Kant’s Moral Theory and Demandingness
In this paper, I sketch a Kantian account of duties of rescue, which I take to be compatible with Kant’s theory. I argue that there is in fact no “trumping relation” between imperfect and perfect duties but merely that “latitude shrinks away” in certain circumstances. Against possible demandingness objections, I explain why Kant thought that imperfect duty must allow latitude for choice and argue that we must understand the necessary space for pursuing one’s own happiness as entailed by Kant’s justification of one’s duty to promote other’s happiness. Nevertheless, becoming worthy of happiness has always priority over one’s own happiness, even when circumstances are such that we cannot secure our own happiness without seriously neglecting more pressing needs of other persons. I conclude that Kant’s moral theory calls for complementation by the political and juridical domain. Implementing just political institutions and creating satisfactorily well-ordered societies create an external world which is friendlier to our attempts to reconcile moral integrity and a happy human life.
KeywordsImmanuel kant Imperfect duties Beneficence Perfect duties Demandingness
Previous versions of this paper have been presented at the workshop “The Limits of Duty”, University of Cambridge, Royal Institute of Philosophy annual conference on Supererogation, University College Dublin, Society for Applied Philosophy (SAP) annual conference and British Society for Ethical Theory Conference (BSET). I would like to thank my audiences in these conferences for their very helpful feedback, especially Claire Ben, Brian McElwee, David Heyd, David Miller and Fiona Woollard. I am immensely indebted to Marcia Baron’s very insightful comments on a draft of this paper.
- Baron M (1987) “Kantian ethics and supererogation”. J Philos 84Google Scholar
- Gregor M (1963) Laws of freedom, BlackwellGoogle Scholar
- Hale S (1991) “Against supererogation”. Am Philos Q 28Google Scholar
- Herman B (2007) “The scope of moral requirement”. In: moral literacy. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, p 221Google Scholar
- Hill TE (1971) “Kant on imperfect duty and supererogation.” Kant Studien 62 Vo. 1.Google Scholar
- Hill TE (2002) “Meeting needs and doing favours” in: human welfare and moral worth, Kantian perspectives. Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
- Pindar, Anthony Verity (transl.) and Stephen Instone (ed.) (2008), The Complete Odes, Oxford World’s ClassicsGoogle Scholar
- Statman D (1996) “Who needs imperfect duties”? Am Philos Q 33:No 2Google Scholar
- Timmermann J (2005) “Good but not required? Assessing the demands of Kantian Ethics”. J Moral Philos 2.1Google Scholar
- Timmermann J (2010) Kant’s groundwork of the metaphysics of morals. A Commentary, Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
- Walla AP (2013) “Wide duties of virtue and prudence in a footnote of the doctrine of virtue (VI: 433n.)” Annual Review of Law and Ethics / Jahrbuch für Recht und Ethik, Bd. 21Google Scholar
- Wilson C (1993) “On some alleged limitations to moral endeavor”. J Philos 90Google Scholar