Legislating the Moral Law

Andrews Reath

in Agency and Autonomy in Kant's Moral Theory

Published in print February 2006 | ISBN: 9780199288830
Published online May 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603648 | DOI:
 Legislating the Moral Law

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This chapter spells out two distinct senses in which the rational will legislates moral requirements: one that holds for the Categorical Imperative, and a different sense that holds for particular categorical imperatives or moral requirements. The Formula of Universal Law is a law that Kant derives from the nature of rational volition or rational choice. In this sense, it is a law that the rational will legislates or gives to itself. Roughly, the will is a law to itself since the nature of rational volition leads to a principle that governs its own exercise, namely the Categorical Imperative. To understand the sense in which rational agents legislate particular moral requirements, it is important to bear in mind that Kant is led to this idea by considering how such requirements get their normative authority. Kant appears to claim that the agents who are subject to moral law must be the ‘legislators’ from whom these requirements receive their authority, because only then can we explain their unconditional authority as categorical imperatives. The view ascribed to Kant is that the reasons to comply with moral requirements are given simply by the reasoning that establishes them as requirements, from which it follows that moral agents are bound to moral requirements in such a way that they model the source of their authority.

Keywords: Categorical Imperative; moral theory; moral requirements; Formula of Universal Law; rational will

Chapter.  16919 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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