Kant on moral self-opacity

Anastasia N.A. Berg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


It has been widely accepted that Kant holds the “Opacity Thesis,” the claim that we cannot know the ultimate grounds of our actions. Understood in this way, I shall argue, the Opacity Thesis is at odds with Kant's account of practical self-consciousness, according to which I act from the (always potentially conscious) representation of principles of action and that, in particular, in acting from duty I act in consciousness of the moral law's determination of my will. The Opacity Thesis thus threatens to render acting from duty unintelligible. To diffuse the threat, I argue, first, that we need not attribute the Opacity Thesis to Kant. Kant's concern with the ubiquity of moral self-opacity does not imply the strong skeptical conclusion that knowledge of the grounds of one's action is impossible. Second, I show how moral self-opacity in cases of morally bad action emerges from the intrinsic inability of representing to oneself what one is doing, insofar one is pursuing the indeterminate end of “happiness.”.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)567-585
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Philosophy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes

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© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


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