Rational Agency and Imperatives

Henry E. Allison

in Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199691531
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731808 | DOI:
Rational Agency and Imperatives

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The chapter focuses on Kant’s account of rational agency and his move from this to the formulation of the categorical imperative. Rational agents are those with a capacity to act according to their representation of laws, that is, on principles, rather than merely according to the laws of nature. In the case of imperfectly rational agents, these laws take the form of imperatives, of which Kant recognizes two kinds: hypothetical and categorical. Kant claims that the possibility of the former is easily understood, since it is an analytic proposition that whoever wills an end also wills the indispensably necessary means to that end. But since the categorical imperative expresses a synthetic a priori proposition, Kant postpones a consideration of its possibility for the third part of the Groundwork and instead provides a derivation of the content of such an imperative from an analysis of its concept.

Keywords: analytic; categorical imperative; hypothetical imperative; perfectly and imperfectly rational agents; synthetic a priori

Chapter.  15713 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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