I want to distinguish between maxims at three levels of abstraction. At the first level are what I shall call individual maxims, or i‐maxims: maxim tokens as adopted by particular rational beings. At the second level are abstract maxims, or a‐maxims: abstract principles distinct from any individual who adopts them. At the third level are maxim kinds, or k‐maxims: sets of various action‐guiding principles that are grouped on the basis of their content. In this paper, I argue for the thesis (...) that i‐maxims are the locus of assessment in Kant's ethics. (shrink)
In this paper I highlight and discuss a problem for Kant’s conception of the categorical imperative that arises from the possibility of a differently fine-grained individuation of act types in the formation of maxims. The “Problem from the Manifold of Possible Maxims”, as it might be called, further develops and exacerbates the well-known “Problem of Relevant Descriptions.” In particular, I argue that there are cases in which the same act can be performed both under a universalizable and under a non-universalizable (...) maxim. But then Kant’s moral theory implies, given the necessity of moral truths, that there are acts that are both permissible and impermissible. The discussion reveals that a limitation of the notion of maxims sufficient to rule out a heterogeneous evaluation of two maxims that can underlie the same action is impossible without ad hoc stipulations. Consequently, a modification of Kant’s moral theory is required to at least ensure it’s consistency. The investigation ends with a discussion of two such modifications: First, I examine the suggestion of determining the moral status of actions only relative to some maxim and abandoning the assumption that actions are permissible or impermissible tout court. Such a move, however, is too deep an intervention in Kant’s moral philosophy to count as a suitable modification and, as I will show, faces serious problems on its own. I then discuss the possibility of modifying Kant’s universalization formula so that it quantifies not merely over actual maxims, but over all possible maxims. Although this proposed solution is also problematic, it turns out to be the most promising approach in the context of this investigation. __________________________________________________________________ Zusammenfassung: Diese Untersuchung widmet sich einem Problem, das sich für Kants Konzeption des kategorischen Imperativs aus der Möglichkeit einer unterschiedlich feinkörnigen Individuation von Handlungstypen bei der Bildung von Maximen ergibt. Das hier präsentierte Argument aus der Mannigfaltigkeit möglicher Maximen entwickelt das bekannte „Problem of Relevant Descriptions“ weiter und verschärft es. Ich argumentiere, dass es Fälle gibt, in denen dieselbe Handlung sowohl unter einer universalisierbaren als auch unter einer nicht universalisierbaren Maxime vollzogen werden kann, sodass Kants Moraltheorie, unter der Annahme der Notwendigkeit moralischer Tatsachen, impliziert, dass es Handlungen gibt, die zugleich erlaubt und nicht erlaubt sind. Die Diskussion ergibt, dass eine hinreichende Begrenzung des Maximenbegriffs für das Ausschließen eines heterogenen Auswertungsergebnisses zweier Maximen, die derselben Handlung zugrunde liegen können, ohne ad hoc-Bestimmungen unmöglich ist. Folglich ist eine Modifikation von Kants Moraltheorie erforderlich, um zumindest ihre Konsistenz sicherzustellen. Die Untersuchung endet mit der Diskussion zweier solcher Modifikationen: Zunächst untersuche ich den Lösungsvorschlag, den moralischen Status von Handlungen nur Maximen-relativ zu bestimmen und die Annahme aufzugeben, dass Handlungen tout court erlaubt oder verboten sind. Ein solcher Schritt stellt jedoch einen tiefen Eingriff in Kants Moralphilosophie dar und geht, wie ich zeigen werde, seinerseits mit gravierenden Problemen einher. Anschließend diskutiere ich die Möglichkeit, die Universalisierungsformel des kategorischen Imperativs dahingehend zu modifizieren, dass sie nicht bloß über aktuale, sondern über alle möglichen Maximen quantifiziert. Obgleich auch dieser Lösungsvorschlag problembehaftet ist, erweist er sich im Rahmen dieser Untersuchung als der aussichtsreichste Ansatz. (shrink)
In this paper, I confront Parfit’s Mixed Maxims Objection. I argue that recent attempts to respond to this objection fail, and I argue that their failure is compounded by the failure of recent attempts to show how the Formula of Universal Law can be used to demarcate the category of obligatory maxims. I then set out my own response to the objection, drawing on remarks from Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals for inspiration and developing a novel account of how the Formula (...) of Universal Law can be employed to determine the deontic status of action tokens, action types, and maxims. (shrink)
