aim of a comedy is marriage or remarriage (though that is clearer in The Philadelphia Story than in Bringing Up Baby). the characters “are attempting to cross the limit” of childhood. say this is a matter of learning who you are. he says in his discussion of the film The Lady Eve that comic resolutions depend on an acquisition “in time” (in two senses. the freedom to (re)marry.” “are in service of the authorization or authentication of what is called a marriage” (Pursuits of Happiness. I want to make one further point about Cavell’s treatment of the comedies of the remarriage before turning to Kant for a while. and in the case of Cavell’s comedies. the characters are able to discover who they might really be and what they really might do—namely. or accepting. Through their willingness to disregard the limits of convention and. As Cavell puts it. indeed that Cavell chose the idea of remarriage as his theme—even though it is a bit of a stretch in some of his cases—because it is an emblem of one of the most fundamental ideas of his perfectionism: namely. reawakened curiosity. 56). but that can only come about through the free choice of the agents. one could argue that the idea was already there. although. through JAE 48_3 text. at least in the case of David. husband and wife. “learning the identity of your parents” and “learning. a paradigmatic example of free action and perhaps the most important action that many people will freely undertake in their lives. Cavell’s earliest publications about Emerson date to the period in which Cavell was writing and collecting the essays that became The Pursuits of Happiness. Thus.” or not too late) “of self-knowledge. through apparently purposiveless play. in the course of the story. anymore than aesthetic experience on Kant’s own account is ultimately purposive without purpose. . The same point could be made through others of Cavell’s interpretations of the comedies of remarriage.” But again. his own preconception of his status and role in life (the dispassionate curator assisted by the equally dispassionate Miss Swallow). 125)6—or better.10  Guyer ultimately purposive without purpose. . or ability and freedom to think. your sexual identity.indd 10 7/22/14 9:48 AM . Intelligibility is only the means to the end. But instead of further documenting this point. freedom. for and with each other. “in due time. However. ability and freedom to think and act. they can achieve this very serious purpose (and perhaps through appreciating what they have accomplished. self-knowledge is not an end in itself. itself made possible through their achievement of intelligibility to their selves and to each other—if not immediately to everyone else. the attainment of self-knowledge and. the discoveries about yourself that need to be made. a stage at which the fate of one’s intelligence. namely. since this is a comedy of (re)marriage. we can make some headway in doing that ourselves). a crossing whose “successful and healthy negotiation demands a satisfaction of .7 but neither the first Emerson pieces nor The Pursuits of Happiness yet used the language of perfectionism.

3. 126–27). poses a question concerning the validation of marriage. the answer of that structure—that the validity of marriage takes a willingness for repetition. that is. like an initial wedding ceremony. it only prescribes the development of talents and skills of human beings for ends that “must precede the determination of the will by a practical rule”10 or are antecedently assumed to be moral without adequate justification? Well. to esteem it. life-long commitment. even contrary to our (sensible) interest. he classifies his own moral theory as a form of perfectionism. or they give up on the marriage. in at least one place. as I have argued in the past. ’til death do them part. . Kantian Perfectionism How can I call Kant’s own normative ethics a form of perfectionism? Doesn’t Kant include perfectionism in his list of inadequate approaches to moral theory because it begs the moral question. that “[t]he beautiful prepares us to love something. Its answer participates in . let me turn to the task of arguing that this perfectionism is even more Kantian than Cavell has acknowledged.and normative ethics of Cavellian perfectionism is now on the table. [and] the sublime.Examples of Perfectionism  11 self-knowledge. Here. but. as that question is posed in the genre of remarriage comedy. He says of Bringing Up Baby that “[t]he film . but a constant process of bonding—note Cavell’s use of the gerund—a continuing effort at maintaining the friendship. or indeed ever completed at all. I could begin from the central idea of Kantian aesthetics that Cavell introduced into his discussion of Bringing Up Baby. the willingness for remarriage” (Pursuits of Happiness. the partnership that is marriage while each partner continues his or her own self-invention. for. and not just a single renewal of vows in middle age. My interpretation of the meta. as he usually JAE 48_3 text. At this point. even nature. but is an ongoing. without interest. All marriage is really remarriage because it requires a continual process of trying to make oneself intelligible to oneself and one’s spouse. . This is in his exposition of the four possible forms of moral theory in the Lectures on Ethics in the form in which he gave them in the years leading up to his publication of the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals in 1785. And in this regard. the reality of its bonding. .indd 11 7/22/14 9:48 AM .”8 yet without sacrificing the room for that free play of imagination and understanding that is definitive of aesthetic experience in the first place. it is fundamental to Kant’s aesthetics that aesthetic experience prepares us for morality.9 But I will instead turn directly to several of the main claims of Kant’s moral philosophy. of the freedom for self-invention and self-transformation is never completed in a single moment. marriage is exemplary of free action in general. Kant does sometimes criticize perfectionism for that reason. . now surrounded by the adoring children who could not have been there at the original wedding.

