Necessitation, Constraint, and Reluctant Action: Obligation in Wolff, Baumgarten, and Kant

In Courtney D. Fugate & John Hymers (eds.), Baumgarten and Kant on the Foundations of Practical Philosophy. Oxford University Press (2024)
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Our aim in this paper is to present the distinct ways in which Wolff, Baumgarten, and Kant understand the relationship between necessitation, constraint, and reluctant action in an effort to illustrate the subtle ways in which their conceptions of obligation differ from each another. Whereas Wolff conceives of natural or moral obligation as incompatible with constraint, Baumgarten holds that constraint and reluctant action are, in some instances, compatible with natural obligation. Kant departs from Baumgarten by conceiving of obligation as necessarily involving constraint: as Kant’s reply to Schiller’s famous objection reveals, obligation must take on the character of constraint to reluctant action on account of the fact that human beings possess inclinations that always threaten to impel them in directions that oppose morality.

Author Profiles

Michael Walschots
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Sonja Schierbaum
Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg


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