Julia Peters (Tübingen)
131 Decio Faculty Hall
This talk is concerned with the relation between moral choice and moral character in Kant. Most commentators hold that for Kant, the ascription of moral choice is more basic than the ascription of moral character: we ascribe an agent the choice to adopt a certain moral principle, and on that basis, adding that she follows this principle repeatedly and consistently, we ascribe them the corresponding moral character. I argue that at least as far as the morally excellent or virtuous character is concerned, Kant has a different view: for Kant, the ascription of moral choice and the ascription of moral character are co-dependent. This is because, I argue, a human agent’s fundamental choice to follow the moral law unconditionally cannot take the form of a singular decision, but rather must take shape through a series of particular choices in situations of moral conflict. However, for an agent to choose persistently to rank the moral law higher in such situations of conflict means eo ipso for her to have a persistent moral character. In developing this argument, I focus in particular on Kant’s conception of the Gesinnung: in Kant, this notion connotes both a fundamental practical attitude (which is an object of choice), and a persisting moral identity.
This talk is part of the "Kant and the Self" workshop.