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they are not, for example, prompted to act by the expectation that those
they help will render them some service in the future. Kant™s discussion
of sympathetically constituted persons, of whom the philanthropist is one,
does not seem to justify Reath™s rejection of the traditional (and presumably
the alternative) reading of acting from inclination.
Reath bases his interpretation of inclination mostly on Kant™s Metaphysics
of Morals de¬nition. But I argue that this de¬nition, like the Groundwork one,
fails to support his view. Instead, it lends credibility to the view that Kant must
have embraced either the traditional or the alternative interpretation.
In his discussion of agency in the Introduction to the Metaphysics of Morals,
Kant offers another dense and dif¬cult de¬nition of inclination:

As for practical pleasure, that determination of the capacity of desire which must be
preceded by this pleasure as cause is called desire [Begierde] in the narrow sense; habitual
desire in this narrow sense is called inclination [Neigung]; and the connection of
pleasure with the capacity of desire, provided that the understanding judges this
connection to hold as a general rule (though only for the subject), is called interest.
So if a pleasure necessarily precedes the determination of the capacity of desire, the
practical pleasure must be called an interest of inclination. (MS 212)

The ¬rst aspect of this de¬nition to notice is that Kant is employing the
term “inclination” in a slightly different way than he does in the Groundwork.
Search for the Supreme Principle of Morality
28

Here Kant suggests a distinction between inclination and whim. We may say
that a person has an inclination to begin her mornings with a cup of coffee.
She habitually desires to begin her mornings this way. But suppose a person
experiences a never-before-entertained desire to eat asparagus sauteed in
raspberry jam. If we employ the sense of inclination contained in this def-
inition, we may not say that she has an inclination for the dish.36 We may,
however, say that she has a “desire in the narrow sense” for it. Both inclina-
tions and what I have called whims count as such desires. In his Groundwork
de¬nition of inclination as the dependence of the capacity of desire on sen-
sation, Kant does not distinguish between inclination and whim. Since we
are interested in Kant™s general account of action not performed from duty,
we can safely bracket this distinction. Important to us is what Kant says about
desires in the “narrow sense,” which we, following Kant™s own Groundwork
usage, call “inclinations.”37
For our purposes, the central assertion in the Metaphysics of Morals passage
is D: “That determination [Bestimmung] of the capacity of desire which must
be preceded by pleasure as cause is called inclination.” Reath argues that
D amounts to the following: an inclination is a desire for an object such that
before an agent can come to have it, she must at some point have determined
that the realization of the object would give her pleasure.38 So, for example,
before I can count as having an inclination to play basketball, I must come
to the view that playing would give me pleasure. Moreover, suggests Reath,
D does not imply that once an agent has an inclination, whenever he tries
to satisfy it, he must do so on the basis of his expectation that its satisfaction
would give him pleasure. D does not imply that once I have an inclination
to play basketball, every time I try to satisfy it I do so on the basis of my
expectation that playing would give me pleasure.
Reath™s interpretation is, I believe, based on a misunderstanding of Kant™s
notion of the capacity of desire. In D, claims Reath, Kant is merely pointing
out a condition that must be ful¬lled in order for an agent to come to have
an inclination. Apparently, Reath takes the truth of this claim to be obvious.
It would indeed seem obvious, if one made, as Reath apparently does, the
following assumption: the capacity of desire is a capacity to have or to develop
desires, including inclinations. Under this assumption, D seems to set out a
necessary condition for the development of an inclination, namely that feel-
ings of pleasure play a causal role in this development. Recall that D reads:
“That determination of the capacity of desire which must be preceded by
pleasure as cause is called inclination.” The “determination” of this capacity
would, under this assumption, presumably amount to the acquiring of a de-
sire. D seems to specify that an inclination is a desire that an agent acquires
in a certain way: by being prompted by feelings of pleasure (either experi-
enced or expected) to do so. As we have noted, however, the assumption in
question is false. Although in light of its name it is tempting to think other-
wise, the capacity of desire is not a capacity to come to have a desire. Rather,
Kant™s Theory of Agency 29

