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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.
Autonomy is one of the central concepts of contemporary moral thought, and Kant is often credited with being the inventor of individual moral autonomy. But how and why did Kant develop this notion? The Emergence of Autonomy in Kant's Moral Philosophy is the first essay collection exclusively devoted to this topic. It traces the emergence of autonomy from Kant's earliest writings to the changes that he made to the concept in his mature works. The essays offer a close historical and philosophical analysis of what prompted Kant to develop his conception of autonomy, charting the historical background which prompted his search, and thoroughly analysing different stages of his writings in order to see which element of autonomy was introduced at which point. The resulting volume will be of interest to both scholars and students of Kantian moral philosophy, as well as to anyone interested in the subject of autonomy.