Kant’s Theory of Action

Journal of the History of Philosophy 48 (4):533-535 (2010)

Lara Denis
Agnes Scott College
This significant, stimulating contribution to Kantian practical philosophy strives to interpret Kant’s theory of action in ways that will increase readers’ understanding and appreciation of Kant’s moral theory. Its thesis is that Kant combines metaphysical freedom and psychological determinism: our actions within the phenomenal world are causally determined by our prior psychological states in that world and are appearances of our free action in the noumenal world. McCarty argues for a metaphysical, “two-worlds” interpretation of Kant’s transcendental distinction between appearances and things in themselves over epistemological or methodological “two-standpoints” interpretations familiar from Christine Korsgaard and Henry Allison. Some of the book’s arguments are textual, displaying perceptive readings of Kant’s lecture notes, published works, and philosophical influences. Others primarily concern the philosophical plausibility or moral tenability of various positions one might attribute to Kant. The book’s greatest strength is McCarty’s positive account of Kant’s theory of action. He presents a coherent, even elegant, two-worlds model. His interpretations of maxims, incentives, empirical character, and Gesinnung are insightful.
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DOI 10.1353/hph.2010.0001
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