Kant on Moral Respect

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Kant's account of the feeling of moral respect has notoriously puzzled interpreters: On the one hand, moral action is supposed to be autonomous and, in particular, free of the mediation of any feeling on the other hand, the subject's grasp of the law somehow involves the feeling of moral respect. I argue that moral respect for Kant is not, pace both the 'intellectualists' and 'affectivists,' an effect of the determination of the will by the law-whether it be a mere effect or the motivating cause of action-but is instead identical to it. Drawing on Kant's general account of feeling as the awareness of how representations and their objects harm or benefit our own powers, I argue that the identity between moral respect and the determination to action contains two elements. Moral respect is, first, a form of practical self-consciousness which constitutes the subject's recognition of the moral law and thus of herself as intrinsically bound by it, i.e., as a moral agent. Second, respect is a capacity for receptive awareness of particular features of our environment as well as other persons insofar as they benefit and harm us as moral agents. Thereby moral respect affords us awareness in concreto of particular, morally-conditioned ends. In this way moral respect provides the key for a Kantian account of genuinely free practical receptivity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)730-760
Number of pages31
JournalArchiv fur Geschichte der Philosophie
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021

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