but because they have freedom. with our use of freedom as that which must be perfected.” on which “the philosopher judges that the principle of morality has a ground in the understanding. How is this statement of perfectionism to be connected with Kant’s published statement of his moral philosophy. a rule which is the principle of the possibility of the conformity of all in free choice. as a theory of an externally given but intellectually or rationally given ground for morality. this is not because they have reason. To exercise our freedom requires reason. “is the intellectual one. in his discussion of duties to self. or government) as offering merely contingent and thus not law-like principles. however. .”14 and from that derives the “supreme rule” “[i]n all self-regarding actions”—but the same applies to all actions tout court—“so to behave that any use of powers is compatible with the greatest use of them. whereby all acts of my choice concur with universal validity . and can be apprehended completely a priori. likewise as he usually does.”15 Kant’s theory is that our supreme moral obligation is to exercise our freedom in each case of action so that it is consistent with the greatest use of freedom by ourselves and others and that in this consists the perfection of free choice or the will. . But instead of repeating his usual criticism that perfectionism is also either question-begging or else just another empirical theory. as question-begging. But.” and this principle is nothing other than that “[i]t is a necessary law of free choice” that in all cases of free choice I must seek “a conformity of [my] free choice with itself and others.13 Kant describes freedom as “the inner worth of the world. Kant makes plain the relation between freedom and reason: “If only rational beings can be ends in themselves.”11 Indeed. “The second systema morale.”16 Freedom is the end that must be maximized by the use of reason—this is perfectionism in its simplest form. and.indd 12 7/22/14 9:48 AM .” or act only in accordance with “conditions under which the greatest use of freedom is possible. Reason is merely the means. Kant here instead puts his own moral theory into the place reserved for perfectionism. in yet another lecture course. presupposing as it does that we already have a moral principle by means of which to recognize the purported commands from God. and under which it can be self-consistent. where he never refers to the “greatest use of freedom” or calls his moral theory a form of perfectionism? And how is the perfectionism I have just assigned to Kant to JAE 48_3 text. for only reason can tell us how to achieve consistency between any one use of freedom and the greatest possible use of freedom by ourselves and others. Kant makes it explicit that he considers his own account of the moral principle to be a form of perfectionism by stating that “the governance of our choice by rules. the summum bonum.” is the “inner goodness and absolute perfection of free choice. Kant criticizes theories that moral principles are given empirically by either internal grounds (whether self-love or the moral sense) or external grounds (whether custom.”12 Later in these lectures. criticizes voluntarism or divine-command moral theory.” he says. education.12  Guyer does.

a point that he reiterates a dozen years later. the injunction. even in as late a work as Cities of Words. Kant first formulates the categorical imperative—which is nothing less than the form in which the fundamental principle of morality presents itself to us human beings precisely because of our inescapable imperfection. in Metaphysics of Morals for which Groundwork was the groundwork.18 or ends. in ourselves and in all others whom our actions may affect. in Groundwork Kant also argues that the “ground of a possible categorical imperative.”17 and then asserts that this end in itself can be nothing other than our own humanity.Examples of Perfectionism  13 be reconciled with Cavell’s own interpretation of Kant’s normative ethics. which combines the form and matter of moral maxims into their “complete determination. but insofar as it is present in us. never merely as a means. whether in your own person or in the person of any other. were there any others). we are to make the preservation and promotion of the possibility of freedom of choice our supreme end.” its own foundation. an end that does not rule out all other ends but that governs what other ends we can adopt. we are to make the greatest possible use of freedom.” “something the existence of which in itself has an absolute worth. our supreme or essential end. “So act that you use humanity. the irremediable presence in us of inclinations to act contrary to the moral law—as the requirement of acting only on universalizable maxims.” This formula. in Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. however. always at the same time as an end.” Kant then says. is nothing other than our ability to set ourselves an end. namely. which. of course. the formula of the “realm of ends.” requires that “we JAE 48_3 text. our own and that of all others. the end to which all our other ends must be subordinated. In yet further words. however in particular we choose to exercise our freedom of choice. what distinguishes homo sapiens as a biological species from other (possible) rational beings.”20 is thus nothing other than the command always to make the ability to set ends. can only lie in something that is an “end in itself. we are to make the perfection of our own capacity for choice and that of others our end. and in Critique of Practical Reason never presents the categorical imperative in any other way. in that way. when he states that humanity is that by which the human being “alone is capable of setting himself ends. That this is the substantive import of Kant’s normative ethics is also clear from his third major formulation of the categorical imperative.”19 The second formulation of the categorical imperative. while.indd 13 7/22/14 9:48 AM . In other words. And this “rational nature. stresses the formal requirements of universality and necessity as the hallmark of the moral for Kant (129–30) and also finds in Kantian morality an “obligation to show duty’s purity” in the light of which “Emersonian perfectionism will not seem a moral outlook at all” (133)? The answer to this is that. just as Kant said in his lectures. but rather what we have in common with other rational beings (or would. which makes its own ground explicit. This humanity is not. our supreme end.

in this abstract way. . thus. as it is of Emersonian or Cavellian perfectionism. to fulfill any duties. whether to oneself or others. first. in Kant’s view “the First Command of All Duties to Oneself” is “know (scrutinize. . that we must pick and choose from among all those we could possibly help those whom we will actually help and from among all the possible ways in which we could help them those in which we will attempt to help. the consequence of the formula of humanity as its ground.23 That is. fathom) yourself. to promote the particular ends of each to the extent that doing so is compatible with equally promoting the likewise compatible particular ends of all others. . but rather in terms of your moral perfection. ourselves and all others. But such cognition will also counteract that egotistical self-esteem which takes mere wishes . know your heart. must be set aside so that we can adopt the general principle that tells us to treat everyone. . Of course. It does not tell us to ignore the particular ends of others and abnegate our own. in so doing. dispel fanatical contempt for oneself as a human being. .” not in terms of your natural perfection (your fitness or unfitness for all sorts of discretionary or even commanded ends).14  Guyer abstract from the personal differences of rational beings as well as from all content of their private ends” in order to be able “think of”—and realize— “a whole of all ends in systematic connection (a whole both of rational beings as ends in themselves and of the ends of his own that each may set himself). another form of the command to use our own freedom only in a way compatible with the greatest possible use of freedom and to strive to perfect our will in that way. . This moral cognition of oneself will. we cannot possibly actually promote the realization of all the particular ends of all others. while we should always be able to avoid injuring or destroying the (lawful) freedom of others. the acknowledgment of human imperfection is part of Kantian perfectionism. accidental preferences for particular ends. . That is why his system of duties includes perfect duties of omission but only imperfect duties of commission. The command that “all maxims from one’s own lawgiving are to harmonize with a possible kingdom of ends as with a kingdom of nature”22 is. . one has first to make oneself intelligible to oneself and. . . And while there is no space here to enumerate all of Kant’s open-ended. thus. two comments about them are in order here. has to be interpreted carefully. imperfect duties of perfection. thus. whether or not we are currently inclined to do so. whether some of our own or some of some others. That is. First. to come to understand that one must be neither more perfect nor less perfect than human beings are allowed to be—one must not hold oneself to a standard of perfection that is JAE 48_3 text. . for proof of a good heart. Kant recognizes that.”21 This statement.indd 14 7/22/14 9:48 AM . as ends in themselves and. It tells us that our contingent.

