Kant's Incorporation Requirement: Freedom and Character in the Empirical World

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 38 (3):425-451 (2008)
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In Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason Kant wrote that ‘freedom of the power of choice has the characteristic, entirely peculiar to it, that it cannot be determined to action through any incentive except insofar as the human being has incorporated it into his maxim.’ This is an obscure statement, in both meaning and provenance. Yet almost all recent interpreters of Kant's practical philosophy find it crucial for understanding his theories of freedom and motivation, since it seems to indicate what we are required to do in order to act by our own free choice. Here I refer to Kant's statement expressing the requirement that incentives be incorporated into maxims as his ‘incorporation requirement.’ How that requirement is best understood will be the leading question in what follows: a question I shall answer by showing why the incorporation requirement, and Kant's theories of freedom and motivation, should be understood differently from the way they are now usually understood.



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