Foregrounding Desire: A Defense of Kant's Incorporation Thesis

Journal of Ethics 15 (3):147-167 (2011)
In this paper I defend Kant’s Incorporation Thesis, which holds that we must “incorporate” our incentives into our maxims if we are to act on them. I see this as a thesis about what is necessary for a human being to make the transition from ‘having a desire’ to ‘acting on it’. As such, I consider the widely held view that ‘having a desire’ involves being focused on the world, and not on ourselves or on the desire. I try to show how this view is connected with a denial of any deep distinction between reason and inclination. I then argue for an alternative view of what ‘having a desire’ involves, one according to which it involves being focused both on the world and on ourselves. I show how this view fits naturally with the Kantian distinction between reason and inclination, accounts for independent intuitions about ‘having a desire’, and supports the Incorporation Thesis. I then make some further suggestions about how we might conceive of the object of incorporation.
Keywords Action  Agency  Animal agency  Desire  Inclination  Incorporation thesis  Kant  Kantian  Moral psychology
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DOI 10.1007/s10892-011-9110-6
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Thomas Scanlon (1998). What We Owe to Each Other. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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