Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Against common misconceptions of Kant as a philosopher who neglects the emotional aspects of moral life, I show that he actually considers our emotional dispositions to be valuable tools for perfecting ourselves morally.
I show not only that it is incumbent on us to cultivate morally beneficial emotions, but also how we can do it. Building on Kant's vague hints about what the process involves, I argue that cultivating a given feeling requires, above all, sharpening one's judgment about it, one's sensitivity to its nature and to the shape it takes in one's own character in order to make responsible decisions about whether to act on the feeling and when one does choose to act on it, to express it in a way which harmonizes with one's sense of moral integrity.
I begin with an argument showing that on Kant's mature moral theory, it is our duty to cultivate feelings which help us form a virtuous disposition. I then discuss particular feelings which are especially important in this regard. I begin with the feeling of respect for the moral law and show that it constitutes the motive of duty. Kant's "pure" moral motive--the motive of duty--is thus actually a feeling which is grounded in a rational grasp of the moral law. I then consider feelings associated with our duties toward ourselves (e.g., pride and courage) and with our duties toward others (e.g., love and respect) and raise the question of how cultivated feelings figure in the virtuous character and also in relation to good willing and to morally worthy action. I show that certain "moral" feelings (feelings with a rational basis, e.g., "proper" pride and love of man) can become part of the motive of duty itself and so can serve as motives to morally worthy action.
Nauckhoff, Josefine Charlotte, "The Role of the Emotions in the Moral Life According to Immanuel Kant" (1994). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 2142.