Hypothetical Consent in Kantian Constructivism

Thomas E. Hill

in Human Welfare and Moral Worth

Published in print July 2002 | ISBN: 9780199252633
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597695 | DOI:
Hypothetical Consent in Kantian Constructivism

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This essay regarding Kantian moral epistemology focuses specifically on one normative (rather than metaethical) version of Kantian constructivism. The aim is to examine the justificatory role of actual, hypothetical, and possible consent in Kantian ethics. The importance of actual consent is more limited and derivative than commonly thought, and the difference between possible and hypothetical consent standards has been exaggerated. Review of formulas of the Categorical Imperative and the idea of an original contract confirms these claims, and familiar objections to appeals to hypothetical consent are not decisive against the Kantian position. For example, arguably, hypothetical agreement does not serve merely as a dubious proxy for actual consent, reduce value to empirical fact, alienate us from common moral standards, or depend on circular reasoning.

Keywords: actual consent; Categorical Imperative; consent; hypothetical consent; Kantian constructivism; moral epistemology; original contract; possible consent

Chapter.  16267 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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