By David West
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The individu al acts freely and morally when he or she acts purely in obedience to a universal moral law that is the product of reason alone. ' This is Kant's version of the more familiar 'golden rule', that you should do to others what you would have them do to you. The examples Kant uses to illustrate the categorical imperative are designed to show that immoral actions are self-defeating when they are considered as examples that everyone might follow. Thus, lying is effective (the lie is believed and the agent's ulterior motives are served) only if most people tell the truth.
Herder's views ar gue, instead, for the importance of the specific histories of distinct peoples. They also provided inspiration for nationalism, which was to become perhaps the most powerful ideological force of the nine teenth century. The languages of different peoples or nations corre spond to differences of culture and sensibility, defining a distinct national identity. In fact, in some ways Herder departs even more radically than Rousseau from EnUghtenment assumptions. Although Rousseau is sceptical of universal histories and notions of inevitable progress, he does not hesitate to offer sharply critical advice to his contemporar ies.
Medieval Christendom enthrones a religion which assumes the equal worth of all before God and sets the stage for the further development of freedom. »^ A t the same time, the spectre of relativism is exorcized. from nature or pure practical reason. Societies or cultures can be evaluated by locating them in the ascending series of dialectically unfolding forms. Significantly, Hegel's philosophy of history never questions the ultimate value of western civilization or modernity. But his dia lectical account of the historical development of the West is consider ably more nuanced than conventional Enlightenment narratives.