Universiteit Antwerpen

October 29, 2014 | Philipp-Alexander Hirsch: 'Why the Categorical Imperative Does not Always Command Acting from Duty. Or: A Comprehensive Reading of Kant's Legal Philosophy'

The Centre for Law and Cosmopolitan Values, Faculty of Law, University of Antwerp, is delighted to welcome Dipl.-Jur. Philipp-Alexander Hirsch, University of Göttingen, to give a talk on Kantian legal philosophy.

The event is made possible through the kind support of the Vlaamse Overheid - Met steun van de Vlaamse overheid: “Richting morgen”, “Vlaanderen in Actie”, “Pact 2020”.



11:30 - 13:00
Room V.291, V Building, Venusstraat 23, 2000 Antwerp.

According to a widely held view, coercively enforceable duties of right cannot be derived from the Categorical Imperative, since the latter necessarily demands acting from duty. However, I contest that the Categorical Imperative is analytically equivalent to the demand for duty as the incentive for action. Instead, the Categorical Imperative demands performance of duty irrespective of the motive for action. This can imply acting from duty, but it does not have to.
My argument proceeds in four steps. First, “autonomous” is in Kant not a predicate of actions, but – insofar as it relates to the will – of lawgiving. Thus, autonomy is only about constituting duties (i. e. expressing an unconditional practical necessity) (I.). This holds true for the Categorical Imperative as it’s principle, too. What is categorically required is unconditional performance of duty, not a moral attitude (II.). Performance of duty, again, can happen by different morally possible types of constraint, since Kant defines the concept of duty as a necessitation (constraint) to master conflicting inclinations (III.). However, only in case of duties of virtue the performance of duty (setting the morally required end) necessarily implies moral self-constraint, i. e. acting from duty. By contrast, duties of law (being duties to action) also allow for external constraint by means of pathological determining grounds of choice (IV.). Hence, due to the specific character of legal duties the Categorical Imperative is indifferent towards the motive for action.