The Kantian Moral Worth of Actions Contrary to Duty

Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 53 (4):530 - 552 (1999)
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This paper concerns Kant's view of the relations between an actions's moral permissibility and its moral worth. In the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant holds that only morally permissible actions can have moral worth. By restricting moral worth to morally permissible actions, Kant generates an asymmetrical account of how two kinds of failure affect an actions's moral worth. While failure to judge correctly whether one's action is morally permissible precludes it from having moral worth failure to attain the end of one's action does not. I argue that this asymmetrical account is implausible. Kant, I claim, should acknowledge that morally permissible actions can have moral worth. After addressing objections to this claim, I consider Kant's position in a later work: the Metaphysics of Moreals. I argue that though he does not go far enough, Kant moves toward recognizing that some morally impermissible actions can have moral worth



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Samuel Kerstein
University of Maryland, College Park

Citations of this work

Reviving the no‐bad‐action problem in Kant's ethics.Ryan S. Kemp - 2019 - European Journal of Philosophy 27 (2):347-358.
Kant on the bounds of promise making: A Mendelssohnian account.Ryan S. Kemp - 2019 - European Journal of Philosophy 27 (2):453-467.

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