Practical Reason and Respect for Persons

Kantian Review 22 (1):53-79 (2017)
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My project is to reconsider the Kantian conception of practical reason. Some Kantians think that practical reasoning must be more active than theoretical reasoning, on the putative grounds that such reasoning need not contend with what is there anyway, independently of its exercise. Behind that claim stands the thesis that practical reason is essentially efficacious. I accept the efficacy principle, but deny that it underwrites this inference about practical reason. My inquiry takes place against the background of recent Kantian metaethical debate — each side of which, I argue, correctly points to issues that need to be jointly accommodated in the Kantian account of practical reason. The constructivist points to the essential efficacy of practical reason, while the realist claims that any genuinely cognitive exercise of practical reason owes allegiance to what is there anyway, independently of its exercise. I argue that a Kantian account of respect for persons (“recognition respect”) suggests how the two claims might be jointly accommodated. The result is an empirical moral realism that is itself neutral on the received Kantian metaethical debate.

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Melissa M Merritt
University of New South Wales


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