This paper attempts to shed light on Kant’s notion of autonomy in his moral philosophy by considering Kant’s critique of the rationalist theories of morality that Kant discussed in his lectures on practical philosophy from the 1760s to the time of the Groundwork. The paper first explains Kant’s taxonomy of moral theories. Second, it considers Kant's arguments against the two main variants of ‘rationalism’ as he construes it, that is, perfectionism and theological voluntarism, pointing out the similarities to previous criticisms. (...) Third, the paper argues that Kant’s discussion of the 'rationalist' views does not amount to an unqualified dismissal, but to an attempt at working out a novel rationalist position. Kant’s criticisms of rationalist views suggest that his project emerges from the failures of previous rationalism, with the aim to work out a rationalist view that can account for moral obligation by integrating insights from the theological conception. The combination of perfectionism and theological views yields the basic outline of the idea of autonomy, consisting in the lawgiving function of a rational will as a key to the legislation of a necessary law. (shrink)
After qualifying in which sense ‘realism’ can be applied to eighteenth- century views about morality, I argue that while Kant shares with traditional moral realists several fundamental claims about morality, he holds that those claims must be argued for in a radically different way. Drawing on his diagnosis of the serious weaknesses of traditional moral realism, Kant proposes a novel approach that revolves around a hybrid view about moral obligation. Since his solution to that central issue combines elements of realism (...) with elements of voluntarist assent, Kant’s position can be characterized as an idealist version of moral realism or, more specifically, as the combination of a strong realism about the moral law with an idealist account of moral obligation. (shrink)
I suggest that looking at how Kant’s arguments relate to the stand of the discussion on the relationship between right and ethics in his times contributes to a better understanding of his own position in this matter. I contrast the terms of the pre-Kantian debate with Kant’s take on the matter, in order to point out how Kant gains a new perspective concerning the rela- tionship between ethics and right. While the most prominent pre-Kantian view construed right and ethics as (...) either resulting from the application of a general principle to di erent domains or reciprocally independent, Kant’s own account centres on the difference between outer and inner freedom. I argue that Kant thereby only differentiates two relations of freedom to different hindrances, without implying any separation. This distinction allows him to construe right and ethics as sharing the same normative force of moral obligation. Therefore I suggest that Kant’s view understands the relationship between right and ethics neither as dependence nor as independence, but highlights the normative continuity throughout morals. (shrink)
The chapter provides a brief survey of the moral views of some of the main writers advocating rationalist conceptions in philosophical ethics in Eighteenth-Century Britain and Germany, prior to Reid and Kant: Samuel Clarke, William Wollaston, John Balguy, Richard Price, Christian Wolff (along with his adversary Christian August Crusius), Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten.
This paper focuses on the relationship between Kant and the traditional view of dignity. I argue that some amendments to Sensen’s description of the traditional paradigm enable us to see more clearly both where Kant adheres to the latter and where his view is original. First, a consideration of Pufendorf’s use of dignity suggests (1) that, contrary to Sensen’s reconstruction, the traditional paradigm does not entail a connection between dignity and duties to oneself, and (2) that Pufendorf’s understanding of dignity (...) as a kind of esteem, as opposed to price, provides a crucial mediation between the traditional view and Kant’s view. Finally, I argue that the traditional understanding of dignity also includes a subordinate justificatory element that helps to explain Kant’s use of dignity in the Doctrine of Virtue. (shrink)
The chapter shows how Kant’s ethical thought as reflected in the lectures, responds to Baumgarten’s works on moral philosophy. I argue that Kant chose Baumgarten’s textbooks for his classes for genuinely philosophical reasons. The thorough discussion of Baumgarten’s views provided Kant with important clues for developing an original position, even if mostly in opposition to Baumgarten. I illustrate this complex role of Baumgarten with a few significant examples, that also highlight some original aspects of Baumgarten’s position in comparison to Wolff’s: (...) (1) Kant follows Baumgarten’s in focusing on obligation as the crucial issue in moral philosophy, but Kant regards Baumgarten’s account as not satisfying. (2) Baumgarten’s sharply theistic foundation of morality is rejected by Kant. (3) Kant rejects also several significant aspects of Baumgarten’s division of ethical duties, thereby revealing profound differences in their conceptions of morality. (shrink)
