History of Philosophy Quarterly 15 (3):349 - 367 (1998)

Robert Johnson
University of Missouri, Columbia
Kant held that “an incentive can determine the will [Willkür] to action only so far as the individual has incorporated it into his maxim”, a view dubbed the “Incorporation Thesis” by Henry Allison (hereafter, “IT”). Although many see IT as basic to Kant’s views on agency, it also seems irreconcilable with the possibility of a kind of weakness, the kind exhibited by a person who acts on incentives that run contrary to principles she holds dear. The problem is this: According to IT, if an incentive determines the will of the weak person when she acts contrary to her principles, then it must be the case that she incorporated that incentive into her maxim. But that in turn means that she has made it her principle to act on the wayward incentive, and so is not, after all, exhibiting weakness in failing to follow her own principles, but at best simply dropping one principle in favor of another. So either the weak person does not incorporate the wayward incentive into her maxim and IT is false, or she does incorporate it and weakness is impossible.
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