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Essays on Kant$
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Henry E. Allison

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199647033

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199647033.001.0001

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: On the Very Idea of a Propensity to Evil

: On the Very Idea of a Propensity to Evil

(p.99) Essay Six: On the Very Idea of a Propensity to Evil
Essays on Kant

Henry E. Allison

Oxford University Press

This essay analyzes Kant's attempt to ground radical evil, understood as the root of all moral evil, in the concept of finite rational agency. Kant is seen as holding that such evil consists in a fundamental orientation of the will, which in order to count as moral must be imputable to the agent. Accordingly, he asks what must be presupposed if such evil is to be imputable and he finds the answer in the paradoxical notion of a freely chosen propensity. In addition to defending the coherence of this notion, the essay discusses Allen Wood's effort to naturalize radical evil by identifying it with “unsociable sociability.” Although the importance of this conception for understanding Kant's view of evil is acknowledged, it is denied that this can be the whole story, since it is unable to deal with the question of imputation.

Keywords:   finite rational agency, freedom, imputation, moral evil, naturalize, propensity, radical evil, unsociable sociability, will, Allen Wood

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