Kant's Discovery of Normativity
Until the eighteenth century most European normative positions in moral philosophy presupposed strong motivational internalism. According to this assumption a belief about the good leads to action in accordance with it because the belief brings about a desire to act in this way or it is identical with this desire. Strong internalism is susceptible to fundamental difficulties. It cannot explain incontinence (the so-called weak will) or justify obligations for those who have not assented to (correct) beliefs about the good. An analysis of the 'Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals' and the 'Critique of Practical Reason' shows that Kant departed from strong internalism in favour of its weak version. Having drawn a clear line between facts and desires (the sphere of the empirical) on the one hand, and beliefs about the good (the sphere of the rational) on the other, Kant holds that a belief about the good does not necessarily lead to an appropriate action but may require a special motive. For this reason Kant distinguishes between facticity and normativity, and with a view to this purpose he analyses the concept of duty. This concept allows him to grasp the particular phenomenon of necessitation that is associated with beliefs about the good without presupposing that these beliefs will lead to actions that accord with them. In developing his conception of acting from duty Kant explains the possibility of both acting on beliefs about the good and of diverting from them. This 'discovery' of normativity has important consequences for moral theory and practice. Among other things, it requires a distinction between moral and other goods by identifying moral good with unconditional good.
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