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Abstract

Kantian ethical philosophy has often been criticized for its dependence on an untenable conception of the freedom of the will. Kant is supposed to have asserted that we are morally responsible for all of our actions because we have free will, and that we have free will because we exist in a noumenal world in which we are uninfluenced by the temptations of desire and inclination. If we existed only in the noumenal world, we would invariably act as the categorical imperative requires, but because we are also phenomenal beings we sometimes go wrong. The view so understood gives rise to several problems. First, the claim that purely noumenal persons would act as the categorical imperative requires may be questioned. It is not obvious why persons uninfluenced by causality should act morally rather than any other way. Secondly, if it can be established that insofar as we are noumena we obey the moral law, then the account of moral imputability becomes unintelligible. If we are only responsible because we are noumena and if insofar as we are noumena we only do what is right, then we cannot be responsible for our evil actions. Or, if we are responsible, it is so radically that no room is left for excuses. For how can we take into account the terrible temptations to which the wrongdoer was subjected, when the choosing noumenon was uninfluenced by those temptations? Finally, the view seems to require an unappealing ontological commitment to the existence of “two worlds,” and to give rise to a variety of puzzles about how what occurs in the one can influence the other.

Keywords

Practical Reason Categorical Imperative Moral Evil Phenomenal World Positive Conception 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Reference

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    This is not guaranteed. The Foundations contains a well-known discussion of the worth of a man who is helpful although “by temperament cold and indifferent to the sufferings of others, perhaps because he is provided with special gifts of patience and fortitude” (4: 398/14–15), which shows that Kant thinks moral worth may be combined with a recalcitrant temperament. The discussion has unfortunately often been taken to suggest that Kant thinks moral worth must be combined with a recalcitrant temperament.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine M. Korsgaard
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of ChicagoUSA

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