Kant on determining one's duty: A middle course between Rawls and Herman

Kant-Studien 100 (3):346-368 (2009)
Abstract
This paper develops an interpretation of the relationship between Kant's various formulations of the categorical imperative in the Groundwork that steers a middle course between the formal and substantive poles of the interpretive spectrum, represented by John Rawls and Barbara Herman, respectively. Accepting and rejecting key aspects of both Rawls's and Herman's interpretations, I argue that the first formulation, understood correctly, does suffice to determine all Kantian moral duties, but only if duties are regarded as situation-specific rather than standing obligations. I also argue, however, that the second and third formulations provide information that is necessary for understanding and applying the first formulation to determine one's duty correctly, and that the formulations are in a sense equivalent even though each plays a distinctive and important role.
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