The paper examines Kant’s self-criticism to the account of hypothetical imperatives given in the "Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals". Following his corrections in the introductions to the third "Critique", the paper traces the consequences of that change in his later writings, specifically with regard to the status of prudence. I argue that the revision of the account of hypothetical imperatives leads to differentiate, and ultimately separate, two functions in prudence: the setting of ends through maxims, and the pragmatic rules (...) establishing means to reach those ends. Accordingly, I furthermore argue, there is ultimately no genuine structural distinction between the rules of prudence and skill. The only difference lies in the domain in which prudence unfolds, that is, the field of human relations, and in the relevant cognitions. (shrink)
A stable classification of practical principles into mutually exclusive types is foundational to Kant’s moral theory. Yet, other than a few brief hints on the distinction between maxims and laws, he does not provide any elaborate discussion on the classification and the types of practical principles in his works. This has led Onora O’Neill and Lewis Beck to reinterpret Kant’s classification of practical principles in a way that would clarify the conceptual connection between maxims and laws. In this paper I (...) argue that the revised interpretations of O’Neill and Beck stem from a mistaken reading of the fundamental basis of the classification of practical principles. To show this, I first argue that Kant distinguishes between maxims and laws on the bases of validity and reality. I then argue that although a practical principle necessarily has the feature of validity, its reality in actually moving the agents to action sufficiently makes a principle a practical principle. If this is so, I argue that the classification of practical principles must be based on the extent to which they are effective in human agents. Such a classification yields us three exhaustive and mutually exclusive types namely, “maxims that are not potential laws”, “maxims that are potential laws” and “laws that are not maxims”. (shrink)
It is commonly thought that on Kant’s view of action, ‘everyone always acts on maxims.’ Call this the ‘descriptive reading.’ This reading faces two important problems: first, the idea that people always act on maxims offends against common sense: it clashes with our ordinary ideas about human agency. Second, there are various passages in which Kant says that it is ‘rare’ and ‘admirable’ to firmly adhere to a set of basic principles that we adopt for ourselves. This article offers an (...) alternative: the ‘normative reading.’ On this reading, it is a normative ideal to adopt and act on maxims: it is one of the things Kant thinks we would do if our reason were fully in control of our decision-making. (shrink)
This paper focuses on a single question that highlights some of the most puzzling aspects of Kants disposition to duty, or strength of will? I argue that a dominant strand of Kant’s approach to moral striving does not fit familiar models of striving. I seek to address this problem in a way that avoids the flaws of synchronic and atomistic approaches to moral self-discipline by developing an account of Kantian moral striving as an ongoing contemplative activity complexly engaged with multiple (...) forms of self-knowledge. (shrink)
This paper provides a methodologically original construction of Kant’s “Formula of Universal Law” . A formal structure consisting of possible worlds and games—a “game frame”—is used to implement Kant’s concept of a maxim and to define the two tests FUL comprises: the “contradiction in conception” and “contradiction in the will” tests. The paper makes two contributions. Firstly, the model provides a formal account of the variables that are built into FUL: agents, maxims, intentions, actions, and outcomes. This establishes a clear (...) benchmark for understanding how the mechanics of FUL actually work. Secondly, the analysis of the resulting framework sheds new light on discussions about the implications of FUL. On the basis of this, we suggest a move to “comprehensive Kantianism’, which is the application of FUL to systems of maxims rather than to isolated maxims. (shrink)
Kantians are increasingly deserting the universal law formula in favor of the humanity formula. The former, they argue, is open to various decisive objections; the two are not equivalent; and it is only by appealing to the humanity formula that Kant can reliably generate substantive implications from his theory of an acceptable sort. These assessments of the universal law formula, which clash starkly with Kant's own assessment of it, are based on various widely accepted interpretative assumptions. These assumptions, it is (...) argued in this article, depend on misleading translations of key terms; selective attention to Kant's concrete examples; not taking seriously Kant's theoretical claims about the relations among his various ideas; and a failure to take into account Kant's idiosyncratic definitions of key concepts. The article seeks to right these interpretative wrongs, and finds that the universal law formula is not open to many of the standard objections. