Morality is its own Reward

Kantian Review 21 (3):343-365 (2016)
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Traditionally, Kantian ethics has been thought hostile to agents' well-being. Recent commentators have rightly called this view into question, but they do not push their challenge far enough. For they leave in place a fundamental assumption on which the traditional view rests, viz., that happiness is all there is to well-being. This assumption is important, since, combined with Kant’s rationalism about morality and empiricism about happiness, it implies that morality and well-being are at best extrinsically related. Since morality can only make our lives go well by making us happy, and since morality can only make us happy by influencing our sensibility, morality is not its own reward--not really. It is simply the condition for some separate benefit. Drawing on Kant’s underappreciated discussion of self-contentment, an intellectual analog of happiness, I reconstruct an alternative account of morality’s relation to well-being. Morality does make our lives go well--and so is its own reward--not because it makes us happy but because it makes us self-contented.
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