Situations, incentives and reasons. Kant on rational agency and moral motivation

Herissone-Kelly, Peter N orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3292-5273 (2008) Situations, incentives and reasons. Kant on rational agency and moral motivation. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis aims to address two problems that appear to attach to the model of rational agency that underlies Kant's moral philosophy. These I call the problem of experiential incongruence and the problem of misdirected moral attention. The former problem arises because the central elements of Kant's theory of action (the possession of and action upon maxims; the subjection of maxims to moral assessment through the Categorical Imperative's universalisability test; our supposedly perennial consciousness of the moral law; and so on) seem not to square at all with our lived experience of agency. The latter problem, on the other hand, is a result of Kant's apparently claiming that when an agent 11s from duty, her reason for 4Ling is just that the maxim of tILing can simultaneously be acted upon and willed to be a universal law, while its contrary maxim cannot. This picture seems, as Philip Stratton-Lake notes, to place the good-willed agent's attention in the wrong place, namely, on the nature of her own policies of action, rather than on the external world of "concrete considerations".
In order to show that Kant's practical philosophy is able to sidestep both problems, I first develop and argue for a particular account of what I call "the traditional model," or that picture of rational agency that can be gleaned from Kant's writings, expressed in the terms that Kant himself uses. I then go on to offer a novel interpretation of that model, according to
which (1) all the central concepts of Kant's theory of rational agency are shown to be entirely compatible with our experience as agents, and (2) the Kantian good-willed agent is shown to be centrally concerned with, and motivated by, concrete considerations.

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