for they are paradigmatic cases in which one may promote the ends of others while promoting one’s own as well.” not his “Doctrine of Virtue. Kant offers a longer list of duties than Cavell ever does. his discussion of marriage comes in his “Doctrine of Right. he hardly makes marriage as central to his account of human self-perfecting as Cavell does. Kant also adds that of conscience. but my concern is solely with his reason for believing that sex can be made rightful within marriage. or to an other—an imagined supreme being.” so Kant is focused more on the legally enforceable perfect duties we have within marriage than on marriage as an image of the fact that human beings can always be in the process of perfecting themselves but can never perfect themselves. as for Cavell. with another). Kant’s idea is basically just that. and. an imagined human being. namely. its necessary condition.indd 15 7/22/14 9:48 AM . since a person is an absolute unity. But what I want to draw attention to is only Kant’s analysis of marriage as a site for the realization of human freedom. for Kant. perhaps as a lifelong bachelor himself.25 To be sure. an actual human being. Further. intelligibility to oneself is not the end of duty but its beginning. The second point that I want to make here is that the claims of friendship and that special form of friendship that marriage may be are just as prominent in Kant’s normative ethics as they are in Cavell’s. A necessary condition of acting freely is understanding what it is that one is trying to do. the place where the natural drive for sex can be transformed into an expression of human freedom and the possibility of its mutual realization. his idea that.”24 That is. but neither must one allow oneself a degree of imperfection that is too lax for human beings. one is essentially a slave to passion. To this requirement. “one constrained by reason sees himself constrained to carry” on “the business of a human being with himself” “as at the bidding of another person. thus an instance of the ultimate goal of morality. Kant has been scorned for his view of sex as “the natural use that one sex makes of the other’s sexual organs” for “enjoyment” and for his claim that sex can be made rightful only within marriage. through his conscience. So. The requirement of self.Examples of Perfectionism  15 unattainable for human beings. using oneself and/or the other as a mere means to pleasure.”26 and thereby enables herself not merely to use her sexual organs as an instrument for her own enjoyment but to become a whole person again as well. one has to be able to make one’s actions intelligible not only to oneself but also to others. each does not merely acquire the (right to use the) sexual organs of the other but each acquires the other as “a whole person. and a necessary condition of treating the freedom of others as an end in itself is being willing to allow them to understand what one is trying to do (in a way that. but that. in sex as such (with oneself. one who would make a promise to another that he does not intend to keep has no intention of doing). one of his explications of which is that. within marriage. to borrow one of Kant’s examples.and mutual intelligibility is as much a part of Kant’s ethics as it is of Cavell’s. JAE 48_3 text.

foregrounded. . in which the couple at the center extends the freedom they have granted to each other in appropriate ways to others beyond their own bedroom. . in spite of the sexual monogamy on which he insists within marriage. above all in marriage. it should be clear that. but that in so doing one also treats oneself as a genuinely free will and not a mere means for pleasure. Cities of Words. The “unity” that one spouse concedes to the other but thereby gains for herself as well is precisely the unity of a free. We can think of marriage on the Kantian model as the center of concentric rings of freedom. to borrow this quotation’s own word. at least in a genuine marriage with all its give and take. and even that it identifies some of the same sites for the imperfect realization of our perfection as does Cavell.indd 16 7/22/14 9:48 AM . an intelligible world. and Kant’s account of “rights to persons akin to rights to things” makes it plain that. one is not merely treating one’s spouse as a genuinely free will rather than a mere means for pleasure.28 I hope I have now said enough to substantiate my claim that Kant’s normative ethics can be considered perfectionist in its own terms. the married couple’s extension of personhood and. in these relations too.27 And while he does not make the next point equally explicit. in an association (real or imaginary) other than the one manifested in our everyday world of imperfect laws and enforcements and unstable or unworthy incentives” (Cavell. that it has some of the same structural features as Cavellian perfectionism. and a sensible world. with Kant. In Kant’s Groundwork. in which the demands of inclination are.29 What I want to do with this topic here JAE 48_3 text. I now want to turn back to metaethics and suggest some of the parallels between Kant’s and Cavell’s versions of perfectionism at this level of their thought. as it were. at the very least. one other—as well. rational will.16  Guyer in marriage. governed by reason. Kant makes it explicit that this sharing of the right to mutual freedom to set ends is not confined to the bedroom. in which we are free from the importunate demands of inclination. freedom to others is not limited to each other. the married couple may have children. servants. therefore. one who can choose to set the end of obtaining sexual pleasure within and only within a larger practice of freely setting her ends and conceding the same right to do so to others—in this case. 138) is self-evidently an idea from Kant and an idea that Emerson could not but have associated. this idea takes the form that we have to think of ourselves as members of an intelligible as well as of a sensible world in order to conceive of our reason as a form of “self-activity” and as the condition of possibility of self-activity and thus freedom in all of its forms. I hardly need argue that Kant’s moral theory is in some way grounded on the idea that we are members of not one but two worlds. and other employees. arguing that “equality of possession” between spouses extends beyond equality “in their possession of each other as persons” to include “equality in their possession of material goods” as well. we must always treat their objects as persons with their own freedom and their own rights. “The idea that those who aspire to a moral life . already live.

