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Kantian Consequentialism$

David Cummiskey

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195094534

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195094530.001.0001

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(p.161) Appendix: Kantian Internalism

(p.161) Appendix: Kantian Internalism

Kantian Consequentialism

David Cummiskey

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Kant maintained that morality is a system of categorical imperatives. Categorical imperatives are supposed to have some for of rational necessity. Through a critical discussion of Williams's account of internal and external reasons and Korsgaard's account of Kantian practical reason, we see that Kant defended a plausible combination of strong reason internalism and weak motive internalism. An internalist approach to morality must begin with the perspective of the deliberating moral agent. In this very important sense, moral principles are necessarily agent‐centered. Consequentialism, however, can be fully agent‐centered in the requisite sense. The requirement to promote the good of all can be an agent‐centered requirement and even an agent‐centered constraint of the maximization of one's own good. Kantian internalism is fully compatible with a consequentialist categorical imperative.

The Kantian maintains that morality is a system of unconditional and universal principles, or categorical imperatives. Categorical imperatives are supposed to have some form of rational necessity. The Kantian claim that there is a necessary connection between morality, rationality, and motivation, however, has generated a good deal of controversy and skepticism. Indeed, as a system of categorical imperatives, the Kantian conception of morality strikes many consequentialists as quaint but confused. Properly understood, however, the Kantian position, which we will call “Kantian internalism,” is both quite plausible and clearly compatible with consequentialism.

Much of the rejection of the Kantian internalist approach is based either on a misunderstanding of the Kantian thesis about rationality and morality or on the common opinion that it leads to an unacceptably rigid deontological view. Now, Kant does tend to run together two distinct theses, which adds to the confusion over these issues. The first thesis is that the basic principle of morality is a categorical imperative and that morality is a system of such imperatives. The second is that morality is made up of specific categories of duties that admit of no exceptions. Whether or in what form Kant held the second thesis is a controversial issue. The first thesis, however, is our concern. Clearly, if the Kantian approach does indeed support consequentialism, then it is not unacceptably rigid. In this appendix, we develop and explain the first thesis. The main goal is to clarify the Kantian conception of the rational necessity of morality. Although I do not attempt to prove that morality presupposes categorical imperatives, I do hope to undermine the most important objections to this conception of morality and thereby to encourage even those who have previously dismissed Kant's moral theory to reconsider their skepticism about the necessity of categorical imperatives. In addition, and more important for the main thesis of the book, we will see why and in what sense Kant's theory is agent‐centered, and that consequentialism can also be agent‐centered (in the requisite sense).

(p.162) I. Internal and External Reasons

Moral principles provide unconditional reasons for action. Morality is about what one ought to do, and this ought does not presuppose that I want to do that which I ought to do. Moral principles are also universally valid principles. In some sense, morality is the same for all agents and applies equally to all agents. Moral principles are unconditional and universal. This is a familiar and ordinary conception of morality, but it is also a controversial conception of morality. How is it possible for moral principles to be unconditional and universal? What must the relationship between moral principles and reasons be, if moral principles are to provide unconditional and universally valid reasons for action?

One possibility, which Kantians reject, is that moral reasons are “external reasons”—that is, reasons that need not motivate a rational agent. For example, one might argue that moral reasons involve an optional “moral point of view.” More specifically, one might argue that moral reasons are reasons from an ideal, impartial point of view. Since the reasons that move an ideal observer will not necessarily move a partial observer, a fully rational agent may remain unmoved by these “reasons.” According to this external view of reasons, if one does not care about the moral point of view, one need not care about moral reasons. Nonetheless, even if one does not care, the moral rules and principles still apply. If I am a rogue, then I am not properly moved by moral reasons; but far from releasing me from moral criticism, this fact probably explains why I am a rogue.

It has been argued that in this type of externalist view, morality is unconditional only in the same sense that etiquette or the rules of a club are unconditional, and it thus does not necessarily provide any directly motivating reason for a rational agent to act.1 Moral rules will still have wider scope than club rules or etiquette; they may even apply to all rational agents and thus have the requisite universality. But in this external sense, morality is not rationally binding and thus does not necessarily provide a rational agent with any motivating reason for action. Moral principles are universal and unconditional, but this does not imply that they have any rational necessity. These external “reasons” are not really practical reasons at all. According to this view, moral principles are categorical norms, but not really categorical reasons. In an important sense, externalist views see morality as optional.

