Recent work on Kantian maxims II

Philosophy Compass 5 (3):228-239 (2010)
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Maxims play a crucial role in Kant's ethical philosophy, but there is significant disagreement about what maxims are. In this two-part essay, I survey eight different views of Kantian maxims, presenting their strengths and their weaknesses. In Part II: New Approaches, I look at three more recent views in somewhat greater detail than I do the five treatments canvassed in 'Recent Works on Kantian Maxims I: Established Approaches'. First, there is Richard McCarty's Interpretation, which holds that Kant's understanding of maxims can be illuminated by placing them in the context of the Wollfian tradition, according to which maxims are the major premises of practical syllogisms. The next subject Maria Schwartz, holds that careful attention to Kant's distinction between rules and maxims, as well as Kant's concept of happiness, allows us to make sense of almost all of Kant's remarks on maxims. It may be, however, that on Schwartz's view agents turn out to perform actions as opposed to thoughtlessly habitual behaviors much less often than is plausible. This leads to the final approach, exemplified by Jens Timmermann, which is that Kant understands maxims equivocally. I claim that something like Timmermann's approach is the only way to make sense of all of what Kant has to say on maxims.



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Robert Gressis
California State University, Northridge

References found in this work

Kant’s Ethical Thought.Allen W. Wood - 1999 - Cambridge University Press.
Kant's Theory of Freedom.Henry E. Allison - 1990 - Cambridge University Press.
Kant’s Ethical Thought. [REVIEW]Stephen Engstrom - 2002 - Journal of Philosophy 99 (3):149-152.

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