In this paper I defend the traditional interpretations of Kant’s Formula of a Law of Nature from recent attacks leveled by Faviola Rivera-Castro, James Furner, Ido Geiger, Pauline Kleingeld and Sven Nyholm. After a short introduction, the paper is divided into four main sections. In the first, I set out the basics of the three traditional interpretations, the Logical Contradiction Interpretation, the Practical Contradiction Interpretation and the Teleological Contradiction Interpretation. In the second, I examine the work of Geiger, Kleingeld and (...) Nyholm: these three commentators reject the traditional interpretations entirely, but I argue that this rejection is ill-founded. In the third and fourth, I take a detailed look at Furner’s work, work in which he seeks to revise (rather than reject) the traditional interpretations. I argue that, despite his more modest aims, Furner’s revision is also ill-founded. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that there would be no obligatory maxims if the only standards for assessing maxims were Kant’s universalizability tests. The paper is divided into five sections. In the first, I clarify my thesis: I define my terms and disambiguate my thesis from other related theses for which one might argue. In the second, I confront the view that says that if a maxim passes the universalizability tests, then there is a positive duty to adopt that maxim; (...) I also confront a close relative of this view. In the third, I confront the view that says that if a maxim does not pass the universalizability tests, then there is a positive duty to adopt the contradictory of that maxim. In the fourth, I confront two variations of the view that says that if a maxim does not pass the universalizability tests and an agent is deliberating about the action in the maxim, then the agent has a positive duty to adopt the contrary of that maxim. In the fifth, I confront the view that says that if an agent has adopted a maxim of ends, then the agent has a positive duty to universalize that end. I then wrap up the paper with some concluding remarks. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss Kant’s theory of conscience. In particular, I explicate the following two claims that Kant makes in the Metaphysics of Morals: (1) an erring conscience is an absurdity and (2) if an agent has acted according to his/her conscience, then s/he has done all that can be required of him/her. I argue that (1) is a very specific claim that does not bear on the problem of moral knowledge. I argue that (2) rests on a strongly (...) internalist line of argument. (shrink)
My goal in this paper is to show that two theses that are widely adopted among Kantian ethicists are irreconcilable. The paper is divided into four sections. In the first, I briefly sketch the contours of my own positive view of Kantian ethics, concentrating on the issues relevant to the two theses to be discussed: I argue that agents can perform actions from but not in conformity with duty, and I argue that agents intentionally can perform actions they take to (...) be contrary to duty. In the second, I focus on Barbara Herman’s non-accidental rightness condition from “On the Value of Acting from Duty.” In the third, I focus on Christine Korsgaard’s guise of the objectively good from “Formula of Humanity.” In the fourth, I explain why the positions developed by Herman and Korsgaard are irreconcilable and I make a suggestion about how to move forward. (shrink)
In a series of well known publications, Christine Korsgaard argues for the claim that an agent acts morally just in case s/he acts autonomously. Two of Korsgaard's signature arguments for the connection between morality and autonomy are the "argument from spontaneity" and the "regress argument." In this paper, I argue that neither the argument from spontaneity nor the regress argument is able to show that an agent would be acting wrongly even if s/he acts in a paradigmatically heteronomous fashion.
In this article, I confront Flanigan’s recent attempt to show, not merely that women have a right to commit prenatal injury, but also that women who act on this right are praiseworthy and should not be criticized for this injury. I show that Flanigan’s arguments do not work, and I establish presumptive grounds against any such right, namely: prenatal injury, by definition, involves intentional or negligent harm and, as such, may be subsumed under a wider class of actions that are (...) presumptively wrong. (shrink)
According to Kant, if an agent acts according to his/her conscience, then s/he has done all that s/he ought as far as morality is concerned. But Kant thinks that agents can be mistaken in their subjective determinations of their duties. That is, Kant thinks it is possible for an agent to believe that some action X is right even though it is an objective truth that X is not right; according to Kant, agents do not have infallible knowledge of right (...) and wrong. In this paper, I explore this doctrine in order to determine whether it is defensible. In particular, I confront the blameworthiness of acting contrary to fallible knowledge and the blamelessness of acting according to fallible judgment. (shrink)
In Bencivenga’s “Consequences in Kantian Ethics,” he offers a version of Kant’s ethics according to which the most rational approach to living one’s life is “to always imagine what might follow from one’s moves and to choose moves accordingly” (284), but according to which agents always nevertheless must be modest in their judgments about what they ought to do because the actual consequences of their actions might not turn out as they imagined. In this way, he tries to foreground the (...) role of consequences in Kant's ethics. In this paper, I argue against Bencivenga and, in particular, against the idea that according to Kant, to determine whether an agent’s action is good we must wait for its consequences to unfold in time. (shrink)
In this book, I give a topic-based, modular introduction to philosophy. The book has 16 chapters: 7 in theoretical philosophy and 9 in practical philosophy. Each topic is introduced by means of a concrete question; the main positions on this question are then developed and criticized in turn. I try to avoid taking sides; instead, I emphasize that students must think through the issues for themselves.
Most philosophers agree that Kant was committed to the principle 'ought implies can' (OIC). However, few agree on how to understand the meaning of OIC. Outside of Kant scholarship, there are debates about the meaning of 'ought', the meaning of 'implies', and the meaning of 'can' in this principle. Inside Kant scholarship, there is no consensus about where Kant stood on these terms. The present paper tries to go some way toward rectifying this situation. In section I, I review the (...) secondary literature on Kant’s commitment to OIC and explain where I think it goes wrong. In section II, I examine some of the direct textual evidence for ascribing a specific version of OIC to Kant. In section III, I set out what I take to be the main doctrinal reasons for ascribing this version of OIC to Kant. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to show that, if Kant’s universalization formulations of the Categorical Imperative are our only standards for judging right from wrong and permissible from impermissible, then we have no obligations. I shall do this by examining five different views of how obligations can be derived from the universalization formulations and arguing that each one fails. I shall argue that the first view rests on a misunderstanding of the universalization formulations; the second on a misunderstanding of (...) the concept of an obligation; the third on a misunderstanding of the concept of a maxim; the fourth on a misunderstanding of the limits of action description; and the fifth on a misunderstanding of the universalization formulations again. (shrink)