Was Kant Anti-Semitic? With an Addendum on Duty (36 pages) – Ftn. #7 added 16 February 2020

Was Kant Anti-Semitic? With an “Addendum on Duty” by is licensed by Douglas R McGaughey under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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Was Kant Anti-Semitic?
with an “Addendum on Duty”[1]

“It is a peculiar habit of our capacity of attentiveness to focus precisely on that which is flawed about someone else; and to do so unintentionally: to focus on the missing button on the coat of the other, or the gap in the teeth, or on an acquired speech defect and, consequently, to cause consternation in the other but also to debase ourselves in the process. – When in general it is a good thing, it is also not only proper but also wise to overlook the fault of the other and yes, to overlook even our own joy [in the matter]. However, the abstracting of this capacity involves a mental strength that can only be acquired by practice.” (Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View AA VII: 132)[2] (Trans. McG)


On this side of the Shoah, the discovery that Kant appeared to connect euthanasia with Judaism is horrific and deeply disturbing. However, with Kant nothing is as it simply appears to be. A careful reading of Kant discloses anything but a call for the physical annihilation of a social group, Jews. Kant speaks of Judaism’s voluntary (by no means from self-hatred) but gentle, spiritual death – as an historical religion, not as the violent murder of persons. He envisions that Judaism along with all other historical forms of religion will one day be renewed by a “pure” (or core) religion grounded in the dignity of all persons and a community committed to the internal commonweal of God to encourage moral effort. This God is no highest Being (ens summum) among beings but the Being of all beings (ens entium), as the unconditional condition of possibility for any and all reality and the origin of both the physical order that governs nature and the moral order that governs creative freedom. This core religion behind or above historical religion by no means removes humanity from history but is precisely what encourages humanity to exercise its incredible creative capacity in the world, responsibly.

“Religion and Morality” Presented at the University of Cape Town – 27 Feb. – 1 Mar., 2019 (7 pages; with notes 15 pages) – Updated August 2019

Updated August 2019

Conference Call for Papers

Department of Religious Studies

University of Cape Town

Call for Papers

Moral and Ethical Frameworks and Performances

Convenors: Abdulkader Tayob; Andrea Brigaglia

In spite of deep-seated modernist suspicions, religions have been expected by the state and by societies to take some responsibility for morality and ethics. The close connection between moralities and religions has been recognized as an important part of social life. From Kant’s vision of religion rooted in ethics, to the challenges of globalization, ecological degradation and poverty alleviation in our time, religions are expected and often do respond with ethical values and virtues. This hope invested in religion is not always matched by social theory. Most contemporary and early modern scholars have not seen a close affinity between religion and true morality (ethics). The prevailing doxa is that the two are worlds apart. While freedom occupies an essential feature of a truly moral and ethical life, obligation and compulsion are believed to dominate religious life. The latter was characterised by very little scope for deviation and adaptation, which makes ethical choices difficult if not impossible. While closer attention to religious life has challenged these presuppositions, the prevailing prejudice is  hard to change. Religious moralities might be valued, but they are hardly regarded as truly ethical.

Recent interest in Aristotle’s virtue ethics has prompted a turn to the religious life worlds where ethics and morality are guided by a complex of beliefs, values and practices.  Theodicies (the justification for the persistence of evil) are only one among the many ways in which religious traditions frame human life on earth. Other ways of thinking about how religions frame ethics and ethical dispositions  might be conceptions of the nature of good or evil, conceptions of the human person, patterns of social and culture life that sustain moral life, or the future of the good in this world and the afterworlds. But conceptions of a moral life are not presented in clearly organized frameworks. They are embodied and lived through narratives and practices that sustain a moral and religious life for individuals and groups. And they are subtly malleable, but also resilient to winds of change.

This is a call for papers on the deep connection between religious traditions and morality as it is articulated in texts, beliefs, media, dispositions, practices, attitudes and emotions.

  • What are the conceptions of the good life and how are they formulated and framed in the foundational texts religious traditions?
  • How are ideas of religious ethics and morality embodied and sustained over a period of time. How do they meet the demands of change and challenges in political, economic or cultural contexts?
  • How are ethics and moralities sustained and transmitted through informal and formal educational projects?

If you are interested, please send a detailed summary of 1500 words to Abdulkader.Tayob@uct.ac.za  by 30 October 2018. A meeting will be planned for January 2019.

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Creative Commons License
Religion and Morality by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Religion and Morality[1]

Douglas R McGaughey
30 January 2019



If there is anyone who was not (and today would not be) surprised about a disconnect “between religion and ethics, it would be Immanuel Kant.[2] Nonetheless, the two are deeply connected: there can be no morality without particular experience in the world and the transcendental conditions of possibility for which the term religion is appropriate.

On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence (9 Pages) – Updated August 2019

Updated August 2019

“On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence” by Douglas R. McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Pdf version with footnotes (rather than endnotes) and page numbers: Download Now

Presented in Prof. Otfried Höffe’s
12 January 2019


On the Value and Lack of Values of Artificial Intelligence[1]


An examination of the claims made on behalf of “artificial intelligence” (AI) that it can and will replace human rationality.  Whereas AI has the potential to be beneficial (as the case with any product of autonomous freedom), it also has the potential to be extremely destructive.  However, the core thesis of the paper is not simply one of a critique of AI by practical reason but a rejection of the materialistic reductionism on the part of the blind defenders of AI.  Already in the 18th Century, Critical Idealism pointed out that there is far more to reason than the “hypothetical” imperatives and “culture” of technical skills.  We lose humanity when we overlook the a priori synthetic structures of theoretical and practical reason, the reflecting judgment of “aesthetics,” and “pure” religion.