“Morality in Spite of Interest: Absolute Skepticism Grounded in Skepticism’s Necessities or Re-Examining Evolution and Epigenesis” by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Presented at St. Anne’s College Oxford July 10, 2011
Morality in Spite of Interest: Absolute Principles Grounded in Skepticism’s Necessities or Re-examining Evolution and Epigenesis
The issue of the relationship between mind and matter (morals and biology) did not commence with Darwin’s (mis-titled) Origin of the Species (more accurate: Origin of Species from Other Species). In the 18th century alone, one only need recall the British/Scottish Rationalist/Moral Sense school, d’Holbach’s and Bonnet’s materialist reductionism, Leibniz’ pre-established harmony between consciousness and matter, or Lessing’s ugly ditch. Johnann Nicolaus Tetens’ (1777) Philosophische Versuche über die menschliche Natur und ihre Entwicklung was on Kant’s desk as he wrote the Kritik der reinen Vernunft. The issues (not the technology, to be sure) of today‘s morality and neurobiological reductionism are at the core of Tetens‘ debate with Charles Bonnet. Teten’s project on the nature and development of humanity is a defense of the complementarity of “evolution” (preformation) and “epigenesis” (novelty) that is engaged by Kant in his discussion of teleology and morals later in the Kritik der Urteilskraft. At issue is the character of causal explanation. Is causal explanation analytic or synthetic? This paper engages Kant’s synthetic (as compositio!! not nexus) argument for understanding order in nature (physical necessity) as well as order in the novelty of creative freedom (self-legislated moral necessity) when it comes to humanity’s capacity to initiate a sequence of events that nature cannot accomplish on its own. Humans are moral beings because they can be, not because they must be — and that makes all the difference.