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: A general interpretation and close textual analysis of Kant’s theory of the categories of freedom (or categories of practical reason) in his Critique of Practical Reason. My main concerns in the paper are the following: (1) I show that Kant’s categories of freedom have primarily three functions: as conditions of the possibility for actions (i) to be free, (ii) to be comprehensible as free and (iii) to be morally evaluated. (2) I show that for Kant actions, although qua theoretical (...) objects they are always already constituted by means of the theoretical categories, qua practical objects (objects of reason in its practical use, i.e. objects qua possibly good or bad) they are constituted by means of the categories of freedom; and that it is only in this way that actions, qua phenomena, can be a consequence of freedom, and can be understood and evaluated as such. (3) Since Kant's presentation of his theory of the Categories of Freedom is extremely brief, Kant's parallel theory of the theoretical categories in his Critique of Pure Reason is used as a guide for the interpretation of the practical categories and their systematic relevance. (Translation by Alex Worsnip, reviewed and approved by the author.). (shrink)
The article compares two different interpretations of Kant's categorical imperative −the practical and the logical one− and defends the practical one, arguing that it is superior because it rejects cases of free riding without necessarily rejecting cases of coordination or timing. The logical interpretation, on the other hand, leads to the undesirable outcome that it does not reject immoral cases of free riding, and to the desired outcome that it does not reject maxims of coordination/timing. Given that neither of them (...) rejects maxims of coordination/timing (they are similar in that sense) and only the practical interpretation rejects free riding, the logical interpretation should be rejected. El artículo compara dos interpretaciones diferentes del imperativo categórico kantiano −la práctica y la lógica− y defiende la superioridad de la práctica debido a que rechaza los casos de free riding, sin rechazar necesariamente los casos de coordinación/tiempo. La interpretación lógica, en cambio, lleva al resultado indeseable de no rechazar casos inmorales de free riding, y al resultado deseable de rechazar las máximas de coordinación/tiempo. Dado que ninguna de las dos rechaza las máximas de coordinación/tiempo (y en este sentido son similares) y solamente la interpretación práctica rechaza los casos de free riding, debe rechazarse la interpretación lógica. (shrink)
Kant famously made a distinction between actions from duty and actions in conformity with duty claiming that only the former are morally worthy. Kant’s argument in support of this thesis is taken to rest on the claim that only the motive of duty leads non-accidentally or reliably to moral actions. However, many critics of Kant have claimed that other motives such as sympathy and benevolence can also lead to moral actions reliably, and that Kant’s thesis is false. In addition, many (...) readers of Kant find the claim that we should deny moral worth to a dutiful action performed from friendly inclination highly counterintuitive. Moreover, Kantian commentators disagree about the status of actions in conformity with duty, some claim that these can be taken as equally morally worthy as those performed from duty, while others argue that they are not even permissible. -/- It has also been claimed that Kant’s theory of moral worth should be related to the theory of the Gesinnung developed in the Religion. Thus, some authors claim that, in order for an action to possess moral worth, the agent has to be unconditionally committed to morality, that is, the agent must possess a virtuous character or good fundamental maxim (i.e. a good Gesinnung). However, according to Kant’s radical evil thesis (that is, the thesis that man is evil by nature ), the default position for man is to possess an evil Gesinnung, i.e. a Gesinnung which is only conditionally committed to morality insofar as morality does not demand a great sacrifice of our own happiness. So, an unwelcome consequence of this line of interpretation is that in Kantian ethics morally worthy actions become very rare indeed. -/- The paper is divided in two parts. The first part aims to clarify why Kant thought that only actions from duty are morally worthy, replying to some common objections against Kant’s view. I argue that Kant’s non-accidental condition should not be understood in terms of reliability because such interpretation is incompatible with Kant’s theory of motivation and rational agency. I propose an alternative interpretation which supports Kant’ s claim that only the motive of duty leads nonaccidently to dutiful actions, and thus only actions from duty possess moral worth. I end by showing that although actions in conformity with duty are worthless from the moral point