European Journal of Philosophy 28 (3):567-585 (2020)

Anastasia Berg
Cambridge University
It has been widely accepted that Kant holds the “Opacity Thesis,” the claim that we cannot know the ultimate grounds of our actions. Understood in this way, I shall argue, the Opacity Thesis is at odds with Kant's account of practical self-consciousness, according to which I act from the (always potentially conscious) representation of principles of action and that, in particular, in acting from duty I act in consciousness of the moral law's determination of my will. The Opacity Thesis thus threatens to render acting from duty unintelligible. To diffuse the threat, I argue, first, that we need not attribute the Opacity Thesis to Kant. Kant's concern with the ubiquity of moral self-opacity does not imply the strong skeptical conclusion that knowledge of the grounds of one's action is impossible. Second, I show how moral self-opacity in cases of morally bad action emerges from the intrinsic inability of representing oneself, insofar as one is pursuing the indeterminate end of “happiness.” Thus, moral self-opacity does not undermine the will's self-consciousness but is born of it.
Keywords Kant  moral self-knowledge  moral self-opacity  opacity thesis
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DOI 10.1111/ejop.12520
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