The (Not So) Imperfect Duty of Beneficence

David Cummiskey

in Kantian Consequentialism

Published in print April 1996 | ISBN: 9780195094534
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833146 | DOI:
The (Not So) Imperfect Duty of Beneficence

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Kant's own application of the categorical imperative reflects his strong deontological intuitions. Unfortunately, Kant's own interpretation of the limits on the duty of beneficence, and his various distinctions – between perfect and imperfect duties, narrow and wide duties, duties of virtue and duties of justice, maxims of actions and maxims of ends – simply reflect but do not support his intuitions. Contemporary Kantians follow Kant in this regard but replace their own intuitions about what is right with Kant's more extreme and unpalatable views. Yet, they too assume what needs to be shown. This chapter focuses on Thomas Hill, Jr.'s influential account of Kant's account of imperfect duties and supererogation, and argues that Kant's theory supports a robust principle of beneficence but that Kant (or Hill) does not, in fact, provide any deontological constraints on the principle of beneficence.

Keywords: beneficence; deontological; duty; Thomas Hill, Jr; imperfect duties; justice; maxim; perfect duties; supererogation; virtue

Chapter.  9511 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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