it is the capacity to realize an object through one™s representation of it.
What, then, is the “determination” of this capacity? To my knowledge, Kant
never answers this question explicitly. Nevertheless, it is natural to suppose
that determining the capacity of desire amounts to choosing to realize an
object. It amounts to setting oneself to bring the object about. In effect, for
an agent to determine her capacity of desire is for her to choose to realize
the object of a desire.39
We can now see that, according to D, acting from inclination involves
making a choice to realize an object, which choice is “preceded by pleasure
as cause.” D asserts: that choice to realize an object, which must be “preceded
by pleasure as cause,” is called inclination. But what would it mean for an
agent™s choice to realize an object to be “preceded by pleasure as cause”?
We ¬nd an important clue for interpreting D in the Critique of Practical
Reason. There Kant suggests how pleasure can determine an agent to choose
to realize an object. It can do so only in the sense that her expectation of
gaining pleasure from the object™s realization determines her to choose to
realize it (KpV 22). In light of this suggestion, it makes sense to think of an
agent™s choice to realize an object being “preceded by pleasure as cause”
when the agent makes her choice because she expects to gain pleasure
from the object™s realization. For example, if someone™s choice to master a
piano sonata is preceded by pleasure as cause, then she chooses to master
it because she expects pleasure from mastering it.
On this interpretation, Kant™s Metaphysics of Morals account of inclination
coheres well with his Groundwork account. Like its predecessor, it invokes the
notion of an interest: “If a pleasure necessarily precedes the determination
of the capacity of desire, the practical pleasure must be called an interest
of inclination.” Even when we act from inclination, we act on a “general
rule” (e.g., a maxim). Inclinations do not bring about our action alone, but
when incorporated into practical rules. Moreover, like Kant™s Groundwork
account, his Metaphysics of Morals account is amenable to two readings. Kant
speaks of the determination of an agent™s capacity of desire being preceded
by “pleasure as cause.” On our interpretation, he is indicating that for an
agent to act from inclination is for her to do something because she expects
that it will enable her to gain pleasure. His account permits both a reading
on which her expectation of pleasure is her only motive and a reading on
which it is a motive but not necessarily her only one.


1.8 Material Practical Principles: Acting from Inclination
in the Critique of Practical Reason
No examination of Kant™s account of nonmoral action would be complete
without taking stock of his remarks on the topic in the Analytic of the Critique
of Practical Reason. These remarks support a rejection of Reath™s interpreta-
tion. In my view, they also permit both the traditional and the alternative
Search for the Supreme Principle of Morality
30

readings, though, as we will see, it is reasonable to contend that they ¬t
better with the traditional reading.
Before analyzing Kant™s account in the second Critique, it will be helpful
to review some of the terminological background against which it takes
shape. First, Kant says that practical principles are “propositions that contain
a general determination of the will” (KpV 19). This remark is somewhat
obscure. But I take Kant to be suggesting that practical principles “contain” a
“determination” of the will in the sense that they are rules that some agent(s)
have suf¬cient motive to act on. Second, a material practical principle is a
rule such that an agent™s having suf¬cient motive to act on it is conditional
on her view that doing so will enable her to realize some object she desires
(KpV 21). Take the rule: “During your free time, you ought to exercise.”
To say that it is a material practical principle is to say that an agent™s having
suf¬cient motive to act on it (i.e., to exercise,) is contingent on her belief
that doing so will enable her to realize some object she desires (e.g., her
staying in shape). Third, for Kant if an agent acts on a material practical
principle, then she is not acting from duty.40 Therefore, it seems, she must
be acting from inclination: to act on a material practical principle is to act
from inclination. As this book unfolds, we will have many occasions to refer
to Kant™s concept of a material practical principle.
With these points in mind, we can see that Kant™s remarks in the Analytic
of the second Critique clash with Reath™s reading of Kant. For example,
under Theorem II of “On the Principles of Pure Practical Reason,” Kant
states that all material principles “place the determining ground of the will
in the pleasure or displeasure to be felt in the reality of some object” (KpV
22). As we just noted, if a rule is a practical principle, then someone has
suf¬cient motive to act on it, and her having suf¬cient motive to act on it
is conditional on her believing that acting on it will enable her to realize
some object she desires. But, as Kant™s statement suggests, this is not the
end of the story. The agent™s having suf¬cient motive to act on the rule is
also conditional on her expectation that realizing the object she desires will
enable her to gain pleasure or avoid displeasure. Therefore, whenever an
agent acts on a material practical principle “ that is, follows the principle™s
prescription for trying to realize an object “ she has hedonic motivation. Or,
what amounts to the same thing: whenever an agent acts from inclination
(i.e., nonmorally), she has hedonic motivation.
In our discussion, the most serious question posed by Kant™s remarks in
the second Critique is not whether he held all nonmoral actions to have
hedonic motivation but whether he held them ultimately to have hedonic
motivation alone. The texts permit this reading but, in my view, do not re-
quire it. Take Kant™s claim that all material principles place the determining
ground of the will in the pleasure or displeasure to be received from an ob-
ject (KpV 22). We might read him to be saying that all such principles place
the one and only motive for willing in the agent™s expectation of pleasure.
Kant™s Theory of Agency 31

