Kant: Ethics

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Edited by Owen Ware (University of Toronto, St. George Campus, University of Toronto at Mississauga)
About this topic
Summary There are three fundamental questions guiding Kant's ethics: (1) What is the supreme principle of morality? (2) What makes this principle binding? and (3) What duties arise from it? In answering the first question, Kant seeks to derive a principle of morality from the universal form we are capable of giving our maxims, whereby we exercise our power of self-legislation or what Kant calls ‘autonomy’. In answering the second question, Kant seeks to justify the principle of autonomy as a presupposition of rational agency and as a ‘fact’ illustrated in common moral thought, judgment, and feeling. In answering the third question, Kant offers a system of duties, both self-regarding and other-regarding. While commentators disagree over its ultimate success, Kant’s ethics presents us with one of the most systematic accounts of morality, autonomy, and agency in the history of moral thought, and it continues to have a lasting influence on contemporary ethics.
Key works The Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (Kant 2011) is Kant’s first book devoted to ethics, although he worked on similar issues much earlier. Other key works include the Critique of Practical Reason (Kant 1997) and the Metaphysics of Morals (Kant 1996). Kant’s Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason (Kant 1996), while guided by historical and theological questions, also contains insights relevant for his ethics.
Introductions For comprehensive studies, see Allison 1990Korsgaard 1996, Wood 1999Guyer 2000Reath 2006, and the collection of essays in Hill Jr 2009. For contemporary versions of Kantian ethics, see Herman 2007Korsgaard 2009, and Hill 2012.
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  1. The Correlation of Science and Ethics in Hermann Cohen's Philosophy.Richard Mather - 2018
    Hermann Cohen made a distinction between the logic of science and the ideal of ethics, and noted that the natural world and the world of ethics are perceived very differently. This is because the order of the physical world is unchangeable (e.g, the sun sets in the west, night follows day, etc), while in the ideal world ethical rules can be accepted or rejected. It seems there should be one explanation for science, which is empirically self-evident, and another for ethics, (...)
  2. The Ethical Idealism and Prophetic Messianism of Hermann Cohen.Richard Mather - 2018
    Hermann Cohen agreed with Immanuel Kant that ethics must be directed towards the well-being of humanity. The essential feature of this is its universality. As Cohen saw it, progress was (or at least ought to be) moving towards universal suffrage and democratic socialism. Following Kant, Cohen defended the so-called categorical imperative; that we should treat humanity in other persons always as an end and never as a means only. (Kant’s famous definition of the categorical imperative is to “act only according (...)
  3. The Internality of Moral Faith in Kant’s Religion.Addison Ellis - 2018 - Kant Yearbook 10 (1):1-17.
    Wood (1970) convincingly argues that Kant’s notion of moral faith is a response to a “dialectical perplexity” or antinomy. Specifically, moral faith is a response to the threat of moral despair. In line with this suggestion, I make the case that moral faith is the resolution of a crisis about how to go on with one’s life in the face of the threat of moral despair. If this is right, then we have a potential solution to two related anxieties: (1) (...)
  4. Obligation and the Fact of Sense.Bryan Lueck - forthcoming - Edinburgh University Press.
    This book proposes a substantially new solution to a classic philosophical problem: how is it possible that morality genuinely obligates us, binding our wills without regard to our perceived well-being? Building on Immanuel Kant’s idea of the fact of reason, the book argues that the bindingness of obligation can be traced back to the fact, articulated in different ways by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel Serres, and Jean-Luc Nancy, that we find ourselves responsive, prior to all reflection, to a pre-personal, originary dimension (...)
  5. Kant’s ‘Curious Catalogue of Human Frailties’: The Great Portrait of Nature.Alix Aurelia Cohen - 2012 - In Patrick Frierson & Paul Guyer (eds.), Critical Guide to Kant’s Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 144-62.
    As has been noted in the recent literature on Kant’s ethics, Kant holds that although natural drives such as feelings, emotions and inclinations cannot lead directly to moral worth, they nevertheless play some kind of role vis-à-vis morality. The issue is thus to understand this role within the limits set by Kant’s account of freedom, and it is usually tackled by examining the relationship between moral and non-moral motivation in the Groundwork, the Critique of Practical Reason, and more recently, the (...)
  6. Willing the End Means Willing the Means: An Overlooked Reading of Kant.Wooram Lee - 2018 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 5.
    In his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant famously calls the following proposition “analytic”: “whoever wills the end also wills the indispensably necessary means to it that is in his control”. Read naïvely, with little attention to the caveat in the parenthesis, this proposition is most straightforwardly interpreted as specifying a descriptive relation between willing an end and willing the necessary means to it. It simply tells us what we do in willing an end, not what we ought to (...)
