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A gradual reformation: empirical character and causal powers in Kant

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

Jonas Jervell Indregard*
Department of Philosophy, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, P. R. China


According to Kant each person has an empirical character, which is ultimately grounded in one’s free choice. The popular Causal Laws interpretation of empirical character holds that it consists of the causal laws governing our psychology. I argue that this reading has difficulties explaining moral change, the ‘gradual reformation’ of our empirical character: Causal laws cannot change and hence cannot be gradually reformed. I propose an alternative Causal Powers interpretation of empirical character, where our empirical character consists of our mind’s causal powers. The resulting picture of empirical character allows for moral change and Kantian weakness of will.

Copyright © The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. 2018

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