Onora O'Neill

in The Oxford Handbook of Rationality

Published in print February 2004 | ISBN: 9780195145397
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199752393 | DOI:

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O'Neill's central concern here is to explicate Kant's account of how we could have unconditional practical reasons to do as morality requires, where unconditional practical reasons are those not based upon arbitrarily chosen ends. But then, what is their basis? Kant's proposal, O'Neill argues, is that what makes a practical reason unconditional is its universal recognizability. An unconditional practical reason is one that can be seen to be a reason for action by any rational audience; its appeal relies on no parochial concerns. Such universal appeal is captured by the categorical imperative test (O'Neill examines in detail three of the formulations of this): only principles of action that pass this test can be universally recognized as yielding practical reasons.

Keywords: arbitrariness; categorical imperative; end; morality; practical; principle; reason; unconditional reasons; universality; recognizability

Chapter.  7974 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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