Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 September 2014
Little extended attention has been given to Kant’s notion of self-conceit (Eigendünkel), though it appears throughout his theoretical and practical philosophy. Authors who discuss self-conceit often describe it as a kind of imperiousness or arrogance in which the conceited agent seeks to impose selfish principles upon others, or sees others as worthless. I argue that these features of self-conceit are symptoms of a deeper and more thoroughgoing failure. Self-conceit is best described as the tendency to insist upon one’s own theoretical or practical conclusions at any cost, while still wanting to appear – to oneself or to others – as though one is abiding by the constraints of theoretical or practical reason. Self-conceit is thus less centrally the tendency to impose one’s will or inclinations upon others, and more centrally the tendency to reconstruct evidence and rationalize so that one may be convinced of one’s own virtue. While the conceited agent may ultimately impose her judgement upon others, she does so in order to preserve her delusion of virtue.