Speaker: Brian O'Connor (UCD)
Title: 'Kant and the Problem of Usefulness'
Being a useful person means that one has the capacity, if not the developed skills, to act to meet the needs of others. A useless person has neither that capacity nor even the ability to recognize that others have needs. The problematic nature of usefulness begins to appear only when work is conceived as something more than a necessity of self-preservation. This occurs when the primary emphasis placed on work is that it is a capacity that socially developed human beings are supposed to have. The specific problem examined here is that arguments for usefulness are levered against non-useful properties: morality, ethics, altruism being the cases in point. Philosophy attempts, in short, to find reasons from outside the space of natural necessity or of expedience for the necessity of usefulness. The paper focuses mainly on Kant, though the relevantly similar efforts of Hegel and Marx to defend usefulness in non-utility terms are also considered.
Convenors: Dr Joseph Schear, Dr Manuel Dries, and Prof Mark Wrathall
Webpage: Post-Kantian European Philosophy