The alleged moral repugnance of acting from duty

Journal of Philosophy 81 (4):197-220 (1984)
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Friends as well as foes of Kant have long been uneasy over his emphasis on duty, but lately the view that there is something morally repugnant about acting from duty seems to be gaining in popularity. More and more philosophers indicate their readiness to jettison duty and the moral 'ought' and to conceive of the perfectly moral person as someone who has all the right desires and acts accordingly without any notion that (s)he ought to act in this way. Elsewhere' I have argued that such a picture of the perfectly moral person is flawed. In this paper I examine the claim that acting from duty is morally repugnant. There is some truth to this charge, but, I argue, the repugnance attaches not to acting from duty as such, but only to certain ways of acting from duty. In isolating the objectionable elements of acting from duty, I hope not only to vindicate the skeletal concept but also to offer illumination on the question of just how we should understand morally good conduct.



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Marcia Baron
Indiana University, Bloomington

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