Kant's Ethical Duties and Their Feminist Implications

Abstract
Many feminist philosophers have been highly critical of Kant’s ethics, either because of his rationalism or because of particular claims he makes about women in his writings on anthropology and political philosophy. In this paper, I call attention to the aspects of Kant’s ethical theory that make it attractive from a feminist standpoint. Kant’s duties to oneself are rich resource for feminism. These duties require women to act in ways that show respect for themselves as rational human agents by, e.g., avoiding servility, self-deception, self-mutilation, and sexual self-degradation, and cultivating their natural talents (as well as their virtue). Duties to others demand that other people treat women respectfully by requiring that they avoid mocking, degrading, or acting arrogantly toward others. Indeed, even when one sets out to promote others’ happiness, Kant’s ethics requires that one not act paternalistically. Kant’s ethics insists that every rational agent recognize the equality and dignity of all rational agents. Thus, it pushes women to respect themselves and to demand respect from others; and it pushes men to respect women as a basic moral requirement.
Keywords Kantian ethics  feminist ethics
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