Achtung in Kant and Smith

Kant Studien 113 (2):238-268 (2022)
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Abstract

This paper argues that Kant’s concept of ‘respect’ for the moral law has roots in Adam Smith’s concept of ‘regard’ for the general rules of conduct, which was translated as Achtung in the first German translation of the Theory of Moral Sentiments. After illustrating that Kant’s technical understanding of respect appeared relatively late in his intellectual development, I argue that Kant’s concept of respect and Smith’s concept of regard share a basic similarity: they are both a single complex phenomenon with two core aspects, namely an attitude and a feeling. I then suggest that the concept of regard offered Kant a way to deal a problem concerning moral motivation that he was trying to solve at the time he likely first read Smith. I conclude by drawing some implications from the account I have offered for our understanding of Kant’s relation to Smith more generally.

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Michael Walschots
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

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