Although much may be said in defense of such a view, Kantians find this type of externalist view dissatisfying for many reasons.2 Most important, moral principles and the moral point of view have a peculiar grip on us. If morality is just one point of view among many, then its significance is diminished. The personal importance placed on morality becomes simply a contingent consequence of moral education. Although this issue remains controversial, we will set this controversy aside and focus instead on the Kantian alternative.

(p.163) We want to know if it is possible for morality to provide “internal reasons” that are unconditional and universal. Since internal reasons are motivating reasons, an internal reason must, in some sense to be determined, depend on the contingent desires of the agent. How is it possible to provide a conclusive and objective justification of a principle of action? There are actually two distinct but related questions here. First, there is the question of the nature of the reason‐giving force or “rational necessity” of moral principles. Second, there is the question of the rational status of moral motivation: Will a rational agent necessarily be motivated to do the right thing? Do moral principles have a “motivational necessity”?

Although these two questions are rarely distinguished, they are, as we shall see, distinct. Of course, given some theories of reasons for action, one may legitimately conflate reason and motivation. But such theories must be the conclusion of an argument and not simply question‐begging assumptions. From a Kantian perspective, one can defend the overriding rational necessity of moral reasons for actions and yet claim that a rational agent will do the moral act, for the moral reason, only insofar as reason has decisive influence on the will—that is, on the agent's practical deliberation (GMM 413).3 The Kantian does not claim that reason will necessarily determine the choice of a finite rational agent. Reason tells us what we ought to do, but it does not guarantee that we will be decisively moved to do what is right. So on the Kantian view, one will be motivated by moral reasons insofar as reason determines one's actions. A rational agent who is not moved by moral considerations is thus ignoring reasons for action. If one willfully ignores the dictates of reason, then one is unreasonable and one's actions are not justified.

It is misleading, however, to conclude that an immoral agent is thus irrational. Rationality typically denotes the capacity to consciously take effective means to one's ends. Even if one's ends are not morally justified, one can still pursue the ends in a clearly rational fashion. The claim that morality involves rational necessity is a claim about the status of moral ends and principles; it is not a claim about instrumental rationality. The idea is not that immoral action somehow necessarily defeats the agent's own purposes or ends.4 Immoral action is not supposed to be irrational in this sense. The idea, however, is that there are principles and ends that a rational agent must accept as authoritative and binding. Immoral action is inconsistent with these principles and ends; thus, in the final analysis, it is not rationally defensible. So although there is a clear sense in which rational evil is possible, there is also a clear sense in which immoral action may be contrary to reason. When it is said that morality has “rational necessity,” the idea is that moral principles have a conclusive rational justification and provide decisive and motivating reason for a fully rational agent.

(p.164) II. Moral Internalism

The position that moral judgments necessarily provide all rational agents with internal reasons for action is called moral internalism (and its denial is called externalism). In its most familiar guise, internalism is the view that there is a conceptual connection between moral judgments of obligation and motivation. The idea, very roughly, is that obligations provide reasons for action, but reasons for action must be capable of guiding actions, so reasons for action necessarily involve motivating considerations. The conceptual link between moral obligation and motivation presupposes a conceptual relation between obligations, reasons, and motives. Clearly, however, this presupposition calls for additional clarification and discussion. We need to first differentiate distinct but related uses of ‘reason’ and then use these distinctions to articulate a philosophically favored conception of moral internalism.

There are at least three notions of ‘reason’ that we should distinguish: justificatory reasons, a person's motivating reasons, and explanatory reasons.5 Some reasons justify actions; these reasons are normative in the sense that they provide rational guidance or advice and a basis for rational choice. Such justificatory reasons are distinct both from explanatory reasons and from a person's reason for action. A person's reasons often reflect what the person believes to be a justificatory reason, but, of course, such a belief may or may not be accurate. A person's reason also provides a possible causal explanation of the “reason why” the action happened. The three kinds of reasons are thus related. We are especially interested in the relationship between justificatory reasons and the reasons that move a person to action.6

First, there is a conceptual connection between a person's reason for an action and her having some motivation to do the action. We cannot, however, simply identify a person's reasons with her motives, because a person's reason for action may not provide the only factor that moves her. In cases of self‐deception and unconscious motivation, for example, the explanation of the action may not involve the agent's reason. In addition, fear and anger, rather than reason, often move a person to action. So one can have a motive that is not reason‐based, but if a person has a reason, then she has a motive.