  7. Kant on Moral Feelings, Moral Desires and the Cultivation of Virtue.Alix Cohen - 2018 - In Sally Sedgwick & Dina Emundts (eds.), Begehren / Desire. De Gruyter. pp. 3-18.
    This paper argues that contrary to what is often thought, virtue for Kant is not just a matter of strength of will; it has an essential affective dimension. To support this claim, I show that certain affective dispositions, namely moral feelings and desires, are virtuous in the sense that they are constitutive of virtue at the affective level. There is thus an intrinsic connection between an agent’s practice of virtue and the cultivation of her affective dispositions.
  8. The Evolution of Kant’s Concept of Freedom Between the “Critique of Pure Reason” and the “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals”.Olga Lenczewska - 2018 - In Violetta Waibel & Margit Ruffing (eds.), Proceedings of the 12. International Kant Congress Nature and Freedom. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter. pp. 1895–1902.
  9. Means, Ends, and Persons: The Meaning and Psychological Dimensions of Kant's Humanity Formula, by Robert Audi. [REVIEW]Paul Formosa - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (2):412-412.
    Book review of 'Means, Ends, and Persons: The Meaning and Psychological Dimensions of Kant's Humanity Formula, by Robert Audi, OUP'.
  10. Kant's Criticism of Common Moral Rational Cognition.Martin Sticker - 2016 - European Journal of Philosophy 24 (4).
    There is a consensus that Kant's aim in the Groundwork is to clarify, systematize and vindicate the common conception of morality. Philosophical theory hence serves a restorative function. It can strengthen agents' motivation, protect against self-deception and correct misunderstandings produced by uncritical moral theory. In this paper, I argue that Kant also corrects the common perspective and that Kant's Groundwork shows in which senses the common perspective, even considered apart from its propensity to self-deception and without being influenced by misleading (...)
  11. The Virtues of Freedom: Selected Essays on Kant.Paul Guyer - 2016 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    The essays collected in this volume by Paul Guyer, one of the world's foremost Kant scholars, explore Kant's attempt to develop a morality grounded on the intrinsic and unconditional value of the human freedom to set our own ends. When regulated by the principle that the freedom of all is equally valuable, the freedom to set our own ends -- what Kant calls "humanity" - becomes what he calls autonomy. These essays explore Kant's strategies for establishing the premise that freedom (...)
  12. Defending Non-Tuism.Susan Dimock - 1999 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 29 (2):251-273.
    Hobbes's central insight about ethics was that it should not be understood to require that we make ourselves a prey for others. It is this insight that both varieties of contractarianism [Hobbesian and Kantian] respect. Consider a relationship between two human beings that exists for reasons of either love or duty; let us also suppose that it is a relationship that can be instrumentally valuable to both parties. In order for that relationship to receive our full moral endorsement, we must (...)
  13. Timmermann, Forschler, and The Attempt to Bridge the Kantian‐Consequentialist Gap.Edmund Wall - 2016 - Metaphilosophy 47 (4-5):696-699.
    Scott Forschler defends R. M. Hare's rationalist-universalizing-utilitarian moral approach against Jens Timmermann's critique of it. He argues that Timmermann fails to see that Kant's ethical rationalism might be consistent with utilitarianism, and argues that Timmermann merely assumes that Kant's deontology follows logically from his ethical rationalism. In Forschler's estimation, it has not been established that either Kant's or Hare's ethical rationalism is inconsistent with utilitarianism. This article, however, argues that, in his response to Timmermann on behalf of Hare's rationalist-universalizing-utilitarian approach, (...)
  14. Kant on Solving Moral Conflicts.Monika Betzler - 2008 - In Kant's Ethics of Virtue. Walter de Gruyter.
  15. The Concept of Love in Kant’s Virtue Ethics.Monika Betzler - 2008 - In Kant's Ethics of Virtue. Walter de Gruyter.
  16. The Priority of the Right in Kant’s Ethics.Monika Betzler - 2008 - In Kant's Ethics of Virtue. Walter de Gruyter.
  17. Was Kant a Virtue Ethicist?Monika Betzler - 2008 - In Kant's Ethics of Virtue. Walter de Gruyter.
  18. Kant’s Ethics of Virtue: An Introduction.Monika Betzler - 2008 - In Kant's Ethics of Virtue. Walter de Gruyter.
  19. Self-Determination and the Categories of Freedom in Kant’s Moral Philosophy.Seung-Kee Lee - 2012 - Kant-Studien 103 (3):337-350.
    : Kant speaks of our capacity to be “self-determining […] in certain […] laws holding firm a priori”. Here the “laws” refer to the categories of freedom introduced in KpV. The categories of freedom, then, are necessary for self-determination. I first explain how Kant employs the notion of determination in his theoretical philosophy. I then explain how the notion is utilized also in his practical philosophy, particularly in connection to the act of determining the forms of willing that make morality (...)
