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Agency and Autonomy in Kant's Moral TheorySelected Essays$
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Andrews Reath

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199288830

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0199288836.001.0001

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Hedonism, Heteronomy, and Kant's Principle of Happiness

Hedonism, Heteronomy, and Kant's Principle of Happiness

(p.33) 2 Hedonism, Heteronomy, and Kant's Principle of Happiness
Agency and Autonomy in Kant's Moral Theory

Andrews Reath (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter addresses the issue of whether Kant was a psychological hedonist about natural desires and the actions for which they are the motives. It calls this interpretation into question, and argues that Kant did not adopt a simple hedonistic psychology of non-moral choice, and that nothing in his moral theory, in particular the central distinction between autonomy and heteronomy, depends on such a psychology. The chapter is organized as follows. Section I introduces some of the issues that a hedonistic psychology would raise for Kant's moral psychology and moral theory. Sections II to IV take up the relevant texts and show why they do not indicate a crude hedonistic psychology. It is argued that the principle of happiness does not express a hedonistic theory of motivation, but a principle of choice in which actions are evaluated in terms of expected satisfaction or the strength of the desires they will satisfy. Finally, Section V considers how the proposed interpretations of Kant's views bear on the broader issues raised in the introduction.

Keywords:   hedonist, natural desires, hedonistic psychology, choice, happiness, moral theory

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