Categorical imperatives, moral requirements, and moral motivation

Metaphilosophy 37 (1):112–129 (2006)
Kant has argued that moral requirements are categorical. Kant's claim has been challenged by some contemporary philosophers; this article defends Kant's doctrine. I argue that Kant's claim captures the unique feature of moral requirements. The main arguments against Kant's claim focus on one condition that a categorical imperative must meet: to be independent of desires. I argue that there is another important, but often ignored, condition that a categorical imperative must meet, and this second condition is crucial to understanding why moral requirements are not hypothetical. I also argue that the claim that moral requirements are not categorical because they depend on desires for motivation is beside the point. The issue of whether moral requirements are categorical is not an issue about whether moral desires or feelings are necessary for moral motivation but are rather an issue about the ground of moral desires or moral feelings. Moral requirements are categorical because they are requirements of reason, and reason makes moral desires or feelings possible.
Keywords subjective end  intrinsic end  hypothetical imperative  categorical imperative  moral feeling  objective end
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