True Need in Kant

Kant Studien 113 (3):432-458 (2022)
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Abstract

A number of influential Kantian philosophers assume that true need represents shared and fundamental human concerns that can both ground duties of aid and limit how much an agent can be morally required to do for others. In this paper, I take on this misreading and argue that true need is representative of personal priorities. This subjectivist reading fits better with Kant’s own characterization of true need and with his conceptions of need and happiness. Moreover, I argue that Kant’s own conception of true need is philosophically appealing, as it is anti-paternalistic. Agents are free to determine their own true need. This frees Kant from the challenge of coming up with a list of true human needs that are supposedly stable across cultures, epochs and individuals. Furthermore, my reading also implies that the mere fact that someone else considers something their true need does not necessitate our help.

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Martin Sticker
University of Bristol

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References found in this work

Freedom of the will and the concept of a person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Oxford University Press USA.
Famine, affluence, and morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1986 - Cambridge, Mass.: Routledge.

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