The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 293-313

First online:

Kant, Nonaccidentalness and the Availability of Moral Worth

  • Steven SverdlikAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Southern Methodist University

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Contemporary Kantians who defend Kant's view of the superiority of the sense of duty as a form of motivation appeal to various ideas. Some say, if only implicitly, that the sense of duty is always ``available'' to an agent, when she has a moral obligation. Some, like Barbara Herman, say that the sense of duty provides a ``nonaccidental'' connection between an agent's motivation and the act's rightness. In this paper I show that the ``availability'' and ``nonaccidentalness'' arguments are in tension with one another. And the ``availability'' idea, although certainly supported by some passages in Kant himself, is also clearly denied in other passages. My conclusion is that Kantians will need to abandon either availability or nonaccidentalness if they wish to have a consistent set of views about the sense of duty.

acting from duty duty Herman Kant moral motivation moral worth obligation sense of duty