INEFFICACY, DESPAIR, AND DIFFERENCE-MAKING: A secular application of Kant’s moral argument

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Those of us who enjoy certain products of the global industrial economy but also believe it is wrong to consume them are often so demoralized by the apparent inefficacy of our individual, private choices that we are unable to resist. Although he was a deontologist, Kant was clearly aware of this ‘consequent-dependent’ side of our moral psychology. One version of his ‘moral proof’ is designed to respond to the threat of such demoralization in pursuit of the Highest Good. That version of the argument says that the capacity that faith and trust in God has to sustain our moral resolve licenses that faith and trust, from a practical point of view. My goal here is to argue that Kant’s proof has a contemporary, secular analogue in modern industrial contexts where the apparent “inefficacy” of an individual consumer’s choices in the face of massive insensitive supply-chains is a threat to her moral resolve. I conclude by suggesting that the Kantian approach may license us in adopting (as an item of defeasible moral faith) an evidential decision-theoretic principle regarding what it is to ‘make a difference.' This in turn licenses trust -- if not in God then in other right-minded people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationKant and the Problem of Morality
Subtitle of host publicationRethinking the Contemporary World
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781000606195
ISBN (Print)9780367461256
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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