Feeling and Inclination: Rationalizing the Animal Within

In Diane Williamson & Kelly Sorensen (eds.), Kant and the Faculty of Feeling. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press. pp. 67-87 (2017)
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A common assumption among Kantians is that the feelings/inclinations constituting non-moral motivation are little different from the brute sensations and blind instinctual urges found in animals. And since this “inner animal” lacks reason, it cannot control itself. So our rational nature must step in to govern. The problem, however, is that it must do so as a nature standing above the animal as an independent ruler. I reject this understanding of our lower nature, arguing instead that reason governs from within our lower nature, by giving it shape and structure. I show that this is possible because Kant actually held a cognitive theory of emotion, one in which feeling takes the form of judgments of fit between an object and the sensible needs of the subject, by which the life or well-being of the subject is promoted. Through these judgments of feeling, reason generates a complex evaluative framework that structures our practical point of view.



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Janelle DeWitt
University of California, Los Angeles

Citations of this work

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