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Sandel on Kant and the capacity for reason

Updated Tuesday, 18th January 2011

Michael Sandel looks at how Kant's emphasis on our capacity to reason has a place for beings who lack much in the way of reasoning ability or rationality

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Sandel on Kant and the capacity for reason

It’s true Kant does consider that human beings are worthy of respect in virtue of our capacity for reason.  But when it comes to those who are before the age of reason, young children for example, or the mentally disabled, he does not say that they are also not bearers of human dignity, to the contrary - all human beings as rational human beings are worthy of respect, even if they haven’t realised their capacity for rational action.  What matters is the capacity for reason, not the extent to which any of us succeeds in realising it. 

For Kant rationality includes the capacity to will the moral law, the capacity to act freely, to act as autonomous beings, and it’s really our capacity for autonomy that enables us to be held morally responsible.  We can’t hold someone or something responsible who’s incapable of reason, that’s a consequent mental idea.

Dur: 1’06”

 

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