Who is the first moral philosopher

History of moral philosophy: Hume - Leibniz - Kant - Hegel

I don't want to question the content of this self-adulation that Suhrkamp-Verlag indulges in. However, a first glance at the table of contents reveals a frightening imbalance: Kant is dealt with on around 220 pages, Hume on 100, Hegel on 55 and Leibniz on 45.

This seems understandable, however, given that John Rawls is in his book A theory of justice from 1971, perhaps the most important book in political philosophy in the 20th century, based primarily on Kant. In general, the new founding of political liberalism at that time was intended to translate Kant's moral law of the categorical imperative into the social and political world of the 20th century. Liberalism understands people as individuals who primarily care about their private happiness. Rawls added at the time that this individual is striving for fair partnership-based cooperation in politics and society at the same time, which also includes and promotes the disadvantaged - a kind of social democratic limitation of US capitalism. This is how Rawls presents himself History of moral philosophy largely as the historical background of his political philosophy as a whole.

Although this is obvious, it still remains unsatisfactory. From many sides, Rawls has been since A theory of justice accused of neglecting the integration of the individual into social and political institutions and traditions. Rawls steps into this in his History of moral philosophy especially in his interpretation of Hegel; after all, his critics mainly refer to Hegel. But his answers are not only too formalistic, as in the debates of the past decades. They could have been more detailed.

Since the beginning of the early modern period, the dispute has raged as to whether the individual must submit to the state and society or whether the ultimate purpose of the state and society is to serve the self-realization of individuals. Hegel gave a clear answer to this: the state only creates and maintains the framework that enables freedom and privacy for individuals. Even those who want to promote the development of individuals must primarily serve the state. That corresponds roughly to the national liberal tradition in Germany.

If, for Rawls, individuals also pursue the goal of treating each other fairly in politics and society, then this may not fundamentally contradict Hegel's conception. In fact, Rawls no longer follows that liberal image of man, which sees man primarily as an egoist, who appears to fellow man as a wolf. However, he does not mention that people are historically shaped by society.

Instead, Rawls simply insists that he automatically considered the social inclusion of the individual when his theory of justice primarily deals with the basic structure of society. According to Rawls, the individual and society are mutually dependent or belong together. But with this Rawls misses the actual objection. Because Hegel cannot be understood in such a banal way. Rather, despite the mutual dependence of the state and the individual, the political contradictions still clash when it comes to the question of which of the two has to serve the other.

So if you have new arguments for Rawls’s concept of justice in your History of moral philosophy hoped, he sees himself largely disappointed. That would probably be expecting too much, given that Rawls has worked incessantly for over 40 years and largely from the same perspective on his model of liberal justice. In the History of moral philosophy Rather, Rawls ’plea for justice rather than fairness is historically extended. Conversely - and that makes the book somewhat exciting - the theories of Hume, Leibniz, Kant and Hegel are confronted with current problems through the glasses of Rawls ’conception of justice - which normal Kant and Hegel experts tend to leave aside.