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Agency and Autonomy in Kant's Moral TheorySelected Essays$
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Andrews Reath

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199288830

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0199288836.001.0001

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Autonomy of the Will as the Foundation of Morality

Autonomy of the Will as the Foundation of Morality

(p.121) 5 Autonomy of the Will as the Foundation of Morality
Agency and Autonomy in Kant's Moral Theory

Andrews Reath (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter distinguishes the various claims that make up the thesis that autonomy of the will is the foundation of morality, and offers a reconstruction of the arguments on which they depend. To do so it argues that autonomy should be interpreted as a kind of sovereignty. The model for the autonomous agent is the political sovereign not subject to any outside authority, who has the power to enact law. The chapter proceeds as follows. Section II distinguishes some of the claims that go into Kant's doctrine of autonomy. Since the Sovereignty Thesis follows analytically from the concept of an unconditional moral requirement, Section III takes up Kant's concept of a practical law, to provide supporting material for later arguments. Sections IV to VII are organized around showing that the Formula of Universal Law (FUL) and the Formula of Autonomy (FA) are equivalent in content. The equivalence of the FUL and FA is established by the two ideas just cited (the Sovereignty Thesis and the claim that the FUL is the constitutive principle of a will with autonomy). It serves as a capsule statement of Kant's thesis that autonomy of the will is the foundation of morality. Finally, Section VIII shows how the normative conception of autonomy developed in this chapter bears on the analytical arguments of Groundwork, III, where Kant identifies freedom with autonomy on the way to arguing that a free will is subject to moral principles.

Keywords:   autonomy, will, morality, sovereignty, Groundwork, III, practical law, Formula of Universal Law, Formula of Autonomy

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