Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 October 2013
Kant's ethics has long been bedevilled by a peculiar tension. While his practical philosophy describes the moral obligations incumbent on all free, rational beings, Kant also understands moral anthropology as addressing ‘helps and hindrances’ to our moral advancement. How are we to reconcile Kant's Critical account of a transcendentally free human will with his developmental view of anthropology, history and education as assisting in our collective progress towards moral ends? I argue that Kant in fact distinguishes between the objective determination of moral principles and subjective processes of moral acculturation developing human beings’ receptivity to the moral law. By differentiating subjective and objective dimensions of moral agency, I argue (1) that we better interpret the relationship between Kant's transcendental and anthropological accounts as a division of labour between principles of obligation and principles of volition, and so, as complementary rather than contradictory; and (2) that this counters the view of Kant's ethics as overly formalistic by recognizing his ‘empirical ethics’ as attending to the unsystematizable facets of a properly human moral life.