Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 731–743 | Cite as

Kant’s Moral Theory and Demandingness

  • Alice Pinheiro WallaEmail author


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.


Immanuel 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.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity College CorkCorkIreland

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