The connection between justificatory reasons for actions and motives is less straightforward. Clearly, a particular action can be justified without the agent's knowing of the justification, so justification does not entail actual motivation. Nonetheless, there (probably) is a counter‐factual conceptual connection between justification and motivation. For example, one might insist that justification presupposes that if the agent were appropriately aware of the justificatory reasons, then he would be motivated to do the action. There is no need for us to flesh out the details yet, but there will surely be questions about the nature of the awareness (p.165) constraint. In particular, one needs to provide a non‐circular account of what it is to be “appropriately aware” of the reason, such that it necessarily motivates.

Building on this distinction between justificatory reasons and a person's motivating reasons, we can distinguish different theses that a moral internalist might wish to defend. Much of the rejection of Kantian internalism is the result of confusion and misinterpretation of these distinct theses.7

First, we need to distinguish two kinds of moral internalism: reason internalism and motive internalism. Reason internalism claims that there is a necessary connection between moral judgment and justifying reasons for action. Motive internalism claims that there is a necessary connection between moral judgment and a person's motivating reasons for action.

Reason internalism is not about the agent's own judgment and appraisal of reasons; it is about the justificatory reasons that ought to move an agent who is deciding what to do. Reason internalism claims that the moral judgment (that an action is required) entails that there is an all‐things‐considered justificatory reason for the agent to do the required action. Reason internalism is about justificatory reasons.

Motive internalism, on the other hand, is about a person's reasons—in particular, about a person's moral judgment that one of her actions is required by moral reasons. According to motive internalism, an agent appraising her own actions necessarily has a motive to act in accordance with her moral judgment. Motive internalism maintains that there is a necessary connection between making a moral judgment and having a corresponding motive to act on the basis of that judgment.

In the term ‘judgment,’ however, there is an ambiguity between the proposition judged and the mental act of judging. Reason internalism is about the former: If one has a moral obligation to do A, then necessarily, there is a justificatory reason for one to do A. Motive internalism is about the latter: If one judges that one has a moral obligation to do A, then necessarily, one has a motivating reason to do A.

One might also say that reason internalism is objective because it links the reasons for an agent to moral requirements, independently of the agent's particular moral judgments. Motive internalism is subjective because it links an agent's motives to her own moral judgments about what she ought to do.

If one accepts both positions (that is, reason internalism and motive internalism), then one believes that all agents have reason to do what is right and motivation to do what they recognize is right. Of course, the plausibility of both of these positions ultimately depends on the nature of practical reason and moral obligation. Both forms of moral internalism are part of a larger conception of the nature and point of morality.

One last point, however: We need to clarify whether the reason or motive is overriding or not. We shall call the overriding position “strong” internalism and (p.166) all the many other possible positions “weak” internalism. When these two positions are combined with reason internalism and motive internalism, we get four possible positions. Each possibility has had its defenders, but I am interested in only two positions: strong‐reason internalism and weak‐motive internalism. It is most plausible to maintain that a moral requirement is (or provides) an overriding reason for action and that the judgment that one is morally required to do an action includes (or provides) some motivation to do the action.

III. Kantian Internalism

Kant was a strong‐reason internalist and a weak‐motive internalist: Moral principles provide an agent with conclusive reasons for action. In addition, if an agent concludes that an action is morally required, then the agent will have a motive for doing the action. The motive may or may not be sufficient for action. The strength of the moral motive depends both on the significance of reason in the deliberation of the agent and on the competing influences on the agent's will (GMM 412–13). For the Kantian, it is important that the agent not simply believe that the action is justified and thus required but also see why the action is required. The motivation is the result of the person's practical reasoning; it is not a passive belief. The thesis that obligation entails motivation is thus a substantial claim based on a particular account of the nature of practical reason.

‘Kantian internalism,’ and ‘internalism’ unless otherwise indicated, will refer to this complex dual position. In addition, ‘reason,’ unless otherwise indicated, will stand in for ‘overriding justificatory reason, the awareness of which would provide some corresponding motivation to act accordingly; the reason would provide overriding motivation, if the agent were decisively moved by practical reason.’

So with a sharpened conception of Kantian internalism in mind, we need to return to the first question of Kantian ethics: What is the nature and source of the reason‐giving force of moral principles? To answer this question we must look more closely at the idea of a moral obligation or a moral requirement.

