Aristotle and Kant on Practical Reason: An Annotation to Korsgaard

Acta Philosophica 18 (1) (2009)
After many years drawing attention to the differences between Aristotelian and Kantian Ethics, recent scholarship tends to stress their commonalties instead. Among the authors representing this trend of contemporary moral philosophy, Christine Korsgaard has undoubtedly a leading role. Without denying the differences existing between them, Korsgaard has been particularly keen on calling our attention to their shared views.Yet Korsgaard herself has acknowledged an obvious difference between Aristotle and Kant, regarding their approach to emotions : unlike Kant, Aristotle does not think of inclinations and emotions as mere feelings, but rather as valuable sources of information about morally salient aspects of our situation. In other words : they provide us with (germinal) reasons for action. Korsgaard, however, keeps this difference at the level of moral psychology, arguing that it does not make a great difference at the level of ethical theory. Now, this is precisely what I find controversial. My point is that this sort of difference imports a more fundamental one about practical reason in its entirety, a difference which used to be preserved in Kant’s own reference to a “pure practical reason” – against which Aristotle’s might be called “impure practical reason”.
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