31 In the Groundwork.Examples of Perfectionism  17 is only to highlight a profound problem in Kant’s initial conception of our membership in two worlds and then suggest that his struggle to resolve this problem took him even closer toward Cavellian perfectionism than may be apparent from Cavell’s own use of Kant only to identify the two-world structure characteristic of all perfectionism. intentionally or not.33 then there can really be no conflict between morality and inclination. this problem is not yet apparent. by 1792.”30 But Kant offers no guarantee that human beings will transform the natural world into a moral world. Thus. Here Kant says that our moral task is to transform the natural world into a moral world. a conclusion a Cavellian perfectionist cannot accept. But if the noumenal world or the noumenal will is the ground of the phenomenal world. in what would become the first part of Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason—the text that was the basis for Cavell’s presentation of Kant in “Hum 5” in 1966. thus that moral perfection is not only possible but even necessary for us. can only be understood as the inscrutable power to choose between good and evil. “the world as it would be if it were in conformity with all moral laws (as it can be in accordance with the freedom of rational beings and should be in accordance with the necessary laws of morality).” for the free will. though not in Cities of Words—Kant argued that the noumenal will. this is precisely what perfectionism cannot accept. But neither could Kant himself ultimately accept this result. even if it does not appear to the causal law of human actions in the phenomenal world of human inclinations. from Wille. his argument that virtuous individuals must be able to believe that they will be rewarded for their virtue “in a world that is future for” them is based on nothing less than the assumption that many other human beings will not do their part in transforming the natural world into a moral one. we should not be discouraged by the undeniable prevalence of human evil. if we have been free to choose evil. the faculty of choice. that land him in the antiperfectionist position of implying that human beings cannot but be moral.indd 17 7/22/14 9:48 AM . on the contrary. Kant begins the third section of the Groundwork by assuming that the moral law must be a special kind of causality. in the Critique of Pure Reason.32 a position he then sustains by arguing that the moral law is the immutable law of the noumenal will. then we are also free to choose JAE 48_3 text. as a long line of critics from Kant’s time through the time of Henry Sidgwick to the present have put it. there can be no possibility of evil in Kant’s model of the human will. however.34 Contrary to its name. Kant’s argument in Religion is that. because. as Kant seems to believe in the Groundwork and explicitly asserts in the Critique of Practical Reason. Kant makes assumptions. the legislative rather than executive source of the moral law. no threats to our morality from our inclinations. now distinguished as Willkühr. In his first mature published discussion of his moral theory. precisely because the choice of evil is truly free. “in accordance with immutable laws but of a special kind. and thus no possibility of human beings falling short of moral perfection—or.

But I want to suggest that Kant’s theory of moral symbolism. to the question of education. what both children and adults must learn is not the principle or content of morality—that. or out of the world). on their own. but for Cavell. everyone. it is JAE 48_3 text. a fundamental part of its epistemology or ethics of belief. I want to turn. not a guarantee that any or all of us will actually be moral. though somewhat briefly.35 But Kant is also explicit that the freedom of the noumenal will affords us only the possibility of being moral. for. in Religion. convert back from good to evil. and on Cavell’s account too. their freedom to be who they really want to be free with another with whom they really want to be. their freedom to be moral. in the form of an image of having enough time to do so (all the time in the world. once having converted from evil to good out of our radical freedom. in the face of great costs. the failures characters in tragedy—and. and thus can never be confident that our virtue has been completed. nevertheless. Learning Possibilities In this section.” as I noted at the outset. the idea of immortality is a symbol of the fact that we can never be confident in the completeness of our virtue.”36 but also an image of the way in which. and he argues that the idea of our own immortality is an image of the possibility of unending progress toward moral perfection. adumbrated in Critique of Judgment and developed more fully in Religion. while Kant makes it clear that children learn the possibility of being free to be moral themselves in part from the example of others who have freely chosen to be moral. whereas in Critique of Practical Reason. has been a recent subject of discussion.indd 18 7/22/14 9:48 AM . Finally. we could also always. shows that moral education is an on-going process even for adults. on Kant’s account.37 Thus. I will suggest that. in Kant’s view. and it is a thought to which Kant eventually comes as well.38 This suggests a fundamental difference with Kant. “endless progress toward holiness. Cavell’s characterization of philosophy as “the education of grownups. This is a thought that Cavellian perfectionism can live with. already knows—but the possibility of their own freedom. in particular.18  Guyer good. who. which is the core of morality for Cavell. 4. I want to suggest that there is an even deeper affinity between the Cavellian and Kantian images of education. seems concerned primarily with the education of children. inexplicably as before. the characters who do so learn or do not are characters in art—the successful learners characters in comedy. Beyond this one point.39 as it should be on Cavellian perfectionism. even a child. people seem either to learn how to be free to be themselves with others or do not. at least in his account of moral education. what it is that grownups must learn is above all the possibility of their own freedom. the postulate of immortality is a guarantee of the possibility of perfecting our virtue. the focus of his theory of education. indeed requires.

self-deception is our biggest obstacle. with its suggestion that our learning as adults is not only a matter of becoming more aware of something that in some sense we already know but also a matter of learning what we keep from ourselves.” “The issues of philosophy. the instrument of moral education. what makes moral argument rational is not the assumption that there is in every situation one thing which ought to be done and that this may be known. Cavell makes the character of moral education. The power of examples seems central to the moral pedagogy of both Kant and Cavell. .” Cavell continues in his own words. are solved. . except that this may suggest clarifying (say. . obviously not the kind of education in grammar that children learning their first language get from the adult speakers who surround them and their early teachers but the kind of education in the grammar of our deepest concepts that adults may get from Wittgensteinian reflection on language: It is clearly not the acquisition of a fresh piece of information.indd 19 7/22/14 9:48 AM . but by arranging what we have always known. thus unlearning our habits of keeping knowledge from ourselves. Cavell connects his idea of philosophy as the education of grownups with Wittgenstein’s remark that “philosophical problems . perhaps it can be thought of as learning further what kind of thing can be a fact.”40 Cavell’s immediate focus in the piece from which I have just cited is not moral education but the kind of education in grammar that Wittgenstein models. in The Claim of Reason: To the extent that . of where we stand. to a knowledge and definition of ourselves. where self-intelligibility is our goal and the condition of our intelligibility to others. giving explanations). the rest of us (grownups) may learn about our own possibilities from their examples. there is learning that is not comprehensible as acquiring new facts.41 But the last remark of this quotation. “are evidently ones requiring something like self-knowledge or. . One could call this learning rethinking. already points in the direction of moral education. that it is not a matter of learning some principle or principles that we do not already know but learning to understand ourselves. which may pass by the essential idea that you already know what you keep from yourself. self-reflection. . not by giving new information. in short. . and what we must learn is not some principle of morality but that we tend to deceive ourselves and how to undeceive ourselves. for example. on Cavell’s image of moral education. proposal of “the education of grownups” emphasizes. Its rationality lies in following the methods which lead to a knowledge of our own position. For.Examples of Perfectionism  19 at least implicit. clear in his account of moral argument. that humans are mortals. say.42 JAE 48_3 text. responsibility is the subject of moral argument. as the . nor the assumption that we can always come to agreement about what ought to be done on the basis of rational methods. yet.

