Autonomy, progress and virtue : why Kant has nothing to fear from the overdemandingness objection
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Is Kant’s ethical theory too demanding? Do its commands ask too much of us, either by calling for self-sacrifice on particular occasions, or by pervading our lives to the extent that there is no room for permissible action? In this article, I argue that Kant’s ethics is very demanding, but not excessively so. The notion of ‘latitude’ (the idea that wide duty admits of ‘exceptions’) does not help. But we need to bear in mind (i) that moral laws are self-imposed and cannot be externally enforced; (ii) that ‘right action’ is not a category of Kantian ethics – there is a more and a less, and lack of perfection does not entail vice; and (iii) that only practice makes perfect, i.e. how much virtue can realistically be expected can vary from agent to agent. The principle that ‘ought’ is limited by ‘can’ is firmly entrenched in Kant’s ethical thought.
Timmermann , J 2018 , ' Autonomy, progress and virtue : why Kant has nothing to fear from the overdemandingness objection ' Kantian Review , vol. 23 , no. 3 , pp. 379-397 . DOI: 10.1017/S1369415418000201
© 2018, Kantian Review. This work has been made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created, accepted version manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1017/S1369415418000201
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