of view, they are not (in many cases) impermissible. The first part concludes that the criterion for the permissibility of actions is different to the criterion for the ascription of moral worth. Thus, rightness, which pertains to actions performed on maxims that can be willed as universal laws, and moral worth, which pertains to actions performed from a sense of duty, should be understood as two different levels of moral assessment. -/- The second part of the paper examines Kant’s conception of virtue with the aim of showing that although only agents with a virtuous character (good Gesinnung) will reliably act from duty, a person with an evil character (evil Gesinnung) could on frequent occasions act from duty. I argue that we should not deny moral worth to actions performed from duty even when the agent has an evil Gesinnung. Goodness of Gesinnung is not a necessary condition of the action of an agent possessing moral worth; reliability of motivation is necessary for the ascription of virtue but not for the ascription of moral worth. It follows that virtue, which refers to the agent’s character or fundamental maxim (i.e. the agent’s Gesinnung), and moral worth are also two different levels of moral assessment. The paper concludes that three levels of moral assessment can be distinguished in Kant’s ethical system: (i) rightness, (ii) moral worth and (iii) moral virtue. Moral virtue is the highest level of moral perfection for a human being. Striving towards virtue requires constant progress and effort and ultimately a ‘revolution of the heart.’ The important point is that even when we are still striving to achieve virtue (i.e. an unconditional commitment to morality), we can ascribe moral worth to actions performed by a genuine sense of duty. It turns out that, contrary to many influential interpretations, Kantian ethics is not merely concerned with the rightness or wrongness of particular actions nor is Kantian ethics primarily an ethic of virtue. Instead, Kant’s ethical system is complex and allows for different levels of moral assessment in which both an action-centred and agent-centred perspective can be integrated. (shrink)
Kant famously distinguishes between the categorical imperative (CI) and hypothetical imperatives (HIs), which are instrumental norms. On the standard reading, Kant subscribes to the of HIs, which takes HIs to be consistency requirements that bind agents in exactly the same way whether or not agents are subject to CI and whether or not they conform their choices to CI. I argue that this reading cannot be squared with Kant's account of an agent's disposition, in particular his claim that cognition of (...) CI is a necessary condition of willing a maxim. I further argue that Kant could not accept an account of HIs as consistency requirements. Finally, I outline Kant's conception of HIs as non-disjunctive requirements that arise when and only when agents will permissible ends. This account can help recapture Kant's conception of the unity of rational norms. (shrink)
Kant frequently speaks as if all voluntary actions arise from our maxims as the subjective principles of our practical reason. But, as Michael Albrecht has pointed out, Kant also occasionally speaks as if it is only the rare person of “character” who acts according to principles or maxims. I argue that Kant’s seemingly contradictory claims on this front result from the fact that there are two fundamentally different ways that maxims of action can figure in the deliberation of the agent: (...) an agent can act on a maxim either because it promises agreeable results or because he deems it to be an intrinsically correct principle of action. Kant describes a maxim of the latter sort as “firm” and as indicative of “character” in the honorific sense. If the agent’s commitment to his maxim is instead conditional on its agreeable results, we can say he does not act “on principle” and in that sense does not act on maxims at all: rather than aiming at a set of results because the action that produces them conforms to his maxim, he acts according to his maxim because doing so promises (and only as long as it promises) the results he desires. Such an agent thus lacks the principled maxims of a person of character since his maxims are always for sale to the highest bidder. Kant allows that an evil person can approximate the ideal of a principled indifference to results, but claims that only morally good action can be wholly principled. This is also why maxims of action in conformity with duty can be acquired gradually through habituation whereas an authentically moral maxim must instead arise from a “revolution” in thought. (shrink)
In this article, I argue that there is no discrepancy between Kant's Doctrine of Right (The Metaphysics of Morals) (1797), which legally permits lies that do not deprive someone of their rights or property, and his On a Supposed Right to Lie from Love of Humanity (1797), which argues that it would be a crime to lie to a murderer about the whereabouts of the innocent person he is pursuing.