  20. “Freedom Must Be Presupposed as a Property of the Will of All Rational Beings”.Dieter Schönecker & Christoph Horn - 2006 - In Dieter Schönecker & Christoph Horn (eds.), Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Walter de Gruyter.
  21. Kant’s Hypothetical Imperatives.Dieter Schönecker & Christoph Horn - 2006 - In Dieter Schönecker & Christoph Horn (eds.), Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Walter de Gruyter.
  22. Kant on Ends in Nature and in Human Agency.Dieter Schönecker & Christoph Horn - 2006 - In Dieter Schönecker & Christoph Horn (eds.), Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Walter de Gruyter.
  23. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.Dieter Schönecker & Christoph Horn - unknown
  24. A Duty to Be Charitable? A Rigoristic Reading of Kant.Peter Atterton - 2007 - Kant-Studien 98 (2):135-155.
    To be beneficent, that is, to promote according to one's means the happiness of others in need, without hoping for something in return, is every man's duty. Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals Almost everyone agrees that we have a moral duty to pull out a drowning child from a shallow pond even if this means getting our clothes muddy. But what are the limits of the duty of beneficence? In “Famine, Affluence and Morality”, which first appeared in 1972, Peter (...)
  25. Kant on Determining One's Duty: A Middle Course Between Rawls and Herman.Michael Rohlf - 2009 - Kant-Studien 100 (3):346-368.
    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. (...)
  26. Considerations on the Notion of Moral Validity in the Moral Theories of Kant and Habermas.Pablo Gilabert - 2006 - Kant-Studien 97 (2):210-227.
    In what follows I will consider Kant's and Habermas's conceptions of moral validity in a comparative and critical way. First, I will reconstruct Habermas's discursive or deliberative reformulation of Kant's moral theory. And, second, I will introduce some comparative critical considerations. I will contend that, though much is gained with Habermas's intersubjectivist reformulation of Kant's moral philosophy, some problems emerge that could be treated with the help of certain Kantian insights. I will focus on Kant's and Habermas's strictly moral writings. (...)
  27. Dependent and Corrupt Rational Agency.Jeanine Grenberg - 2007 - Kant-Studien 98 (1):81-105.
    Introduction Recent accounts of humility, such as Norvin Richards', emphatically set aside any “Catholic metaphysics” that might ground the state, finding its view of human nature – one which asks us to consider ourselves as “contemptible” and “foul” – to be deeply problematic. Richards turns instead to an empirical and behavioral analysis of humility, focusing upon an individual agent's awareness of the flaws, failings and limits specific to her to ground humility. For example, when he asks what it would mean (...)
  28. Transcendental Freedom and Practical Freedom.Yoshimichi Nakajima - 1989 - Proceedings of the Sixth International Kant Congress 2 (2):213-218.
  29. The Categorical Imperative and the Natural Law.Roger J. Sullivan - 1989 - Proceedings of the Sixth International Kant Congress 2 (2):219-228.
  30. Kant on Overdetermination, Indirect Duties, and Moral Worth.Henning Jensen - 1989 - Proceedings of the Sixth International Kant Congress 2 (2):161-170.
  31. Kant and the Stoics on the Emotional Life.Michael J. Seidler - 1981 - Philosophy Research Archives 7:1093-1150.
    This essay examines Kant's relationship to the Stoics with respect to the affective dimension of the moral life. Besides offering a general description and comparison of the two philosophies in this particular regard, it utilizes numerous specific Kantian references to and parallels with Stoicism to argue that his own position was, throughout its development, shaped by a growing contact with and appreciation of the Stoic view. The paper proceeds from some negative remarks of Kant about suppressing or even eliminating the (...)
    No categories
  32. Freedom and the World: The Unresolved Dilemma of Kant's Ethic.Ronald F. Perrin - 1975 - Philosophy Research Archives 1:208-238.
    The paper argues that the issue of the Third Antinomy of Reason remained a central concern throughout all of Kant's ethical writings subsequent to the first Critique. In the Grundlegung, the second and third Critiques and, finally, in Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft we find Kant continually refining and modifying the concept of a transcendental freedom but never arriving at a satisfactory resolution. I argue that any such resolution would not only imply the overturning of Kant's ethical (...)
  33. Reconstructing the Grounding of Kant's Ethics: A Critical Assessment.Christian Onof - 2009 - Kant-Studien 100 (4):496-517.
    Kant's attempts to provide a foundation for morality are examined, with particular focus upon the fact of reason proof in the second Critique. The reconstructions proposed by Allison and Korsgaard are analysed in detail. Although analogous in many ways, they ultimately differ in their understanding of the relation between this proof and that presented in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. A synthesis of the two reconstructions is proposed which amounts to combining Korsgaard's awareness of the issue of agent-situatedness, (...)
