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Chapter 5 - Elements of Autonomy in Kant’s Lectures on Ethics (1770–1780)

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

This chapter focuses on Kant’s Lectures on Ethics of the 1770s in order to determine which of the three central elements of autonomy Kant held during his silent period: (i) reason provides the content of the moral law; (ii) reason makes moral laws obligatory, and (iii) pure reason can by itself be practical. The conclusion of the chapter is that Kant essentially held his mature position on the first element by 1770, and indicates the second by the middle of the 1770s – even if he does not yet state either of them unequivocally. However, Kant does not yet conceive of his mature views on moral motivation. While he holds that reason does have a moving force of its own, he also argues that our rational capacities by themselves are not strong enough to overcome inclination. Since Kant does seem to have two aspects of autonomy by the middle of the 1770s, but not yet the third, this supports the claim that moral motivation is an important part of Kant’s conception of autonomy.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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