According to Kant’s Universal Law Formula, maxims that cannot be conceived as universal laws denote duties of perfect obligation. In the recent literature, two versions of the Contradiction in Conception test have received the most attention. When acting on a maxim would violate a perfect duty, according to the Logical Contradiction Interpretation (LCI), universalizing the maxim would make it literally impossible to perform the action as described in the original maxim. According to the Practical Contradiction Interpretation (PCI), the locus of (...) the contradiction is as follows: the agent acts on the maxim in order to achieve some purpose, but were the agent’s maxim universalized, the purpose would be unattainable. Having examined the most widely accepted versions of both interpretations, I argue that i) PCI cannot generate contradictions for the maxims of any actions that violate perfect duties beyond those generated by LCI, ii) despite claims of its proponents, PCI cannot solve the vexing problem of relevant descriptions that Kant’s account faces, and iii) other arguments in favor of PCI are at best inconclusive. I therefore conclude that since LCI better coheres with the text, sympathetic interpreters should focus their efforts on LCI, not PCI. (shrink)
In this paper I explore how three seemingly incompatible Kantian theses–a libertarian notion of freedom, the inscrutability of one’s fundamental moral maxim, and the ubiquity of evil–can each be maintained without contradiction. I do this by arguing against the popular notion that in his 'Religion within the Bounds of Mere Reason,' Kant attributes 'radical evil' to all human beings.
In this paper I defend Kant’s Incorporation Thesis, which holds that we must “incorporate” our incentives into our maxims if we are to act on them. I see this as a thesis about what is necessary for a human being to make the transition from ‘having a desire’ to ‘acting on it’. As such, I consider the widely held view that ‘having a desire’ involves being focused on the world, and not on ourselves or on the desire. I try to (...) show how this view is connected with a denial of any deep distinction between reason and inclination. I then argue for an alternative view of what ‘having a desire’ involves, one according to which it involves being focused both on the world and on ourselves. I show how this view fits naturally with the Kantian distinction between reason and inclination, accounts for independent intuitions about ‘having a desire’, and supports the Incorporation Thesis. I then make some further suggestions about how we might conceive of the object of incorporation. (shrink)
Maxims play a crucial role in Kant's ethical philosophy, but there is significant disagreement about what maxims are. In this two-part essay, I survey eight different views of Kantian maxims, presenting their strengths, and their weaknesses. Part I: Established Approaches, begins with Rüdiger Bubner's view that Kant took maxims to be what ordinary people of today take them to be, namely pithily expressed precepts of morality or prudence. Next comes the position, most associated with Rüdiger Bittner and Otfried Höffe, that (...) maxims are Lebensregeln, or 'life-rules'– quite general rules for how to conduct oneself based on equally general outlooks on how the world is. These first two interpretations make sense of Kant's claim, made in his anthropological and pedagogical writings, that we have to learn how to act on maxims, but they become less plausible in light of Kant's probable view that people always act on maxims – after all, how can people learn how to act on something they always act on anyway? The next two views, each advanced, at different times, by Onora O'Neill, make better sense of the fact that people always act on maxims, for they hold that maxims are intentions – either specific intentions, such as 'to open the door', or general intentions, such as 'to make guests feel welcome'– and it is perfectly sensible to claim that people always act on intentions. However, they face the same problem as the two previous views, which is that if people always act on maxims, what sense does it make to say they also have to learn how to act on them? Henry Allison, the main representative of the fifth view, claims, on the basis of Kant's doctrine of the 'highest maxim', that maxims are principles organized hierarchically, such that an agent endorses one maxim because she endorses a more general maxim. Unfortunately for Allison, there is little direct textual support for his claim that maxims are organized hierarchically. (shrink)