According to the Kantian internalist, there are two aspects to the idea of a moral requirement. In addition to providing a reason for action for any rational agent, a moral requirement is also unconditionally binding. Moral judgment tells us what we are required to do, and the same time, it provides all rational agents with motivating reason for doing the required action.8 The central problem of moral theory, I believe, involves developing a theory that captures both these aspects. How can an unconditional requirement provide a motivating reason for all rational agents?

(p.167) Many contemporary philosophers (and political scientists and economists) assume that only contingent desires or subjective preferences can provide a person with reasons for action. Since a person's reasons can explain actions and since desires cause actions, they argue, reasons for action must depend on the contingent desires of a particular agent. If this view of the nature of a person's reasons is correct, and if moral judgments must provide reasons for action, then moral reasons must be relative to the individual. Different individuals have different desires and preferences, so different individuals will be governed by different moral reasons. But this subjectivist, relativist view fails to capture the universally and unconditionally binding nature of moral requirements.

According to this view, we are required to do what we most want to do; if an action does not advance my desires, then I am not required to do it. This simply does not capture the idea of a moral requirement. Rather than providing an explication of the concept of moral judgment, it is more properly viewed as a rejection of the very idea of moral judgment.9

Alternatively, if one accepts the desire‐based account of reasons for action, one might retain the concept of a moral requirement but abandon the idea that such requirements necessarily provide motivating reasons for action. Whether or not one has a reason to do that which one is required to do will depend on one's subjective preferences. Reasons are then individual‐relative, but moral requirements remain universally and unconditionally binding. (This would be a form of moral externalism. Familiar examples of this type of externalist theory include versions of moral realism that claim that there are objective moral facts that are part of the fabric of the universe and some versions of divine command theory.)10 According to positions of this type, morality is a set of external standards that apply to us; but since reason is desire‐dependent, these standards do not necessarily provide us with any motivating reason to do what is required. As a consequence, externalist views conflict with (what Kantians and others believe to be) the conceptual internalism of moral judgments.

In short, if one believes that all reasons depend on individual desire or preference, the alternatives are either some version of individual relativism, which accepts the action‐guiding aspect of morality but fails to capture (or rejects) the universally and unconditionally binding nature of obligations, or some version of externalism, which rejects the idea that moral judgment necessarily provides all agents with reasons for action but retains the idea that requirements are universal and unconditional principles.11

What is the Kantian alternative? How can the Kantian endorse motive internalism and reject a desire‐based, and thus conditional, account of practical reason? The non‐Kantian internalist seems to have the upper hand: Reasons will provide motives if and only if there is a connection between an agent's reasons for action and the agent's passions, desires, or subjective preferences. Since desires and passions vary from individual to individual, reasons for action will also vary.

(p.168) This argument from motivation moves too fast. Of course, it is not exactly clear what types of inner states should be included as sources of motivation. Nonetheless, the point is that an agent's reasons must be derived from, or relative to, an agent's “subjective motivational set,” to use Bernard Williams's generic phrase.12 Williams and others take this to imply that all practical reasons must take a conditional, or instrumental, or means/end form: Practical reason is a system of hypothetical, not categorical, imperatives. It would then follow that either morality involves external reasons (categorical norms) or the principles of morality must be based on the individual's particular contingent ends (individually relative norms). Such arguments thus suggest a “motivational skepticism” about categorical imperatives, as Christine Korsgaard calls it, which seems to limit the scope or content of practical reason and thereby seems to exclude the possibility of unconditional practical reason and thus also Kantian internalism.

However, Korsgaard has shown that Williams's internalism about reasons for action actually does not exclude the possibility of Kant's unconditional reasons or categorical imperatives—and thus does not undermine Kantian internalism. She writes,

If one accepts the internalist requirement, it follows that pure practical reason will exist if and only if we are capable of being motivated by the conclusions of the operations of pure practical reason as such. Something in us must make us capable of being motivated by them, and this something will be part of the subjective motivational set. . . . What sort of items can be found in the set does not limit, but rather depends on, what kinds of reasoning are possible.13

Contrary to initial appearances, all practical reasoning will be of the conditional means/end variety only if it is impossible to provide an unconditional justification of principles of action. On the other hand, if ends are also subject to rational justification, such that it is possible for a rational agent to be motivated by the recognition that a principle is unconditionally justified, then unconditional reasons satisfy the internalist requirement. The subjective motivational set of a rational agent would include the capacity to be moved by the recognition that a principle of action is rationally required. So internalism itself does not provide a motivational constraint on the scope or content of practical reason!

