Moral agency in the system of Kant's realm of ends

Cynthia Ann Schossberger, University of Pennsylvania


This thesis explores a variety of issues related to Kant's account of human moral judgment in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and, to a lesser extent, The Critique of the Power of Judgment . In the first Chapter, I discuss the rational ideal of the Realm of Ends and its role in the overall strategy of the Groundwork. I also examine Kant's famous formulations of the categorical imperative. I argue against overemphasizing the “universalization test.” I propose that Kant devised the several formulations of the categorical imperative, not to provide a method for conducting moral decisions, but rather in order to assist the reader in envisioning the moral “world-whole” (Kant's term) which is ideally possible for moral agents such as ourselves. I treat Groundwork I and II as a description of human agency according to which systematic moral cooperation is possible in the Realm of Ends, which Kant describes as the unity of ends, aims and desires of multiple agents achieved by moral agents. So Chapter One describes what the ideal moral world would look like on Kant's view. In Chapter Two I examine the particular account of rational agency that is required in order for Kant's ideal to be realized. Chapter Two has two goals: (1) to explain the qualities of the single rational agent in Kant's realm of Ends, and (2) to reinterpret the four examples of Groundwork II with this account in mind, and in order to demonstrate that the examples are not best interpreted as examples of prudential reasoning. In Chapter Three I discuss common human understanding and the faculty of judgment, and give an account of how individual moral judgments are actually made—or at least how we may best them. I argue that both determining and reflecting judgments are necessary components of judgments which involve both perfect and imperfect duties; and I begin an outline of how Kant's vision of systematicity in the natural world may be given an analog in the moral realm, where determining and reflecting judgment collaborate in moral concept application just as they do in theoretical concept application. ^

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Recommended Citation

Schossberger, Cynthia Ann, "Moral agency in the system of Kant's realm of ends" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3087467.