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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/26496

Title: Kant, Skepticism, and Moral Sensibility
Authors: Ware, Owen
Advisor: Franks, Paul
Department: Philosophy
Keywords: Kant
Moral Psychology
Moral Motivation
Moral Feeling
Groundwork III
Critique of Practical Reason
Issue Date: 10-Mar-2011
Abstract: In contrast to his rationalist predecessors, Kant insists that feeling has a pos- itive role to play in moral life. But the exact nature of this role is far from clear. As much as Kant insists that moral action must proceed from a feeling of respect, he maintains with equal insistence that the objective basis of acting from duty must come from practical reason alone, and that when we act from duty we must exclude sensibility from the determining grounds of choice. In what way, then, is respect for the law a feeling? And what place does this feeling have—if any—in Kant’s ethics? The aim of my dissertation is to answer these questions, in part through a close engagement with Kant’s second Critique. I provide a close reading of his claim that our recognition of the moral law must effect both painful and pleasurable feelings in us, and I argue that these feelings, for Kant, are meant to explain how the moral law can figure into the basis of a maxim. By showing why our recognition of the law must be painful from the perspective of self-love, but pleasurable from the perspective of practical reason, Kant is able to show how our desires can acquire normative direction. On my reading, then, the theory of moral sensibility we find in the second Critique addresses a rather troubling form of skepticism: skepticism about moral motivation.In the course of defending this claim, I provide an alternative reading of the development of Kant’s project of moral justification from Groundwork III to the second Critique. Against a wide-spread view in the literature, I suggest that what changes between these texts is not a direction of argument (from freedom to morality, or morality to freedom), but a methodological shift toward the concept of human sensibility. In the later work, I argue, Kant develops a novel approach to moral feeling from the perspective of the deliberating agent; and this in turn clears room in Kant’s ethics for a new kind of a priori knowledge—namely, knowledge of what the activity of practical reason must feel like. The broader aim of my dissertation is thus to put Kant’s work on meta-ethics and moral psychology in closer proximity.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/26496
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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