Korsgaard, following Thomas Nagel, concludes that skepticism about practical reason must be based on skepticism about the possibility of the unconditional justification of principles—what she calls “content skepticism.” She maintains that if we can show that something is a practical reason, we have demonstrated that it can motivate a rational agent. It follows that if we show that something is an unconditional reason, we have demonstrated that pure practical reason is possible.

(p.169) Nonetheless, Korsgaard recognizes that an account of how such unconditional reasons motivate still seems demanded by the internalist requirement. At this point, I believe, a form of motivational skepticism does indeed limit the content of practical reason. Williams and others, it would seem, are skeptical about the possibility of unconditional justifications because they do not see how a motivating reason can be unconditional and universal. The subjectivity of an agent's motivational set suggests that there will be no one item or principle that is necessarily shared by all rational agents as such. Furthermore, even if there is such a principle, why would it provide the overriding reason for action? If the capacity to be moved by morality is just part of the motivational set, why is it not simply one motivating reason among equals? So why would the conclusions of pure practical reason provide the requisite decisive and unconditional justifications? These skeptical questions about moral motivation suggest to many that an ultimate or unconditional justification of a principle can provide only an “external reason” to adopt the principle—which, for an internalist, is really no reason at all, since such a reason can motivate a rational agent only if the agent has an antecedent internal reason to accept the principle; but then the internal reason provides the only real reason for the agent to act.

IV. Categorical Motivating Reasons

The thesis that reasons for action must be related to an agent's subjective motivational set is clearly essential to any internalist position. This internal source requirement implies that any unconditional justification must be rooted in and related to the otherwise variable internal features that motivate particular agents. It does not imply, however, that the source must be a particular contingent desire of the agent. The subjective motivational set of a rational agent (that is, an agent decisively moved by reason) could contain ends and principles that are not contingent, such as ends and principles to which any rational agent must be committed. This is all that is necessary for there to be necessary ends and unconditional principles.

How can pure reason motivate? Here is an initial rough and schematic account: The idea is that my own evaluation of my desire‐based reasons for action, say D at t, necessarily commits me to recognize “pure” reasons for action, say R at t, where R at t need not be antecedently included in my subjective motivational set of desires, D at t‐1, either as an end or as a means to an end. The relationship between R and D is a relationship of condition and conditioned, not means and end; that is, D provides reasons for action only on the condition that R is also taken to be an end (in the sense spelled out in chapter 4). If D has motivational force, and if we are determined by (p.170) reason, R will also have motivational force. Just as we experience a rational transmission of motivation from ends to means, so too we experience a rational transmission of motivation from our ends to the necessary conditions of their reason‐giving force.

If there are ends that are presupposed by the value of any end whatsoever, then there are necessary or objectively justified ends of action. The rational motivational mechanism would then be no more mysterious in the case of categorical imperatives than it is in the case of hypothetical imperatives. In the one case we are moved to take the necessary and available means to an end (or abandon the end), and in the other case we are moved to perform the actions required by the principle we must accept, if we value anything at all.

The justification of necessary objective ends is itself, in a sense, based on individual subjective contingent ends. The motivation to adopt these ends is thus also derived, via practical reasoning, from individual desires. Rational motivation does not arise ex nihilo; there is a necessary relationship between an agent's contingent desires and objective reasons. Nonetheless, these reasons are not desire‐dependent in the familiar Humean sense. The justification of objective ends and thus moral principles does not presuppose that there is an antecedent desire to do the right (or that doing the right is a necessary means to some other desired end). In short, for any internalist, the derivation of moral principles must start with the perspective of a particular agent and his or her contingent ends; but practical deliberation nonetheless justifies universal and unconditional moral principles.

Although much groundwork is necessary to clarify the structure of pure practical reason, the main conceptual idea is familiar and intuitive enough: I believe my freely and rationally chosen ends have value and thus provide reasons for action. The reason‐giving force of my ends presupposes that rational choice is a source of value. The value of my ends thus presuppose that I am a source of value. But my capacity for free rational choice is no different from the capacity of other rational agents: If I am a source of value, then so too are all other rational agents. Since the reason‐giving basis of the end is the same in each case, each also provides a reason for action that any agent must recognize. Just as my ends provide me with reasons for action, so too do others and their ends. There is an inconsistency or contradiction in the claim that the one is a reason but not the other. (These ideas are developed in chapter 4.)

