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Choosing Freedom

A Kantian Guide to Life

Karen Stohr

Publication Date - 01 February 2022

ISBN: 9780197537817

328 pages
5 x 7 inches

In Stock

An exploration of everything Kant's philosophy can teach us about being the best people we can be, from using our human reasoning to its fullest potential to being affably drunk at dinner parties.


An exploration of everything Kant's philosophy can teach us about being the best people we can be, from using our human reasoning to its fullest potential to being affably drunk at dinner parties.

Immanuel Kant is well known as one of the towering figures of Western philosophical history, but he is less well known for his savvy advice about hosting dinner parties. This philosophical genius was a man of many interests and talents: his famously formal and abstract ethical system is only part of his story. But Kant not only made a profound impact on how people think about big questions like how to treat one another -- he also offered wise insights on things people confront in everyday life: things like gossip, friendship, manners, self-respect, cheerfulness, gratitude, mockery, contempt, and yes, dinner parties. In this book, philosopher Karen Stohr shows how Kant's whole ethical picture fits together. It's a picture that is as relevant and useful now as it was in the 18th century--and maybe even more so.

A Kantian way of living means using reason to guide your choices so that your life reflects your true nature as a free, rational being. This nature is one we share with others; Kantianism emphasizes the fundamental dignity and equality of each person. It presents an ideal for how we should live together without downplaying the challenges we face in the actual world. Though realistic about human weaknesses, Kant remained optimistic about our capacities and possibilities. He had great faith in the ability of human reason to point us in the direction of moral progress and to get us there. Each of us has the power within us to know and choose the right path--we just have to be willing to make that choice, and to discover how worthwhile life can be in the process.


  • Offers intellectually curious readers an informed guide to how to live well, while also immersing them in the ideas of one of the world's most celebrated philosophers, Immanuel Kant
  • Introduces Kant's ethics accessibly and enjoyably to readers who have little to no background in philosophy
  • Covers rarely discussed topics in Kant's ethical thought, as well as his basic ethical framework
  • Written in accessible prose with short chapters and numerous contemporary examples

About the Author(s)

Karen Stohr is the Ryan Family Professor of Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy at Georgetown University, where she is also a Senior Research Scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics. She publishes in the areas of Kantian ethics, Aristotelian virtue ethics, and contemporary ethical theory, focusing especially the relationship between moral norms and social norms. Her previous books include On Manners (Routledge, 2011) and Minding the Gap: Moral Ideals and Moral Improvement (Oxford University Press, 2019). Her articles have appeared The New York Times and the Houston Chronicle, and she writes an ethics column for the Washingtonian. She has been interviewed on NPR and Philosophy Talk.


"In this accessible and compelling book, Karen Stohr captures the beauty, elegance, and wisdom of Kantâs system of moral philosophy without sacrificing its complexity. Emphasizing the importance of understanding our all-too-human fallibilities, Stohrâs Kant shows us how to engage in honest self-assessment, avoid the temptations of self-deception, and do the hard but necessary work required to become a better person.ââ" -- Carol Hay, author of Think Like a Feminist: The Philosophy Behind the Revolution

"Choosing Freedom is about doing what we can to be better persons. What are the vicious attitudes we must try to avoid, and what kind of character and social relationships should we try to develop? Karen Stohr explains Kant's ideas on these matters in a remarkably engaging, informal style, making them accessible to beginning students and other non-specialists. She does not hesitate to criticize and reject Kant's cultural biases (for example, on race), but she provides a well-informed, richly illustrated, and wise commentary on positive features of Kant's advice. The book should be welcomed by any students, teachers, and general readers who want a plain explanation of basic points of Kantian moral theory and its practical relevance to their lives." -- Thomas E. Hill, Philosophy, University of North Carolina

"Karen Stohr has accomplished an amazing thing: she has given us an introduction to Kant's ethics that is accessible and lively, without sacrificing any accuracy. She deftly explains the attractive moral concepts and ideals at the heart of Kant's view and demonstrates the practical relevance of the theory with a wealth of contemporary examples. Along the way she combats some of the persistent misconceptions that continue to plague the reception of Kant's moral theory. The book is perfect for introductory ethics courses or for any curious reader." -- Kyla Ebels-Duggan, Philosophy, Northwestern University

"Instead of looking down on us from the heavens of abstraction, Karen Stohr's Kant spends most of his time addressing how we might live more morally in our daily lives. Stohr turns from the major texts to Kant's essays and lectures, finding nuggets of wisdom ranging from ways to overcome self-conceit to how to organize a dinner party. A clear, enjoyable, and engaging introduction to a thinker who too often inspires fear, confusion, and a desire to curl up in a fetal position." -- Todd May, Philosophical Advisor to "The Good Place"

Table of Contents

    Part One: Kantian Basics
    Chapter 1 - Getting to Know Kant
    Chapter 2 - Freedom
    Chapter 3 - Human Nature
    Chapter 4 - Moral Commitment
    Chapter 5 - The Categorical Imperative: Equality
    Chapter 6 - The Categorical Imperative: Dignity
    Chapter 7 - The Categorical Imperative: Community
    Chapter 8 - Love and Respect
    Chapter 9 - Kantian Duties
    Part Two: Moral Assessment
    Chapter 10 - Knowing Ourselves
    Chapter 11 - Judging Ourselves
    Chapter 12 - Judging Others
    Part Three: Kantian Vices
    Chapter 13 - Servility: Acting Like a Doormat
    Chapter 14 - Arrogance: Being Full of Ourselves
    Chapter 15 - Contempt: Looking Down on People
    Chapter 16 - Defamation: Spreading Gossip
    Chapter 17 - Mockery: Making Fun of Others
    Chapter 18 - Deceitfulness: Bending the Truth
    Chapter 19 - Drunkenness: Losing Our Grip on Reason
    Part Four: Kantian Life Goals
    Chapter 20 - Personal Development: Making Something of Ourselves
    Chapter 21 - Stoic Cheerfulness: Learning to Grin and Bear It
    Chapter 22 - Judicious Reserve: Knowing When to Shut Up
    Chapter 23 - Useful Beneficence: Lending a Genuinely Helpful Hand
    Chapter 24 - Heartfelt Gratitude: Acknowledging Our Debts
    Part Five: Socializing, Kantian-Style
    Chapter 25 - Friends and Frenemies
    Chapter 26 - A Kantian Love Life
    Chapter 27 - Good Manners
    Chapter 28 - Dinner Parties without Drama
    Part Six: Looking Forward
    Chapter 29 - Staying Hopeful
    Chapter 30 - Kant as a Guide to Life