Tracking Kant's Bête Noire: The Significance of Hegel's Emptiness Critique for Contemporary Kantianism
Slavens, Jesse David
Engelhardt, H. Tristram
Doctor of Philosophy
The animating contention of this dissertation is that Hegel’s emptiness critique remains relevant for Kantian moral philosophy. The significance of Hegel’s critique is both broad and severe. However, the relevance of Hegel’s emptiness critique has been challenged on two fronts: first, that Hegel’s emptiness objection misunderstands Kant’s position regarding the Formula of Universal Law and the functional role of the universalization procedure; second, that Hegel’s objection is limited to the Formula of Universal Law, and the content-full Formula of Humanity undermines any charges of general emptiness. Both challenges are erroneous, and the specific objective of the dissertation is to show how. The dissertation proceeds in three parts corresponding to these rebuttals: First, in chapter 1 I provide an alternate interpretation of Hegel’s emptiness objection that contextualizes the objection, thereby showing how it is an element of a larger emptiness critique. Second, in chapters 2 and 3 I consider and defend the applicability and severity of the emptiness critique for the Formula of Universal Law. Lastly, in chapters 4 and 5 I argue that Hegel’s critique is not limited to the Formula of Universal Law, but can be extended to the Formula of Humanity, and is thus broadly relevant for Kantian moral philosophy. These arguments are all framed in terms of Hegel’s general contention that Morality cannot furnish an immanent doctrine of duties unless empirical content is imported: when a determination or derivation or duty works, it works by importing illicit content; when illicit content is not imported, the determination or derivation of duty fails. With the introduction of subjective, contingent, or empirical content as foundational to moral theory, however, the supremacy, objectivity, and universality of the moral theory is undone. Such content is for Kant antithetical to true morality; it is Kant’s adversary and bête noire.