Of course, much would have to be added to flesh out this line of thought and fortify it against the egoists, the amoralists, and the skeptics, but for our purposes let us focus on the motivational structure of the reasoning. The idea is that the initial motivation to perform an action because it will promote a rationally chosen end commits the agent to the reason‐giving force of rationally chosen ends as such. The initial motivation thus provides additional motivation to consider other actions that are similarly justified. Just as there is a motivation (p.171) to perform actions that are a necessary means to one's ends, so too there is motivation to consider ends that are presupposed by the ends one antecedently values. Of course, how this is possible remains somewhat of a mystery; but it is also a mystery how my desire to have good teeth in my old age now moves me to endure the drill of the dentist.14

The important point, however, is that the rejection of the Kantian internalist argument for moral obligations should be based on a skepticism about the soundness of the practical reasoning itself—and not about any problem with how this type of reasoning can possibly motivate a rational agent. If the reasoning is sound, then a fully rational agent will be motivated by the conclusion. A failure to be motivated by a rational argument would simply be evidence of a failure of practical rationality; it would show that one is not a being that is moved by good reasons. After all, one does not reject instrumental practical reasoning because some people have an inability to follow hypothetical imperatives.

So this is why Korsgaard claims that motivational skepticism presupposes content skepticism. Motivational skepticism simply does not provide an independent constraint on the content of practical reason. All reasons for action are indeed essentially related to the internal motivational capacities of a rational agent. We cannot simply assume, however, that the only rational practical inferences are from ends to means. The question is thus one about the nature of practical reason and the possibility of unconditional and universal reasons for action.

V. Kantian Internalism and Consequentialism

Now our main concern is not the defense of Kantian internalism but the consequences of it. Like Kant, we ask what the supreme principle of morality would have to be for morality to provide unconditional and universally valid reasons. Clearly, internalism itself provides significant constraints on the normative content of morality. The concept of morality as universal and unconditional provides “formal” conditions or constraints on what can be a moral principle (chapters 2 through 4). Any moral principle must be universal and unconditional, so what normative principle can satisfy these conditions? Kantian internalism sets up the possibility, which is explained in chapter 2, of extracting the supreme principle of morality from the motives of a morally good agent. This is why Kant starts the Groundwork by focusing on an agent acting from duty. This is also the starting point for our derivation of Kantian consequentialism.

Internalism clearly implies that moral theory must take the perspective of the deliberating moral agent as its starting point. In this very important sense, (p.172) moral principles are necessarily agent‐centered. As I reconstruct and interpret Kant's internalist argument, we are required to promote the two tiers of Kantian value (chapter 5). Consequentialism, so understood, is a constraint on all subjective and “arbitrary” ends. So interpreted, morality constrains one's inclinations, or merely subjective projects, but it does not include agent‐centered constraints on the maximization of value. The requirement to promote Kantian value is an agent‐centered requirement, and it is even an agent‐centered constraint on the maximization of one's own good. What distinguishes Kantian consequentialism from standard deontology is simply that it does not recognize any additional agent‐centered constraints on the maximization of the good. If all the requirements have a consequentialist structure, there is no practical difference between agent‐centered and agent‐neutral requirements.15

Although Kantian internalism does reflect an agent‐centered view of morality, consequentialism can be agent‐centered in the sense required by internalism. Since a moral principle must be universal and unconditional, morality is clearly a constraint on subjective desires. Nonetheless, Kantian consequentialism is also supposed to be a constraint in this sense. Kantian internalism seems to provide absolutely no rationale for insisting that morality involves basic agent‐centered constraints on the maximization of the good. Rather, Kantian internalism provides a plausible and important conception of the relationship between morality and rationality, and this conception of morality is fully compatible with normative consequentialism.


(1.) Philippa Foot (1978), esp. pp. 160–64.

(2.) On this issue see, for example, Scheffler (1982b) and Darwall (1982).

(3.) The distinction between rational causality, or Wille, and the capacity to choose, or Willkür, is relevant here (MM 213, 226–27, 407). Kant's position is (must be) that Wille must be able to determine Willkür; but Willkür is also influenced by the counter‐weight of the inclinations; the agent, when deciding what to do, thus questions the validity of moral reasons and is inclined to make exceptions to the rationally authoritative demands of Wille (GMM 405).

