Kant on the Normativity of Obligatory Ends

The Journal of Ethics 28 (1):53-73 (2024)
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Abstract

I propose a novel way to understand the stringency of Kant’s conception of beneficence. This novel understanding can ground our intuition that we do not have to forego (almost) all pursuit of our personal ends. I argue that we should understand the application of imperfect duties to specific cases according to the framework set by the adoption and promotion of ends. Agents have other ends than obligatory ones and they must weigh obligatory ends against these other ends. Obligatory ends are special among ends only insofar as their adoption is not optional. My reading of the normative status of imperfect duties affords a way of thinking about beneficence modelled on the everyday ways in which agents pursue their personal projects and weigh different ends against each other. This establishes a middle-ground between an extremely demanding conception of beneficence and an overly latitudinarian one. Furthermore, it helps us understand why we do not have to be maximally beneficent and why there is a bias towards the near in our thinking about rescue cases.

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Martin Sticker
University of Bristol

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References found in this work

Famine, affluence, and morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
Moral saints.Susan Wolf - 1982 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (8):419-439.
Engaging Reason.Joseph Raz - 1999 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66 (3):745-748.
How to Use Someone ‘Merely as a Means’.Pauline Kleingeld - 2020 - Kantian Review 25 (3):389-414.
Kantian Dilemmas? Moral Conflict in Kant’s Ethical Theory.Jens Timmermann - 2013 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 95 (1):36-64.

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