Maxims play a crucial role in Kant's ethical philosophy, but there is significant disagreement about what maxims are. In this two-part essay, I survey eight different views of Kantian maxims, presenting their strengths and their weaknesses. In Part II: New Approaches, I look at three more recent views in somewhat greater detail than I do the five treatments canvassed in 'Recent Works on Kantian Maxims I: Established Approaches'. First, there is Richard McCarty's Interpretation, which holds that Kant's understanding of maxims (...) can be illuminated by placing them in the context of the Wollfian tradition, according to which maxims are the major premises of practical syllogisms. The next subject Maria Schwartz, holds that careful attention to Kant's distinction between rules and maxims, as well as Kant's concept of happiness, allows us to make sense of almost all of Kant's remarks on maxims. It may be, however, that on Schwartz's view agents turn out to perform actions as opposed to thoughtlessly habitual behaviors much less often than is plausible. This leads to the final approach, exemplified by Jens Timmermann, which is that Kant understands maxims equivocally. I claim that something like Timmermann's approach is the only way to make sense of all of what Kant has to say on maxims. (shrink)
This chapter considers the centrality of principles in Kant’s moral philosophy, their distinctively ‘Kantian’ character, why Kant presents a ‘metaphysical’ system of moral principles and how these ‘formal’ principles are to be used in practice. These points are central to how Kant thinks pure reason can be practical. These features have often puzzled Anglophone readers, in part due to focusing on Kant’s Groundwork, to the neglect of his later works in moral philosophy, in which the theoretical preliminaries of that first (...) essay are properly articulated. In part, however, these puzzles stem, directly or indirectly, from Kant’s opposition to moral empiricism, which is bound to puzzle Anglophone readers, whose default orientation is empiricist. Accordingly, particular attention is paid to Kant’s reasons for rejecting moral empiricism and for developing an alternative to it, to Kant’s account of how his universalization tests serve as criteria of morally obligatory, permissible or prohibited actions and to his account of what is morally wrong with actions which violate those criteria. Examining these points provides a compelling synopsis of Kant’s system of moral principles, centring on the key terms ‘practical reason’, ‘law’, ‘maxim’ and ‘Categorical Imperative’. (shrink)
In this article I address the neglected question of what kind of act keeping a secret is, and what Kant had to say about secret keeping. First, I provide a definition of keeping a secret, improving upon Sissela Bok's definition. I distinguish between keeping a secret and deception, incorporating Thomas Nagel. Then, I discuss what Kant had to say about keeping a secret, and advance an Kantian argument for the moral permissibility of secret-keeping.
In his later moral writings Kant claims that we have a duty to cultivate certain aspects of our sensuous nature. This claim is surprising for three reasons. First, given Kant’s ‘incorporation thesis’ − which states that the only sensible states capable of determining our actions are those that we willingly introduce and integrate into our maxims − it would seem that the content of our inclinations is morally irrelevant. Second, the exclusivity between the passivity that is characteristic of sensibility and (...) the spontaneous quality of our free will that operates throughout Kant’s philosophy seems to preclude that any such cultivation is possible. Third, Kant’s specific arguments concerning why we are obliged to cultivate our sensible nature are unclear. The goal of this paper is to address each of these three concerns and thus fully explain Kant’s theory of the moral necessity of cultivation. (shrink)
The book presents a reconstruction of the development of Kant’s ethical thought from the 1760s till the "Metaphysics of Morals" of 1797 with a focus on the evolution of Kant’s overall project in practical philosophy. The main steps in the development of his practical philosophy are interpreted as successive attempts to connect normative ethics with an innovative preliminary descriptive inquiry. The book reconstructs the different ways in which Kant focuses this plan, stressing both the unity and the breaks in Kant’s (...) development. I thus distinguish three main phases, characterised by a different systematic project. The first part is devoted to Kant’s work on moral theory up to 1769. The second part examines Kant’s new ethical project from 1770 to 1785, while the third part considers the further developments from the second "Critique" to the "Metaphysics of Morals". (shrink)
This dissertation concerns the methodology Kant employs in the first two sections of the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Groundwork I-II) with particular attention to how the execution of the method of analysis in these sections contributes to the establishment of moral metaphysics as a science. My thesis is that Kant had a detailed strategy for the Groundwork, that this strategy and Kant’s reasons for adopting it can be ascertained from the Critique of Pure Reason (first Critique) and his (...) lectures on logic, and that understanding this strategy gains us interpretive insight into Kant’s moral metaphysics. At the most general level of methodology, Kant says there are four steps for the establishment of any science: 1) make distinct the idea of the natural unity of its material 2) determine the special content of the science 3) articulate the systematic unity of the science 4) critique the science to determine