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Chapter 4 - Autonomy and Moral Empiricism

Kant’s Criticism of Sentimentalist Moral Principles (1762–1785)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2018

Stefano Bacin
Affiliation:
Università degli Studi di Milano
Oliver Sensen
Affiliation:
Tulane University, Louisiana
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Summary

Between 1762 and 1785, Kant extensively examines moral sense philosophy, which is very influential at the time, in his unpublished notes and lectures on moral philosophy. Between 1762 and 1766/68 Kant sympathizes with Shaftesbury’s and Hutcheson’s theory of moral feeling, especially with their anti-rationalist claim that the rational cognition of moral principles is not sufficient to motivate us. During the 1770s, however, Kant criticizes the empiricist implications of moral sense philosophy without, nevertheless, completely rejecting certain essential elements of it. While rationalism and moral sense philosophy attributed both the capacity to cognize the morally good and the power to make us comply with this cognition to reason and moral sense respectively, Kant is now working on a differentiation between and coordination of (a) reason as cognition and (b) moral sense as motivation to comply. Kant’s criticism of empiricism – in addition to his criticism of moral rationalism – leads him finally, from 1785 on, to his ‘third way’ that integrates the insights of moral rationalism and of moral empiricism.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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