Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 May 2020
The moral agent’s response to radical evil is a moral conversion or change of heart, inverting the order of incentives in the maxim of evil and giving priority to the moral incentive. Kant regards the moral incentive as distinctive, different from all others. Kant often refers to it as “duty,” but in the reception of Kant, this is often misunderstood as unemotional coldness of heart. Giving priority to the moral incentive for Kant is rather “goodness of heart,” involving caring for others and a proper balance between love and respect for them. Goodness of heart is also linked to virtuous nonmoral incentives. Also frequently misunderstood is how Kant understands acting from an incentive. Acting from an incentive, whether the moral one or a nonmoral one, is not a property of individual acts. Rather, it is a property of an agent’s disposition or character. Virtus noumenon is the character of a person who has undergone the change of heart. This manifests itself only as virtus phaenomenon, involving empirical incentives and habitual behavior, which may be a mere appearance of virtue but is also the only possible manifestation of true virtue. “Acting from duty” means something different in the Groundwork from what it means in later works, where it is related to the morality (not the mere legality) of actions and to the duty to act from duty. The change of heart is not a datable event in a person’s life but depends on the striving for moral progress, which can be known only by God who sees the entire course of a person’s life.