Kant and the freedom to do what we want

Anastasia Berg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Even a morally good practical agent does not act solely from the recognition of the abstract demands of moral duty. Often, she acts to satisfy desires for particular ends that are not intrinsically moral. But if freedom, as Kant claims, consists in acting from universal principles one adopts from respect for the moral law, how can agents freely act to satisfy desires for particular ends? The standard answer to this question, the so-called Incorporation Thesis, is, I argue, unsatisfactory both as an interpretation of Kant and on philosophical grounds. I propose instead that, for Kant, the capacity to act freely for the sake of a particular, non-intrinsically moral end is not exhausted by the ability to step back, reflect and decide whether a desire is or can provide a reason to act. Rather, Kant shows, the place for the pursuit of particular ends is determined by practically rational agents' spontaneous constitution of their moral character, whereby they subordinate the pursuit of material, particular ends to the pursuit of formal, moral ones or vice versa.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationPractical Reason in Historical and Systematic Perspective
Publisherde Gruyter
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9783110981339
ISBN (Print)9783110995961
StatePublished - 20 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston. All rights reserved.


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