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Idealistic Studies

Volume 45, Issue 1, Spring 2015

Simon Skempton
Pages 53-67

Kant, Hegel, and the Moral Imagination

This article addresses the question of whether Kantian moral formalism (Moralität) or Hegelian concrete ethical life (Sittlichkeit) is more relevant to the understanding of revolutionary changes in the moral attitudes of society. As Sittlichkeit conceives of morality as immanent to the existing conventions of society and Moralität involves principles that transcend any particular community, the former initially appears to be more conservative and the latter more potentially revolutionary. However, Moralität involves an individualized form of moral reasoning, whereas Hegelian modern Sittlichkeit involves a social form of moral reasoning based on relations of reciprocal recognition. It is argued here that Sittlichkeit so understood has the potential to overcome the limitations placed on the moral imagination (the ability to envisage contexts of suffering and repression) by abstract individualized reasoning.

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