Self-Legislation and Duties to Oneself

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:
 Self-Legislation and Duties to Oneself

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This chapter considers some of Kant's ‘foundational’ remarks about duties to oneself and some of the problems that they raise. It focuses on the problems that emerge from Kant's attempt to dispel an apparent conceptual difficulty that he thinks attends the concept of duties to oneself. Essentially, he takes a fairly straightforward concept and, rather than shedding light on it, puts it under a cloud. The chapter begins with a brief commentary on the introductory sections of Kant' s treatment of duties to oneself. It then focuses on the general model of duty that appears to be operative in these passages. It considers how we should understand this general model of duty if we are to accommodate duties to oneself, and with how duties to oneself fit into a general model of duty that can be supported on independent grounds. The chapter also examines the connection, if any, between duties to oneself and Kant's notion of self-legislation — his thesis that the agents who are subject to moral requirements must be regarded as their legislators. Finally, it asks how duties to oneself fit into the social conception of morality and practical reason that can be attributed to Kant, and some variant of which is widely accepted among contemporary theorists who draw inspiration from Kant (constructivists, contractualists, and so on).

Keywords: duties to oneself; self-legislation; moral theory; model of duty; concept of duties

Chapter.  10449 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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