20  Guyer This passage comes from before Cavell characterized his position in morality as a form of perfectionism and before he described one goal of perfectionism as self-intelligibility. except that it takes the entire course of the film for the man to come to the essential insight about himself that he was throughout having fun” (ibid. on condition of and as condition of becoming intelligible to others. or ability and freedom to think. . can finally come together only when they have learned how to free themselves from misconceptions of their own wants and those of each other. is not a matter of learning some previously unknown rule but becoming intelligible to oneself. but the thought is the same: achieving morality. ultimately. especially in their relation to Shakespearean romance.indd 20 7/22/14 9:48 AM . Here sex is at issue. becoming educated to it. “we”—and by this he seems to mean we the audience as well as the characters. a stage at which the fate of one’s intelligence. actually to have sex with each other. the central characters of these tragedies. reawakened curiosity. where the latter explicitly includes the freedom to think for themselves and by implication to determine their own wants and set their own ends: about Bringing Up Baby. As he portrays them. Cavell says. including misconceptions stemming from their social roles and social definitions. what they do is something like play games. . “one whose successful and healthy negotiation demands a satisfaction of . or at least from the demands of more conventional others. but the freedom to have sex is also only part of the freedom the characters achieve. however. The dialectic of freedom in Bringing Up Baby is complex: David does not initially JAE 48_3 text. certainly: the characters have to free themselves to imagine having sex with each other (though this seems to be more difficult for David than for Susan) and. What further thing it is that one achieves by becoming intelligible to oneself.. you could almost say they merely have fun together. freedom from the preconceptions of society and of themselves. to think through the films of remarriage. is not so much said by Cavell in his formal discussion of morality in The Claim of Reason but is rather shown by Cavell in his discussions of art. Sometimes the characters have to learn to make the transition from childhood to adulthood. positively in his discussions of comedy and negatively in his discussions of tragedy. Cavell also says that “Bringing Up Baby presents the purest example of a relationship in which the pair do next to nothing practical throughout our knowledge of them. though in a classical Hollywood movie only implicitly. the man and woman who have actually been married and divorced before remarrying or who come together only through a series of misadventures that seems like a prior marriage and divorce. Cavell states that he has been “encouraged . 103). . as comedies of freedom” (Pursuits of Happiness. thus revealing his basic assumption about the cognitive and educational significance of art—“are attempting to cross the limits of” the stage of childhood latency. as in the case of Susan and her aunt. . as in the case of David. 125).. 88–89). their freedom is also the freedom to live their lives as and with whom they choose. will be settled” (ibid.

tragedy befalls those who fail to make themselves intelligible to themselves and to each other (thus. for all its twists and turns. which looks very different from Cavell’s but which is at bottom. such as that of the honest man who refused to calumniate Anne Boleyn in spite of the supreme cost to himself. and. for it. of his own freedom even when “it costs so much.” how to accustom the pupil “to tolerate a constraint of his freedom.Examples of Perfectionism  21 liberate himself from society’s and his own preconceived role for him. not shown in the film. which will convince the child of the possibility of such purity on his own part and. although “educators should spare their pupils examples of so-called noble (supermeritorious) actions. they should instead provide them with examples of real purity of motivation. 1) From earliest childhood the child must be allowed to be free in all matters . we learn from him at least the possibility of our own freedom as well. not so different. . Then he is retrospectively liberated by realizing that all along he has been having fun (and more than he ever would have had with his straitlaced assistant Miss Swallow).” although. I will instead now turn to Kant’s theory of moral education. certainly what David is learning is the possibility of his own freedom and of a life of freedom with Susan. in turn. on Cavell’s account. Kant stresses the power of example43 in a famous passage in the Doctrine of Method of the Critique of Practical Reason. certainly not the mere cleverness of the film. Kant states that “[o]ne of the biggest problems of education is how one can unite submission under lawful constraint with the capacity to use one’s freedom.” which produce idle fantasies of basking in the adulation due to heroes. and thereby destroy their possibility of living freely with themselves and with each other. at the same time lead him to make good use of his freedom. where he argues that. of course. he will hope not to have to exercise his freedom to be moral in such extreme circumstances. of the necessity to exercise his freedom in coordination with the freedom of others. .” To accomplish this goal.indd 21 7/22/14 9:48 AM . which they do not need to learn. Othello to himself and Desdemona). and of his freedom to do just that. Kant continues. Lear to himself and to Cordelia. can explain our enduring attraction to it. and what they learn is not the content of morality. But. which is. . but he is dragged away from his work. .44 But Kant makes it more explicit in his Lectures on Pedagogy45 that the point of moral education is to convince the child of his own freedom. protesting all the way. by the search for the dinosaur bone snatched by Susan’s dog. not because it brings any profit. therefore. Kant’s moral pedagogy seems simple: children learn in good part from example. and . Nothing else. is a priori. I will not take the time to argue that. of course. and that the tragedy of failing to realize our own freedom is what we the audience learn from tragedy. although not in such a way that it is in the way of others’ JAE 48_3 text. but only prospectively self-liberated for a complete life with Susan including sex. I will argue. or at least its principle. but their own freedom to be moral.

