A Post for Ymar

A Post for Ymar:

Yesterday we were talking about analytic v. synthetic a priori concepts in ethics, and I said that synthetic a priori was as close as you could get to 'a priori' in ethics. After all, true analytic a priori principles are supposed to be derived merely from "an analysis" of a concept -- that is, breaking the concept down to see what it contains. Ethics requires more than concepts, but real situations that necessarily involve particular things, people, and cases: so even those philosophers, like Kant, who want to do 'a priori' ethical thinking end up with synthetics. For example, Kant's famous "categorical imperative" is supposed to be synthetic a priori.

However, I am reminded this morning that Kant did believe that he had at least one analytic a priori principle at work in his Doctrine of Right: the principle of right. This principle doesn't deal with ethics precisely -- Kant explicitly divides his Metaphysics of Morals into "The Doctrine of Right" and "The Doctrine of Virtue," the latter of which contains his moral system:

...the system of the doctrine of duties in general is now divided into the system of the doctrine of rights (ius), which deals with duties that can be given by external laws, and the system of the doctrine of virtue (Ethica), which treats of duties that cannot be so given...(6:379)
"The Doctrine of Right" is about what we might call law: cases in which coercive force can be used.

Dr. Allen Wood wrote, in "The Final Form of Kant's Practical Philosophy," that:
Kant declares that the concept of right is not made up of two elements -- namely, an obligation to act in accordance with universal law and also an authorization to coerce others to fulfill this obligation.... [Gottlieb] Hufeland had derived the authorization to coerce those who would violate rights from an alleged natural obligation to increase our own perfection. Kant insisted that this would have the absurd consequence that one may not refrain from enforcing all one's rights to the full. Instead, he argued that the authorization to coerce another who hinders one's rightful actions is already contained analytically in the concept of the action as rightful.
So, the idea is that if I have rights at all, the authority to use force to enforce those rights is contained in the concept of 'what it is to have a right.' The answer to the question 'do I have any rights?' is supposed to be analytic as well, but I'm not sure that's really true. Aside from a right to die, it's hard to think of anything that the world really provides you as a right.

The rest we get from God, if you follow the Declaration of Independence account; or else from valor alone, which is empirical. I mean by that: we would not have the rights we do if it hadn't been for the particular chain of events that we can trace to the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Arbroath, the Declaration of Independence, and the various wars that were fought to enforce and extend those concepts.

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