Aim of the paper is contributing to a context-informed understanding of Fichte’s theory of conscience. This crucial element in his moral philosophy (and, in fact, in his whole philosophy) represents the last of the many significant accounts of conscience in the 18th century, before in the following century the role of conscience in moral life was repeatedly put into question. Accordingly, in my paper I argue that: (1) Fichte puts forward an un-Kantian account of conscience, following, instead, a quite different (...) model; (2) Fichte’s views on conscience grew out of a complex conceptual milieu, from which Fichte borrows important (quasi-)sentimentalist elements; (3) Fichte’s idea of the infallibility of conscience must be distinguished from other similar views put forward in the same years. (shrink)
The contrast between Kant’s moral philosophy and Feder’s is not less crucial than the controversy caused by the Göttingen review of the first Critique. One of main targets of Kant’s moral philosophy was Feder’s view, which can be regarded as Kant's main competitor in the contemporary debate. I thus argue that the background provided by the conflict with Feder helps see how Kant shifted the ethical debate in new directions. I present an assessment of the philosophical substance of that clash (...) of views with regard to three fundamental issues. First, I examine how the project of a pure moral philosophy opposes Feder’s empirical investigation into the will. Second, I focus on Kant’s anti-eudaemonism, showing that his contrast between happiness and self-contentment is first and foremost a rejection of the strongly moralized view of happiness that is central in Feder’s eudaemonism. Finally, I highlight that Kant’s understanding of the aims of moral theory can be helpfully characterised by contrast with Feder’s common-sense conception. (shrink)
The paper argues for distinguishing two aspects in Kant’s idea of self-legislation of the moral law: the immediate character (i.e., the practical necessity) of the law itself and the lawgiving function attributed to the rational will. I argue that the novelty of Kant’s thesis chie y consists in the combination of the two aspects, and that this solves the alleged paradoxical character of the idea of self-legislation. As it grounds on the connection of a fundamental law with a lawgiving, Kant’s (...) view can be regarded as a novel variant of the mixed model first proposed by Suárez, with two crucial di erences concerning the subject playing the role of the lawgiver and the notion of law involved. Finally, I argue that the inner structure of the idea of self-legislation shows that Kant’s view combines a realism of the moral law with a constructivism of moral obligation. (shrink)
The chapter begins by discussing the general meaning of a 'doctrine of method' in Kant’s work, as well as the specific goals of the Doctrine of Method of the second Critique. The central section, then, focuses on the notion of 'receptivity to morality', which here has a central role and a quite distinct meaning. I argue that Kant’s main point in his account of how to 'make objective practical reason subjectively practical' (5:151) is that one ought to lead the individual (...) agent to become aware of his own dignity as a moral being. In Kant’s view, recognition of this point is relevant to the overall aim of the second Critique – to show that pure reason is practical – and of moral theory itself. The task of the Doctrine of Method is to show how it is possible to make agents aware of their basic moral capacities, and through that awareness to instil genuine moral dispositions. Accordingly, the Doctrine of Method is the completion of the Critique, confirming the conclusions of the Analytic through the common use of pure practical reason and connecting them with the experience of every moral agent. (shrink)
In this work, Fichte's high school years in Schulpforta are reconstructed for the first time, building on sources never considered before and throwing new light on this first phase of his intellectual biography and on his reception of the work of important figures of the Enlightenment such as Lessing, Herder, Gottsched, Gellert, and Rosseau. – The volume also includes the most important contemporary documents on Schulpforta and Fichte's texts from those years. Among these, the most relevant is his Latin speech (...) concerning the use of rules in poetry and rhetoric. In this volume, Fichte's speech is newly translated and annotated for the first time, to provide the rich historical background. (shrink)
The Kant Dictionary is a guide to the philosophical work of Immanuel Kant and incorporates the latest scholarship. This textbook edition presents the most important entries contained in the comprehensive, three-volume lexicon released in 2015.
Autonomy is one of the central concepts of contemporary moral thought, and Kant is often credited with being the inventor of individual moral autonomy. But how and why did Kant develop this notion? The Emergence of Autonomy in Kant's Moral Philosophy is the first essay collection exclusively devoted to this topic. It traces the emergence of autonomy from Kant's earliest writings to the changes that he made to the concept in his mature works. The essays offer a close historical and (...) philosophical analysis of what prompted Kant to develop his conception of autonomy, charting the historical background which prompted his search, and thoroughly analysing different stages of his writings in order to see which element of autonomy was introduced at which point. The resulting volume will be of interest to both scholars and students of Kantian moral philosophy, as well as to anyone interested in the subject of autonomy. (shrink)