Is Kant's Concept of Autonomy Absurd?

History of Philosophy Quarterly 26 (2):159 - 174 (2009)

Eric Wilson
Georgia State University
It is well known that Kant bases morality on the autonomy of the will, which he defines as the "the property of the will by which it is a law to itself" (GMS 4:440). He thus locates the normative basis for all the demands of morality in the capacity of persons to be self-legislating. Many philosophers take this to be an attractive and distinctively modern form of moral theory. It establishes the individual's own reason as the highest authority in the moral realm and grants her the capacity to subject any and all norms to rational scrutiny. However, many of Kant's less sympathetic critics reject this picture of morality because they find the concept of individual autonomy incoherent. In particular, many do not think that self-imposed laws can be binding in any meaningful sense. Laws that one gives oneself cannot really be laws. For this reason, the very idea of self-legislation seems "absurd," as Elizabeth Anscombe so pointedly puts the matter
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Kant's Moral Philosophy.Robert N. Johnson - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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