Kantian virtue

Philosophy Compass 2 (3):396–410 (2007)
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Kant's most familiar and widely read works in practical reason are the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and the Critique of Practical Reason (1788). His principal aims in these works are to analyze the nature and ground of morality and to justify its supreme principle (the categorical imperative). Nevertheless, in these texts, Kant also paints a picture of what it means to have a good will or good character, and it is this account of the good will and the associated theory of moral motivation that have been the target of many of the historical and contemporary objections to Kant's rationalism. From the perspective of these foundational works in Kant's moral theory, it appears that all that is required for Kantian character is a firm commitment to do one's duty from the motive of duty in the absence of inclination, or in the teeth of countervailing inclination. Kant's defenders have rightly insisted that it would be hasty to draw any final conclusions about his considered views on character and moral psychology on the basis of the Groundwork and the second Critique. An adequate assessment of these kinds of charges against Kant, they have argued, must address his theory of virtue, as it is set out in his other important ethical texts, especially the Doctrine of Virtue (1797) and Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason (1793). In his theory of virtue, Kant presents a detailed account of virtue as a character trait, provides lengthy discussions of the various virtues he sees as central for the ethical life, and maintains that there are moral feelings that are part of a virtuous character and serviceable for morality. For these reasons, those interested in gleaning a more complete picture of Kant's ethics await a detailed, systematic account of Kant's views about virtue. This entry aims to sketch the outlines of such an account.



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Anne Margaret Baxley
Washington University in St. Louis

Citations of this work

Kantian Self-Conceit and the Two Guises of Authority.Francey Russell - 2020 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 50 (2):268-283.
Holding an Aristotelian Mirror to Confucian Ethics?Yang Xiao - 2011 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 10 (3):359-375.
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References found in this work

Creating the Kingdom of Ends.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1996 - New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.
Kant's Theory of Freedom.Henry E. Allison - 1990 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Kant on Freedom, Law, and Happiness.Paul Guyer - 2000 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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