its boundaries The first two of these steps are accomplished by the genetically scholastic method of analysis, paradigmatically the method whereby confused and obscure ideas are made clear and distinct, thereby logically perfecting them and transforming them into possible grounds of cognitive insight that are potentially complete and adequate to philosophical purposes. The analysis of Groundwork I is a paradigmatic analysis that makes distinct what is contained in common understanding, i.e. its Inhalt or intension, making distinct the higher partial concepts that together define the concept of morality. The analysis of Groundwork II is an employment more specifically of the method of logical division, which makes distinct what is contained under the concept, i.e. its Umfang, by which the extension or object of morality is determined. Part I introduces Kant’s conception of moral metaphysical science and why he took it to be in need of establishment, explains the general method for establishing science and the scholastic method of analysis by which its first two steps are to be accomplished, then provides an interpretation of Groundwork I as an execution of this method. Part II details Kant’s determination of the special content of moral science in Groundwork II in relation to the central problem for moral metaphysics – how synthetic a priori practical cognition is possible. (shrink)
: A standard interpretation of Kantian "maxims" sees them as expressing reasons for action, implying that we cannot act without a maxim. But recent challenges to this interpretation claim that Kant viewed acting on maxims as optional. Kant's understanding of maxims derives from Christian Wolff, who regarded maxims as major premises of the practical syllogism. This supports the standard interpretation. Yet Kant also viewed commitments to maxims as essential for virtue and character development, which supports challenges to the standard interpretation, (...) and raises questions about the coherence of Kant's overall conception of the role of maxims in practical philosophy. (shrink)
Some contemporary Kantians have argued that one could not be virtuous without having internalized certain patterns of awareness that permit one to identify and respond reliably to moral reasons for action. I agree, but I argue that this insight requires unrecognized, farreaching, and thoroughly welcome changes in the traditional Kantian understanding of maxims and virtues. In particular, it implies that one''s characteristic emotions and desires will partly determine one''s maxims, and hence the praiseworthiness of one''s actions. I try to show (...) this by pointing out an instability in the Kantian understanding of maxims. On the one hand, maxims are thought of as consciously affirmed, subjective principles of action. On the other hand, Kantians claim that nothing counts as an action, nor as morally assessable, unless it has a maxim. One cannot take both thoughts seriously without implausibly constricting the range of behavior that counts as action, hence as morally assessable. This difficulty can be overcome, I suggest, by jettisoning the idea that maxims must be consciously affirmed, and by stressing the way in which maxims are grounded in the pruning and shaping of one''s emotions and desires during socialization. This opens the door to a rich Kantian theory of virtue. It also raises questions about the scope and ground of our moral responsibility, which I address at the end of the paper. (shrink)
Kant on Freedom, Law, and Happiness. BY PAUL GUYER. (Cambridge UP, 2000. Pp. xii + 440. Price £12.95 or $19.95.) At the beginning of his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant claims that an ordinary view of morality would have it that moral experience is essentially the experience of obligation. There are clearly occasions, he notes, when our own and others’ interests would be greatly damaged were we to do what is morally required, and when no gain in satisfaction, (...) happiness, well-being or ﬂourishing can be imagined a consequence of the act, yet we understand that we are obliged anyway, unconditionally. We also reserve our highest approval for agents who do what is required just because it is required, who act ‘from duty alone’. (shrink)
This article examines the relationship in Kant between transcendental laws and empirical laws (focusing on causal laws), and then brings a particular interpretation of that issue to bear on familiar puzzles concerning the status of the regulative maxims of reason and reflective judgment. It is argued that the 'indeterminate objective validity' possessed by the regulative maxims derives ultimately from strictly constitutive demands of understanding.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Kant has claimed that lying is always wrong, even in response to a question from a murderer about the whereabouts of his intended victim.Â Christine Korsgaard has argued that although KantÂ’s second and third formulations in terms of respect for the humanity in persons and in terms of the Kingdom of Ends of the Categorical Imperative (CI) commit him to this claim, the first formulation in terms of universalizability does..