Moral Deliberation and Desire Development: Herman on Alienation

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 39 (2):283-308 (2009)
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In Chapter 9 of The Practice of Moral Judgment and her later article Making Room for Character, Barbara Herman offers a distinctive response to a familiar set of concerns with the room left for character and personal relationships in Kantian ethics. She begins by acknowledging the shortcomings of her previous response on this issue and by distancing herself from a standard kind of indirect argument for the importance of personal commitments according to which these have moral weight in virtue of their connection with the psychological health of individuals. Agreeing with an imagined critic’s concern that Kantian ethics must do more than merely tolerate motives of connection, she proposes that we adopt a deliberative field account of practical deliberation incorporating a developmental model of desire formation. I argue that, while this is a subtle and interesting account of desire development, it is not one that will satisfy the critic and should not satisfy the Kantian. I claim that the Kantian cannot forgo instrumental arguments for the importance of personal relationships and commitments and that they should not be shy of endorsing these arguments.

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Donald Wilson
Kansas State University


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