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Can we Modify our Pleasures? A New Look at Kant on Pleasure in the Agreeable

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 August 2020

Erica A. Holberg
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Abstract

Many of us are all too familiar with the experience of taking pleasure in things we feel we ought not, and of finding it frustratingly hard to bring our pleasures into line with our moral judgements. As a value dualist, Kant draws a sharp contrast between the two sources of practical motivation: pleasure in the agreeable and respect for the moral law. His ethics might thus seem to be an unpromising source for help in thinking about how we can bring our agreeable pleasures into line with our moral values. But I argue that a careful reading of Kant’s texts reveals a helpfully realistic view about the extent to which we can modify our agreeable pleasures. On my interpretation, Kant shows us how to hold together two seemingly incompatible ideas: on the one hand, that pleasure in the agreeable is resistant to rational direction, and on the other hand, that we can cultivate these pleasures with a view to ethical self-transformation.

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© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Kantian Review

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