Kant on Moral Freedom and Moral Slavery

Kantian Review 17 (1):1-32 (2012)
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Abstract
Kant’s account of the freedom gained through virtue builds on the Socratic tradition. On the Socratic view, when morality is our end, nothing can hinder us from attaining satisfaction: we are self-sufficient and free since moral goodness is (as Kant says) “created by us, hence is in our power.” But when our end is the fulfillment of sensible desires, our satisfaction requires luck as well as the cooperation of others. For Kant, this means that happiness requires that we get other people to work for our ends; and this requires, in turn, that we gain control over the things other people value so as to have influence over them. If this plan for happiness is not subordinated to morality, then what is most valuable to us will be precisely what others value. This is the root of the “passions” that make us evil and make us slaves whose satisfaction depends on others. But, significantly, this dependence is a moral slavery and hence does not signal a loss, or even diminishment of the kind of freedom required for moral responsibility.
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Archival date: 2011-09-05
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