Practical Reason, Character and Morality Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Falkenberg, Dana
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • In this work, I investigate a class of cases which pose a challenge to Kant's moral theory. These are cases of practical necessities in which agents judge not that they ought or ought not to act in a given manner, but that they must or can't. It appears Kant would need to understand these cases either as ones in which agents feel compelled because they recognize they are morally required to act in a given way, or as cases in which agents are compelled in a way that removes their powers as agents. However, I argue neither of these ways of understanding such cases is appropriate. Instead these cases show the ways in which the deep commitments that constitute our characters can compel us to act without removing our powers as agents. Bernard Williams thought cases of practical necessities challenged the ways in which Kant thought moral requirements were unique, as well as Kant's contention that it is always unconditionally rational and good for us to do as morality requires. In responding to these challenges, I argue Kant did think that all practical necessities were moral necessities. But, Kant's conception of moral requirements is different from Williams'. As a result, many cases of practical necessities can be understood as moral in Kant's sense and so do not pose a problem for his theory. However, not all cases of practical necessities can plausibly be understood as moral even in Kant's sense. It then seems that the deep commitments which give rise to practical necessities must be regarded by Kantians as merely discretionary, and therefore ones it is possible as well as unqualifiedly good and rational for us to give up when they conflict with what ordinarily would be morally required. I argue we should, and a Kantian can, deny this. In addition to moral necessities, these cases also reveal our autonomy as agents and so are entitled to a special form of respect.
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  • In Copyright
  • Hill, Thomas E.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2013

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