  34. The Formation of Kant's Casuistry and Method Problems of Applied Ethics.Soo Bae Kim - 2009 - Kant-Studien 100 (3):332-345.
    This paper examines the methodological problem of casuistry by reference to Immanuel Kant's position on it. He addressed “Casuistical Questions” in his last work on ethics, Metaphysik der Sitten, in order to defend his position against attacks from scholars defending an Aristotelian eudemonistic viewpoint. It is argued that Kantian casuistry has much in common with the Aristotelian idea of emphasizing the moral objectives and sensibility of an agent in concrete circumstances. Nevertheless, Kant did not entirely adopt the case-oriented ethical perspective (...)
  35. Kant's Formula of Humanity and the Pursuit of Subjective Ends.Sarah Holtman - 1995 - Proceedings of the Eighth International Kant Congress 2:697-703.
  36. 'The Universal Principle of Right' as the Supreme Principle of Kant's Practical Philosophy.Toshiro Terada - 1995 - Proceedings of the Eighth International Kant Congress 2:541-547.
  37. Kant and the Duty to Promote Others’ Happiness.John E. Atwell - 1995 - Proceedings of the Eighth International Kant Congress 1:727-733.
  38. The Categorical Imperative of Law and International Law.Leonid Kalinnikov - 1995 - Proceedings of the Eighth International Kant Congress 1:293-299.
  39. Kant’s Search for the Supreme Principle of Morality. [REVIEW]T. E. Hill - 2004 - Philosophical Review 113 (2):272-275.
  40. Kant: Moral Legislation and Two Senses of ‘Will’.Gary M. Hochberg - 1982
  41. Debating Humanity: Towards a Philosophical Sociology.Daniel Chernilo - 2017 - Cambridge University Press.
    Debating Humanity explores sociological and philosophical efforts to delineate key features of humanity that identify us as members of the human species. After challenging the normative contradictions of contemporary posthumanism, this book goes back to the foundational debate on humanism between Jean-Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger in the 1940s and then re-assesses the implicit and explicit anthropological arguments put forward by seven leading postwar theorists: self-transcendence, adaptation, responsibility, language, strong evaluations, reflexivity and reproduction of life. Genuinely interdisciplinary and boldly argued, (...)
  42. Others Matter. The Failure of the Autonomous Approach to Ethics.Daniele Bertini - 2017 - Dialegesthai. Rivista Telematica di Filosofia 19 (Thematic Issue).
    The critical target of my paper is the normativist stance of Kantian meta ethics. After a very short introduction, I develop a characterization of contemporary mainstream Kantism as a conjunction of a normativist claim, a rationalist claim and a proceduralist claim. In the subsequent section I make the case against the normativist claim by drawing a counterexample, and defend the relevance of such counterexample as a reason that defeats the appeal of the Kantian approach to meta ethics. I finally conclude (...)
  43. Kant’s “Tugendlehre”. A Comprehensive Commentary.Andreas Trampota, Oliver Sensen & Jens Timmermann (eds.) - 2013 - DeGruyter.
  44. The Primacy of the Good Will.Julio Esteves - 2014 - Kant-Studien 105 (1).
  45. Enlightenment, State, and Sovereignty: Kant’s Political Philosophy.Maksymilian Marek Sipowicz - 2016 - Dissertation, Monash University
    In Kant scholarship, there has long been a debate about the connection between his political and ethical thought. In his works concerned with political theory, such as the Metaphysics of Morals, Perpetual Peace, or An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?, he concerns himself with coercively enforceable principles by which a society can be organised. In his works on ethics, such as The Groundwork to a Metaphysics of Morals, or The Critique of Practical Reason, he is concerned with principles (...)
  46. Immanuel Kant: Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Hill Jr & Arnulf Zweig (eds.) - 2003 - Oxford University Press.
    This new edition and translation of Kant's classic work on the fundamental questions of ethics is designed especially for students. An extensive and comprehensive introduction explains the central concepts of Groundwork and looks at Kant's main lines of argument. Detailed notes aim to clarify Kant's thoughts and to correct some common misunderstandings of his doctrines.
  47. Virtue, Rules, and Justice: Kantian Aspirations. Hill Jr - 2012 - Oxford University Press.
    Thomas E. Hill, Jr., interprets and extends Kant's moral theory in a series of essays that highlight its relevance to contemporary ethics. He introduces the major themes of Kantian ethics and explores its practical application to questions about revolution, prison reform, and forcible interventions in other countries for humanitarian purposes.
  48. Kantian Freedom.Evan Tiffany & Dai Heide (eds.) - forthcoming - Oxford University Press.
  49. Kant's Theory of Justice.Mary Gregor & Allen D. Rosen - 1995 - Philosophical Review 104 (2):282.
  50. Kant's Theory of Freedom.Roger J. Sullivan & Henry E. Allison - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (4):865.
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