again. in part. One experience through which we learn this is the experience of the sublime. . . On the contrary. which preceded the Critique of the Power of Judgment by a mere two years. according to the Critique of Practical Reason. we can infer our freedom immedi- JAE 48_3 text. that is. since we must have learned it as children but also seem constantly to need to relearn it. in addition to letting children exercise their freedom under appropriate supervision. . For example. so that it need not depend on the care of others. but in each case what we have to learn—or presumably.”50 a capacity which can be nothing other than that to determine our actions by the moral law instead of by mere inclination.indd 22 7/22/14 9:48 AM . but rather one teaches the child the value of human dignity. Moreover. . though under the guidance of adults (Kant stresses early in the lectures that “education partly teaches the human being something and partly merely develops something within him”47). “which gives us the courage to measure ourselves against the apparent all-powerfulness of nature. . Moral education through aesthetic experience takes several forms. Since.46 This suggests that. one also teaches children by presenting them with appropriate examples of moral conduct. 3) One must prove to it that restraint is put on it in order that it may one day be free. a theme of Cavellian perfectionism—is not the content of morality but our freedom to be moral. which allows “us to discover within ourselves a capacity for” resistance to the demands of nature. so presumably he continues to believe that. and all kinds of immoderation. he means primarily that it is best to teach children the various classes of duties that follow from the application of the general principle of morality to the particulars of the human condition not by abstract definitions and rules but by concrete examples of those duties. so that they will learn both their freedom and the necessity of their own supervision of it. especially from history.49 But Kant does not retract his argument from the second Critique that one teaches children best by examples of the purity of motivation of others. one does not define the concept of duty to oneself for a child and then list prohibitions against excessive drinking.22  Guyer freedom. both aesthetic experience and religion offer opportunities for continuing moral education. in the former case as a subsidiary benefit and in the latter case as its sole benefit. relearn. in which children have a natural interest. 2) The child must be shown that it can only reach its goals by letting others also reach theirs. . the child must learn both its own freedom and the necessity to constrain its own freedom for the sake of the freedom of others as well as its own future freedom by doing. Kant hardly supposes that our moral education is completed while we are children. unnatural sins. particularly that of the dynamical sublime.”48 In the immediate context in which he says this. But Kant also stresses that one must teach children “the duties that they have to fulfill as much as possible by examples. such as fear of physical injury by powerful forces of nature. which the child will then naturally appropriately apply.

within the limits of reason alone. according to Kant.”53 The agreement of the will with itself in accordance with universal laws is Kant’s formal way of describing the self-consistent or greatest possible use of freedom. the ultimate aim of morality according to Kant and. this is not a possibility for ourselves that we have first to learn from the experience of beauty. something we apparently need.” Thus.Examples of Perfectionism  23 ately from our awareness of the moral law and since. and sets the faculty of intellectual ideas (reason) into motion. the use of one’s freedom on one occasion in a way that is consistent with the possibility of one’s freedom on other occasions as well as with the freedom of others. but obviously something of which even as adults we have frequently to be reminded. as apparently we need to be reminded frequently. Kant’s Religion. That we have to be reminded even as adults of what at some level we always already know is also the lesson of Kant’s reconstruction of religion. at least if we have been blessed with a Kantian moral education. The sublime is an experience of nature. Finally. and need as much as adults as we did as children. But. makes beauty into a “symbol of the morally good. we have been aware from an early age of both our freedom and the need to freely constrain it by the requirement of compatibility with the freedom of others and of our future selves.indd 23 7/22/14 9:48 AM . the educational benefit of the experience of the sublime can only be to remind us of our freedom. art does not offer us an experience of the sublime (even the greatest landscape paintings offer us only beautiful representations of vistas that in nature are sublime). again. “[t]he poet ventures to make sensible rational ideas.” and we take this as an analogy of the way in which “in the moral judgment the freedom of the will is conceived as the agreement of the latter with itself in accordance with universal laws of freedom.52 the function of art’s play with such ideas can instead be only to keep them before us and keep us engaged with them. as we know.”51 Again. as I have argued. for Cavell as well. whether in art or in nature.” and it does this above all because “[t]he freedom of the imagination (thus of the sensibility of our faculty) is represented in the judging of the beautiful as in accord with the lawfulness of the understanding. since the central ideas of morality are all a priori and available to us as soon as we reflect on a proposed action. or specifically Christianity. find its “spirit” in the free play with its own moral content that Kant describes under the rubric of “aesthetic ideas. it is something that. at least at one level. though figured by the latter in the special case of (re)marriage. for Kant. but it does. the moral benefit of art cannot lie in teaching us moral ideas that we have not previously had. we know a priori and thus always already know.” to make them “sensible beyond the limits of experience. is his attempt to reinterpret the symbols of Christianity as JAE 48_3 text. the experience of beauty in general. with a completeness that goes beyond anything of which there is an example in nature” but in such a way that “the imagination is creative.

