An Uncompromising Connection Between Practical Reason and Morality

Michael Nelson

in Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199662951
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745195 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies In Normative Ethics

An Uncompromising Connection Between Practical Reason and Morality

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Velleman defends a position intermediate between moral rationalism and arationalism. Like the moral rationalist, he maintains that only irrational agents act immorally. Like the arationalist, he maintains that some immoral acts are not irrational; immorality is not always contrary to the dictates of practical reason. Velleman motivates his arationalism by considering “hard cases”‘ of agents allegedly lacking reason to be moral. The chapter defends an orthodox Kantian view, arguing that Velleman misdescribes the reasons the hard cases have. It is argued that every autonomous agent has reason to be moral. This follows from Velleman's conception of practical reason as having the aim of self-understanding. This is because there are constraints on the explanations an autonomous agent can employ to make sense of her behavior. Only when an agent acts from considerations that can be willed as universal law can those considerations render the behavior intelligible while being compatible with the agent being self-determining in acting as she did. The chapter concludes by briefly discussing the problem of conflicting requirements and Velleman's argument against the claim that morality is self-imposed.

Keywords: Velleman; Kantianism; moral rationalism; reason to be moral; practical reasons; practical requirements; practical conflict; universalizability

Chapter.  11701 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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