Does Kant Hold that Ought Implies Can?
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In J. Sharma A. Raguramaraju (ed.), Grounding Morality. Routledge 60 (2010)
Undergraduate students of philosophy are often told that Kant is famous for teaching us that “ought implies can,” and furthermore that this principle implies that it makes no sense to tell someone that they ought to do something if they do not have the ability to execute the action in question. It is thus surprising to find that the words “ought implies can” do not appear conspicuously in popular English translations of Kant’s main moral philosophical texts (such as the Groundwork, and Critique of Practical Reason). I argue that Kant’s writings do not clearly support it, and at points stand opposed to it. One may still attribute the formula “ought implies can” to Kant, but only at the cost of understanding this formula in a nonstandard manner.
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