David Cummiskey

in Kantian Consequentialism

Published in print April 1996 | ISBN: 9780195094534
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833146 | DOI:

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Kant's moral theory is focused primarily on the justification of normative principles and the nature of moral motivation, reasons, and principles. Kant's own normative ethics, of course, is not consequentialist, and indeed Kant argues at length against empiricist, utilitarian approaches to ethics. The question, however, is whether he actually provides a nonconsequentialist justification of deontological intuitions or individual rights. I argue that, contrary to widespread philosophical opinion, Kant simply does not consider, and thus does not reject, a consequentialist interpretation of the moral law or categorical imperative. Furthermore, once we distinguish the justification of normative principle from the principle itself, Kant's rationalist, internalist approach to justification seems to be compatible with normative consequentialism. In addition, we see that the key to the rejection of consequentialism is the justification of basic agent‐centered constraints. The introductory chapter also provides a comment on rational reconstruction as a form of textual interpretation and an overview and summary of the book's argument.

Keywords: agent‐centered constraints; categorical imperative; consequentialism; deontological; justification; Kant; normative ethics; rights; utilitarianism

Chapter.  9328 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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