unlike Cavell’s tragedies. So I by no means wish to suggest that Kant’s and Cavell’s aesthetics and pedagogy of freedom are the same. that is.54 a task he executed with sufficient success to earn himself a royal prohibition of further publication on religion.indd 24 7/22/14 9:48 AM . and not specifically religious art. But yet again. even the eye of Cavell himself. that we cannot think of any significant moral worth in the actions of a person without at the same time portraying this person or his expression in human guise. as we saw a moment ago. although his extreme cases are still cases of the successful use of our freedom.” it is at the same time necessary that we think of Christ not as an entirely supernatural being elevated above “every frailty of human nature” but as a genuinely human being. can serve this function. and Kant too. Kant stresses that. we all always already know. which are reminders of the possibility of a needlessly self. in the form of comedy. sometimes. Kant has little to say about the reminders of an ultimately happy use of our own freedom that art can offer us. the need for religious symbols can only arise from the fact that. of course. though never greatest. that the greatest use of human freedom possible for human beings is not the greatest use of freedom possible tout court. exercise of our own freedom. of the human freedom to be moral. However. And both Cavell and Kant have recognized that the possibility of our own freedom is something we must learn by doing. whose ability to act morally at the cost of immense suffering is evidence of our own. I have argued. I will hardly attempt an account here of every moment of Kant’s argument but will simply point to his interpretation of the image of Christ as a “naturally begotten human being” and thereby a representation of the “prototype” residing in human reason itself of the human ability to overcome human frailty and inclination. I hope I have succeeded in showing that there are greater affinities between Kant’s and Cavell’s perfectionisms and the accompanying aesthetics and pedagogies than initially meets the eye. finds the essential end of human beings in the greatest possible use of freedom.and other-destructive use of our freedom. even as adults. though at the same time he also recognizes that this is something we at best achieve asymptotically rather than completely. that we are free to do the right thing even at great cost to ourselves is something that. the aesthetic experience of nature and art. even though it may be a “limitation of human reason . but apparently Kant thought that we sometimes need the even more powerful reminders of our own freedom that religion can offer us. at one level. To some extent. through the art that it appropriates to itself. at least as Cavell has interpreted it. Cavell has located the core of his “Emersonian” perfectionism in the possibility of an ever greater. he seems more drawn to the reminders of the possibility of the costly use of our freedom that both history and religion have to offer us. . . we apparently need frequent as well as graphic reminders of what we already know. with the bumps and bruises JAE 48_3 text.24  Guyer sensible representations of the central ideas of morality.

. 5:267. trans. 2004). ed. Notes 1. his notes do not match those transcribed by C. 1997). CA: Stanford University Press. Emerson’s Transcendental Etudes. in Lectures on Ethics. ed. ed. Paul Guyer. 3. examples that may be afforded to us by those around us. 19892). 2004]). 1:59. Naoko Saito and Paul Standish (New York: Fordham University Press. especially chaps. because. 2. 27:254. All further references to this work will be cited in the text. Critique of Practical Reason. In these ways. but do match. general remark following §29. See Paul Guyer. and were probably copied either from a set of notes similar to Kaehler’s or a common source (similarly. 4.indd 25 7/22/14 9:48 AM .Examples of Perfectionism  25 that will come along the way of doing that. I have argued for this claim in a paper on “Mendelssohn. 3. Mrongovius. 8. Which probably do not reproduce the lectures that Kant actually gave in 1784– 85. 52. ed. corrected. Moral Philosophy: Collins’s Lecture Notes. All further references to this work will be cited in the text. 2 vols. B. Stanley Cavell. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. both Kant and Cavell offer us examples of perfectionism. I hope I have shown. 49. “Thinking of Emerson. 113. Shawcross. ed. 1993). Kant. 13. see Stanley Cavell and the Education of Grownups. 261–70. 10–19. 12. Practical Philosophy.” in our edited collection Essays in Kantian Aesthetics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ed. ed. 1954). 6. who was also a student that year. Pursuits of Happiness (Cambridge. by J. 2012). Paul Guyer. 1981). for both Cavell and Kant. Vorlesung zur Moralphilosophie. 173. Kant. Here one cannot but think of Coleridge’s definition of genius as the ability to recapture the innocence of perception and conception otherwise characteristic of childhood: “To carry on the feelings of childhood into the powers of manhood”. MA: Harvard University Press. As a recent volume has foregrounded. Biographia Literaria. “Civic Responsibility and the Kantian Social Contract. C. Lectures on Ethics. 11. Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life (Cambridge. an earlier transcription by Johann Friedrich Kaehler from the summer of 1777 (see Immanuel Kant. MA: Harvard University Press. by history and. see Samuel Taylor Coleridge. it is reprinted in Stanley Cavell. 151. 1–3. Schneewind. In JAE 48_3 text. Critique of the Power of Judgment. 27:257.” in Recht— Geschichte—Religion: Die Bedeutung Kants für die Gegenwart. trans. with his Aesthetical Essays. Peter Heath and J. Ted Cohen and I had the privilege of publishing Cavell’s first piece about Emerson. but that we must also learn—and as imperfect beings always be relearning—from examples.” which will appear in a volume stemming from a conference on the highest good that took place in Frankfurt am Main in September 2013. 2004). although Georg Ludwig Collins was a student at Königsberg that year. 10. 5. Peter Heath (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Moral Philosophy: Collins. Immanuel Kant. Kant. which is the date that the Collins transcription carries. 2003). 9. Kant and the Experience of Freedom: Essays on Aesthetics and Morality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 5:41. Collins’s transcription of Kant’s lectures on anthropology was actually based on another set of notes that went back all the way to 1772–73). by art. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. David Justin Hodge (Stanford. 29. Kant. Herta NaglDocerkal and Rudolf Langthaler (Berlin: Akademie Verlag. and Immortality. 7. Stanley Cavell. Werner Stark [Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. virtually word for word. 2000).

