Does the categorical imperative give rise to a contradiction in the will?

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Publication Type Journal Article
School or College College of Humanities
Department Philosophy
Creator Millgram, Elijah
Title Does the categorical imperative give rise to a contradiction in the will?
Date 2003
Description The Brave New World-style utilitarian dystopia is a familiar feature of the cultural landscape; Kantian dystopias are harder to come by, perhaps because, until Rawls, Kantian morality presented itself as a primarily personal rather than political program. This asymmetry is peculiar for formal reasons, because one phase of the deliberative process on which Kant insists is to ask what the world at large would be like if everyone did whatever it is one is thinking of doing. I do not propose to write a Kantian Brave New World myself, but I am going to ask, of what these days is called "the CI-procedure," what would happen if everybody followed it. I will argue that if the CI-procedure works as advertised, it exposes a practical incoherence in the commitment to having it govern one's actions: in the Kantian vocabulary that goes with the territory, that the Categorical Imperative gives rise to a contradiction in the will. (Less formally, that it is self-refuting.) My target will be a recently influential interpretation of Kant, due primarily to John Rawls and a number of his students, most prominently Onora O'Neill, Christine Korsgaard, and Barbara Herman, a group I will for convenience refer to as the New Kantians.1 Although it does draw on earlier interpretative work, this body of writing is relatively self-contained, and manageable in a way that the Kant literature as a whole no longer is. I don't myself wish to take a stand on whether the New Kantian reading is exegetically correct; it suffices for present purposes that it has proven itself interesting, plausible, and powerful enough to have moved Kantian moral Philosophy; back from the marginalized position it occupied a little over a quarter-century ago to the center of contemporary ethics.
Type Text
Publisher Duke University Press
Volume 112
Issue 4
First Page 525
Last Page 560
Subject Categorical imperative; Dystopia; Self-refutation
Subject LCSH Ethics; Kant, Immanuel; Will
Language eng
Bibliographic Citation Millgram, E. (2003). Does the categorical imperative give rise to a contradiction in the will? Philosophical Review, 112(4), 525-60.
Rights Management (c) Duke University Press
Format Medium application/pdf
Format Extent 1,123,908 Bytes
Identifier ir-main,4031
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Date Created 2012-06-13
Date Modified 2021-05-06
ID 705661
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