(4.) Thus, objections to the Kantian position often miss the target. See Foot (1978): 161–62 and Peter Railton (1986).

Moral internalism also seems to fly in the face of the possibility of rational amoralism. David Brink, for example, argues that amoralism refutes internalism (1989). Whatever the merits of his argument against desire‐based internalism, his argument does not undermine Kantian internalism as I understand it. As we will see, moral internalism involves a substantive thesis about the nature of practical reason itself. Motivational skepticism alone does not refute Kantian internalism.

(5.) See Darwall (1983): ch. 2 for a good discussion of the distinction between justificatory and explanatory reasons.

(6.) The following example may help clarify the difference and relationships between these three kinds of reasons. Imagine that, without reflection, I cross my legs and lean back on the sofa immediately after you cross your legs and lean back in your chair. There is a causal explanation, which provides a reason why I crossed my legs, but which may have nothing to do with my reasons at the time. Now, imagine that I notice that I have just unconsciously mimicked my associate's bodily behavior, so I uncross my legs and lean forward. This second action results from my reflection on what has just happened, and the causal explanation of this now‐deliberate action thus will involve my reasons. We need not assume, however, that I have deliberated about this second action and concluded that I ought to return to my earlier posture. I may react with reflection but without any real deliberation. Often we act for a reason but without any sense that the action is truly justified. Indeed, on leaning forward, I may decide that the initial reflex was a good one because, say, it helps us both relax and does no harm. The explanation for this last action thus involves my conception of a justificatory reason for action. Of course, I may nonetheless be in error, and the action may not really be justified after all. We thus need to distinguish between these three distinct kinds of reasons.

I have benefited from Thomas Hill's discussion (1986: 604–19, esp. 605) of Darwall's position.

(7.) The distinction between internalism and externalism was first drawn by W. D. Falk (1947: 137). See William Frankena (1958) for a characterization of the history and nature of the internalist vs. externalist debate.

In an extremely useful discussion David Brink has set out the distinctions between kinds of moral internalism (1989: 37–43). In outline, but not in every detail, I follow Brink's account of the distinctions.

(8.) For now I use the all‐purpose ‘requirement.’ In chapter 6, we discuss possible distinctions between strict requirements, recommendations (or things that it is good to do), and permissions. One begins, however, with the core notion of moral requirements in the broadest possible sense. The basic normative principle tells us how we ought to live our lives and thus supremely governs all conduct. This principle, however, may itself require some actions, recommend others, and judge yet others to be simply permissible. I am also not concerned with distinctions between a requirement, a duty, an obligation, and even a responsibility. Of course, in some contexts all distinctions are important; so I will draw attention to these distinctions when necessary.

(9.) Of course, there are also non‐Kantian accounts of moral requirements. See, for example, David Gauthier (1985) for a desire‐based argument for universal, but not unconditional, requirements. For an interesting example of the relativist approach, see Gilbert Harman (1975, 1978).

(10.) For a more compelling versions of externalist moral realism, see Brink (1989); Peter Railton (1986): 163–207; and Geoffrey Sayre‐McCord, (1988). Also see Foot's position (1978). Of course, one can also try to be a moral realist and internalist. Whether such a view suffers from mere queerness or complete incoherence, I leave to others to decide.

(11.) For the relativist alternative, see Harman (1975, 1978). For the externalist alternative, see Brink (1989), Foot (1978), and Railton (1986).

(12.) Williams (1981): 101–13.

(13.) Korsgaard (1986b): 5–25, esp. p. 21. See also Paton (1951a).

(14.) So, as I understand these issues, unconditioned, pure practical reason does not have its source in a separate intelligible world, and we need not assume that it involves contra‐causal freedom. It does, however, provide us with a “higher vocation” than the rest of nature in the fairly simple sense that we can be moved by a conception of a sufficient reason for action. Indeed, the human capacity to deliberate and critically evaluate desires clearly involves higher‐order rational capacities. Even if this does not show that we are more important than the rest of nature, the autonomy of the human will does provide the basis for a special sense of responsibility and accountability for our actions.

(15.) As we see in chapter 5, agent‐neutral reasons are inescapable, necessary requirements of agent‐centered practical reason. Although all reasons are agent‐centered, and thus objective reasons are derived from subjective concerns, objective practical reasons are not agent‐relative in any significant sense.