Autonomy and the agent's final end: Hegel's reformulation of Kant's argument for the rationality of morality

1994 1994

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Abstract (summary)

In this dissertation I address the question of whether a fully rational individual must be moral. Kant argues that fully rational agents must be moral because this is a necessary condition of their being autonomous. As he presents it, this argument is open to various objections. I argue that Hegel reformulates the argument in a way that avoids these objections, and renders the argument more promising. I also argue that, contrary to Kant's and Hegel's own views, such an argument, when fully spelled out, is quite similar, in important ways, to the arguments for the same thesis that were offered by the classical eudaemonists--Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics.

In the Introduction to the Philosophy of Right, Hegel analyzes autonomy (which he calls "freedom") as an interest in reasons that need not be desires and that are relevant to the appropriateness of acting on particular desires in particular circumstances. I suggest that his analysis shows that autonomy is involved in rational prudence, as well as in morality, and that it is (in effect) a feature of selfhood as such--both of which facts make it less easily dispensable than some of Kant's critics imagine.

In Chapter 4 of the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel argues that unified selfhood also requires one to recognize other selves. I argue that this argument makes it clear, as Kant does not, why a rational agent must recognize others, alongside itself, as ends-in-themselves, and thus accept a universalistic morality.

In conclusion, I compare Hegel's version of the argument from autonomy to the arguments offered by Plato and Aristotle, and I show how it avoids objections to arguments of this kind that have been raised by Rudiger Bittner, Bernard Williams, and Robert Nozick.

Indexing (details)

0422: Philosophy
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology
Autonomy and the agent's final end: Hegel's reformulation of Kant's argument for the rationality of morality
Wallace, Robert Marston
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 55/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Wood, Allen W.
Cornell University
University location
United States -- New York
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
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