Kantian value realism

Ratio 21 (2):182–200 (2008)
Abstract
Why should we be interested in Kant's ethical theory? One reason is that we find his views about our moral responsibilities appealing. Anyone who thinks that we should treat other people with respect, that we should not use them as a mere means in ways to which they could not possibly consent, will be attracted by a Kantian style of ethical theory. But according to recent supporters of Kant, the most distinctive and important feature of his ethical theory is not his claims about the particular ethical duties that we owe to each other, but his views about the nature of value. They argue that Kant has an account of the relationship between practical reason and value, known as "Kantian constructivism" that is far superior to the traditional "value realist" theory, and that it is because of this that we should accept his theory.1 It is now standard for both supporters and critics to claim that Kant's moral theory stands or falls with Kantian constructivism.2 But this is a mistake. In this paper, I sketch a rival Kantian theory of value, which I call Kantian value realism. I argue that there is textual evidence that Kant himself accepted value realism rather than constructivism. Whilst my aim in this paper is to set out the theory clearly rather than to defend it, I will try to show that Kantian value realism is preferable to Kantian constructivism and that it is worthy of further study.
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