Section V. ed. Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Moral Philosophy Collins. Kant repeated his usual criticism of perfectionism in 1784–85 rather than putting his own theory in that position (see Moral Philosophy Mrongovius. Kant. 6:438. 78. 30. 4:428. Doctrine of Virtue. Ibid. “Could It Be Worth Thinking about Kant on Sex and Marriage?” in A Mind of One’s Own: Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity. 80. 1998). 33. Practical Philosophy. “Doctrine of Virtue. Moral Philosophy Collins. “Doctrine of Right. Metaphysics of Morals. Louise M. 4:436. Kant. 29:626. 125. 27:1321. 86. “Erörterung des Begriffs von der Freiheit des Willens” (1792). Kant. Kant. 5:97–98. 6:278. 49–67. 19. 21. Kant. Kant. 99. A 811/B 819. §2. A 808/B 836. whose “Doctrine of Virtue” culminates with a lengthy discussion “On the Most Intimate Union of Love with Respect in Friendship” (§§46–47. “Doctrine of Virtue. I say this in spite of Cavell’s remark that “I anticipate here my sense that the featured four examples Kant presents after introducing the first formulation of the categorical imperative seem to me fantasies of essentially isolated. 6:278. 14. §2. 4:446. 6:641. the categories of duty. “Doctrine of Right. Practical Philosophy. 27:344. 26. in this case that of confirming the correctness of his formulations of the categorical imperative by showing that they give rise to the same four classes of duty—perfect and imperfect duties to self and others—that any common sense about morality recognizes (which is to say. Practical Philosophy. for. Practical Philosophy. See Carl Christian Erhard Schmid. friendless people” (Cities of Words. Practical Philosophy. in Briefe über die Kantische Philosophie. Groundwork.indd 26 7/22/14 9:48 AM . that Pufendorf and Baumgarten recognized). 22. 31. Groundwork. Kant. §2. See especially Critique of Practical Reason. Practical Philosophy. 4:452. according to the latter notes. 560. Metaphysics of Morals. Kant’s more complete system of duties—I say “more complete” because a perfectionist cannot recognize the possibility of a complete system of duties—is presented in the Metaphysics of Morals. Kant. Kant. but Kant’s examples in Section II of Groundwork. 126–27. 17. ed. Kant. 6:387. 6:473–74. 588). Practical Philosophy. 83.” §26. Section III. Section III. Metaphysics of Morals. 27. 678. Introduction. 427. 16. 25. §2. Groundwork. Groundwork. But this does not affect the accuracy of Kant’s classification of his own theory as a form of perfectionism in the Kaehler and Collins notes. For further discussion of Kant on marriage.” §13. 24. have a strictly limited heuristic or argumentative function. 584–88) and an appendix “On the Virtues of Social Intercourse” (§48. 4:433.A.” §25. Practical Philosophy. 680. Practical Philosophy. 244). 27:346. Groundwork. Lectures on Ethics. Practical Philosophy. Kant. 1993). Antony and Charlotte Witt (Boulder. Kant. Kant. Groundwork.. This may be. Versuch einer Moralphilosophie (1790) and Karl Leonhard Reinhold. Practical Philosophy. 4:437. 562–63. 86. 4:429. CO: Westview.” §§14–15. But I am going to focus here on Kant’s treatment of marriage rather than friendship. Kant. 20. like his examples in Section I. Practical Philosophy. 15. Metaphysics of Morals. Naturrecht Feyerabend. 18. Kant. Practical Philosophy. Paul Guyer and Allen W. 518. §2. Kant. second series. and trans. 133). Collins’s transcription differs from Mrongovius’s precisely on the issue of perfectionism.26  Guyer fact. 23. 94. see Barbara Herman. Lectures on Ethics. Metaphysics of Morals. both excerpted in Ma- JAE 48_3 text. Lectures on Ethics. Practical Philosophy. 32. Practical Philosophy. 6:469–73. excluding what Kant regards as the nonsensical conception of duties to a creature without needs such as God. 218. 34. 428. Critique of Pure Reason. 28. 29. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.

Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. For an account of Kantian moral education as a lifelong (as well as social and cultural) enterprise. §59. 54. Lectures on Pedagogy. 207. notes that are now lost. Practical Philosophy. 130–53. edited by Rink from notes for a course on pedagogy that Kant had given four times. 50. Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. 35. and Education. 47.. 41. Ludwig Wittgenstein. §49. Stanley Cavell. Critique of the Power of Judgment. Wood and George Di Giovanni (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lectures on Pedagogy. 475. 91. JAE 48_3 text. Anthropology. 83. MA: Harvard University Press. Stanley Cavell and the Education of Grownups. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. and Tragedy (New York: Oxford University Press. Kant. Lectures on Pedagogy. Kant. Anthropology. and Education. and Pedagogy. ed. 44. Louden (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 40. “Training to Autonomy: Kant and the Question of Moral Education. Published by Friedrich Theodor Rink in 1803.Examples of Perfectionism  27 terialen zu Kants “Kritik der praktischen Vernunft”. and trans. The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein. and Henry Sidgwick. §109. 447–48. Lectures on Pedagogy. 5:353–54. Kant. in Religion and Rational Theology. 1906).indd 27 7/22/14 9:48 AM . History. Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. Part One. Kant. 475–76.” in Saito and Standish. Kant. 5:261.” in her Moral Literacy (Cambridge. “Philosophy as Education. 9:488–89. 241–51 and 252–74. and Education. Rüdiger Bittner and Konrad Cramer (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag. 9:453–54. See “Translator’s Introduction. 49. see Barbara Herman. his attempt to argue against Moses Mendelssohn’s Jerusalem that Christianity offers the best symbols for making the religion of reason accessible to the sensible side of human beings. Anthropology. Skepticism. Practical Philosophy. particularly Cavell’s own contributions at 19–32 and 207–13. Anthropology. See. Part One. 7th ed. 1996). 9:443. History. and Emersonian Moral Perfectionism. 5:314–15. 45. Kant.” in her Constructions of Reason: Explorations of Kant’s Practical Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.” in Kant. 6:47. 2007).” 170–85. Methods of Ethics. 1989).” in Saito and Standish. Anthropology. (Indianapolis. Religion and Rational Theology. Part Two. Morality. Günter Zöller and Robert B. ed. 39. 434–36. 48. IN: Hackett Publishing. 209. 37. 9:488. Critique of Practical Reason. Kant. Critique of the Power of Judgment. “The Gleam of Light: Initiation. I believe. 227–28. See Naoko Saito and Paul Standish. And. 57. 2007). Kant. cited by Cavell and continued with Cavell’s own remarks in “Philosophy as Education. ed. History. Stanley Cavell and the Education of Grownups. Allen W. for example. 5:155–56. 6:71. 51. Robert Louden’s translation of the Lectures on Pedagogy follows on 437–85. 1979). the year before Kant’s death. 43. 38. Prophesy. and Education. History. 36. 111–12. §28. as well as that by Naoko Saito. 46. 52. 312. Ibid. 1975). Cavell. 145. 165–86. 53. Kant. 192–93. Stanley Cavell and the Education of Grownups. 4:402–3. 263–65. To borrow a phrase from Onora O’Neill. Religion and Rational Theology. 42. History. see “The Power of Example. Kant. Philosophical Investigations. 439.