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The general introduction briefly presents the historical-philosophical context in which Fichte's System of Ethics was published and its connection to Fichte's overall project of a philosophical system. The Introduction stresses the complexity of the plan of the System of Ethics, and surveys the main issues discussed in the work, thereby presenting the topics of each chapter in the volume.
The aim of the chapter is to shed light on some of the most original elements of Fichte’s conception of morality as expressed in his account of specific obligations. After some remarks on Fichte’s original classification of ethical duties, the chapter focuses on the prohibition of lying, the duty to communicate our true knowledge, and the duty to set a good example. Fichte’s account of those duties not only goes beyond the mere justification of universally acknowledged demands, but also deploys different arguments than his contemporaries, most notably Kant. Fichte thereby sketches a conception of morality in which the agent is crucially required to contribute to the morality of others. The chapter explores the contrast between Fichte’s view and Kant’s thought of an end in itself and suggests that Fichte’s view of morality amounts to a form of normative perfectionism that is qualified by the underlying claim of the agent-neutral character of moral demands.
The System of Ethics was published at the height of Fichte's academic career and marks the culmination of his philosophical development in Jena. Much more than a treatise on ethics narrowly construed, the System of Ethics presents a unified synthesis of Fichte's core philosophical ideas, including the principle I-hood, self-activity and self-consciousness, and also contains his most detailed treatment of action and agency. This volume brings together an international group of leading scholars on Fichte, and is the first of its kind in English to offer critical and interpretive perspectives on this work, covering topics such as normativity, belief, justification, desire, duty, and the ethical life. It will be an essential guide for scholars wanting to deepen their understanding of Fichte's ethical thought, as well as for those interested in the history of ethics more broadly.
This paper attempts to shed light on Kant’s notion of autonomy in his moral philosophy by considering Kant’s critique of the rationalist theories of morality that Kant discussed in his lectures on practical philosophy from the 1760s to the time of the Groundwork. The paper first explains Kant’s taxonomy of moral theories. Second, it considers Kant's arguments against the two main variants of ‘rationalism’ as he construes it, that is, perfectionism and theological voluntarism, pointing out the similarities to previous criticisms. Third, the paper argues that Kant’s discussion of the 'rationalist' views does not amount to an unqualified dismissal, but to an attempt at working out a novel rationalist position. Kant’s criticisms of rationalist views suggest that his project emerges from the failures of previous rationalism, with the aim to work out a rationalist view that can account for moral obligation by integrating insights from the theological conception. The combination of perfectionism and theological views yields the basic outline of the idea of autonomy, consisting in the lawgiving function of a rational will as a key to the legislation of a necessary law.
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.