Autonomy and Objective Moral Constructivism: Rawls Versus Kleingeld & Willaschek

Philosophia (forthcoming)
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Pauline Kleingeld and Marcus Willaschek, in a co-authored article, declare that their purportedly new interpretation of Immanuel Kant’s writings on autonomy reveals that his moral philosophy is neither realist nor constructivist. However, as I explain here, John Rawls already occupies the area of intellectual territory to which Kleingeld and Willaschek attempt to lay claim: Rawls interprets Kant’s moral philosophy as neither realist, as Kleingeld and Willaschek evidently construe this term, nor constructivist, as they evidently construe this term. Contra Kleingeld and Willaschek, the moral constructivism attributed to Kant by Rawls is not voluntarist, and Rawls’s account of Kant’s concept of autonomy is not paradoxical. In order to understand autonomy, it is necessary to understand Kant’s complex conception of the will, which structures his moral philosophy (as Rawls, unlike Kleingeld and Willaschek, explains). Rawls, like Kant, but unlike Kleingeld and Willaschek, clearly distinguishes between certain importantly different questions about normativity and obligation. Kant’s moral philosophy, according to Rawls’s insightful interpretation, is a form of objective moral constructivism.


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