The Idea of Personality in Kant’s Moral Philosophy
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Kant’s idea of the person and its place within his so-called “Formula of Humanity” has taken on an important role in contemporary discussions of normative ethics. Yet, despite its popularity, confusion remains as to what Kant really means by person and personality in his exposition of the moral imperative. This confusion has led to the attribution of positions to Kant that he clearly does not hold. My concern in this thesis is to engage the texts of Kant’s moral philosophy in an effort to clarify his idea of person/personality. Accordingly, my concerns are primarily exegetical, though I do engage some contemporary trends in Kant scholarship and Kantian ethics. I have divided the thesis into three main sections, which comprise Sections II, III, IV. In Section II, I look to Kant’s precritical ethics, examining his initial discovery of the formal and material principles of morality and his interest in the role feeling plays in the moral life. Of particular interest is Kant’s first introduction of a connection between the feeling of respect for persons and moral duties. In Section III, I suggest that reading Kant’s critical moral philosophy in continuity with the precritical ethics brings into relief Kant’s move from popular morality to an analytic demonstration of the connection of the moral imperative to the will of a rational being. I argue that respecting Kant’s analytic move helps to prevent us from (i) conflating the idea of humanity and personality, which is commonly done in contemporary Kant scholarship and (ii) attributing a strict “two-world” ontology to Kant’s moral philosophy. Finally, in Section IV, I return to Kant’s conception of moral feeling as respect for persons, and I briefly discuss its motivating force in the fulfillment of the demands of morality. Together, these three sections display the importance of understanding Kant’s idea of personality for any project aiming to faithfully interpret his moral thought.
Deem, Michael J. (2009). The Idea of Personality in Kant’s Moral Philosophy. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from