We are not, however, compelled to read him in this way. After all, Kant does
not say that all material practical principles place the determining ground
of the will exclusively in expected pleasure. What he does say permits a read-
ing according to which he acknowledges that a particular material principle
places the determining ground of the will not only in expected pleasure but
in something else as well “ for example, simply a desire to realize the object.
Here one might point out that, according to Kant, all material practi-
cal principles belong under the general principle of self-love or one™s own
happiness (KpV 22). Since Kant de¬nes happiness as the uninterrupted ex-
perience of pleasure (KpV 22), does it not follow that on his view all material
practical principles place the motive of action solely in the expectation of
pleasure?41 I think it is plausible to answer this question negatively. It is
unclear what Kant means by “the principle of happiness,” as well as by the
claim that all material practical principles belong under this principle. But
let us assume, as it seems reasonable to do, that the principle of happiness
is a principle prescribing that in order to attain maximum experience of
pleasure, an agent ought to perform those actions he believes will enable
him to do so. We may then plausibly interpret Kant to hold that all mate-
rial principles belong under the principle of happiness in the sense that an
agent™s acting on a material principle always has a feature in common with
her acting on the principle of happiness: in both cases, she has the prospect
of her own pleasure as a motive. In the former case, she has her own plea-
sure as one, though not necessarily her only, motive; in the latter, her sole
motive is presumably her own pleasure.
Admittedly, with respect to Kant™s discussion of “Theorem II,” the tra-
ditional interpretation seems to have more textual plausibility than the al-
ternative interpretation. In particular, it is more natural to interpret along
the lines of the traditional interpretation Kant™s statement that all material
principles place the determining ground of the will in the pleasure or dis-
pleasure to be received from an object. Consider a similar English usage.
A critic says: “In speaking thus, the author assumes that the motive for any-
one™s getting married lies in the desire for companionship.” In my view, the
critic might be describing the author as someone who takes the desire for
companionship always to be one motive, but not necessarily the exclusive
motive, for getting married. The critic™s statement is consistent with this in-
terpretation. But it is, I acknowledge, more natural to hold that the critic is
describing the author as someone who takes the desire for companionship
to be the only (real) motive for getting married.42

I have argued that Kant™s texts permit either a radically hedonistic or a
moderately hedonistic account of all actions that are not done from duty. It
is more charitable to attribute the latter account to him, since, unlike the
former, it does not have the highly questionable implication that, ultimately,
all actions not done from duty are done solely from hedonic motives. But, as
Search for the Supreme Principle of Morality
32

we just noted, some of Kant™s claims in the Critique of Practical Reason ¬t more
naturally with the notion that he embraced a radically hedonistic account.
I leave it to the reader to decide which of these two accounts to attribute
to Kant (though I favor attributing to him the moderately hedonistic one).
For our purposes, the important point to emerge from this discussion is
the following. Regardless of whether he upholds a radically hedonistic or
moderately hedonistic account of them, Kant maintains that all actions not
done from duty “ that is, all actions done on material practical principles “
are hedonically conditioned. That means (contrary to Reath) that an agent™s
having suf¬cient motive to perform each of these actions is conditional on
his expectation that doing so will have some hedonic payoff for himself. We
might not agree with this position, but we need to recognize that it is Kant™s.
2

Transcendental Freedom and the Derivation
of the Formula of Universal Law




2.1 Derivation in the Critique of Practical Reason:
Allison™s Reconstruction
Having settled on interpretations of some key concepts in Kant™s theory
of agency, we are ready to focus on the main topic of this book: Kant™s
derivations of the Formula of Universal Law and the Formula of Humanity.
On the traditional reading, Kant™s Groundwork derivation of the Formula of
Universal Law contains a conspicuous gap. Before I construct and defend
a new reading of this derivation, one according to which it is much more
forceful and philosophically rich than the traditional construal implies, I
¬rst consider how some contemporary philosophers have responded to the
traditional reading.
Kant offers a derivation of the Formula of Universal Law not only in
the Groundwork, but in the Critique of Practical Reason as well. At the end
of section 8 in the Analytic of Pure Practical Reason, Kant concludes that
the Formula of Universal Law “is the sole principle that can possibly be
¬t . . . for the principle of morality, whether in appraisals or in application
to the human will in determining it” (KpV 41). Kant clearly devotes parts of
sections 1“8 to defending this conclusion.1 Therefore, in light of the appar-
ent gap in Kant™s Groundwork derivation of the Formula of Universal Law, it
makes sense to look to the second Critique for a means to ¬ll it.
According to Henry Allison, Kant™s second Critique derivation relies ex-
plicitly on the premise that we have transcendental freedom. If we accept
this premise, we can close the gap that has traditionally been found between
the claim that the supreme principle of morality would have to require con-
formity to universal law and the claim that the supreme principle could
only be Kant™s Formula of Universal Law: “The problematic notion of tran-
scendental freedom must be presupposed, if Kant is to arrive at a content-
ful, action guiding moral principle; but given such freedom, the derivation
succeeds.”2 Allison defends this striking claim in a sophisticated fashion.

33
Search for the Supreme Principle of Morality
34

However, I argue that, in the end, embracing the notion of transcenden-
tal freedom helps us not at all to rescue the derivation of the Formula of
Universal Law.
This chapter is not intended as a commentary to sections 1“8 of the
Analytic of Pure Practical Reason but rather as a critical discussion of a
particular derivation Allison ¬nds there. Therefore, I discuss passages in
Kant™s text only when they are relevant to Allison™s reconstruction. Later
(7.2), I discuss (an aspect of ) a different derivation argument that, I believe,
Kant offers in the second Critique.
In outline, the argument Allison reconstructs contains four main steps.
First, assuming that we, Kantian rational agents, take ourselves to be tran-
scendentally free, we must hold that our inclinations and desires in them-
selves fail to constitute suf¬cient reasons for acting. Second, as Kantian
rational agents, we require some nonsensuously based justi¬cation for our
acting (or adopting a maxim on which to act). The idea seems to be that,
as such agents, our adopting a maxim must have some justi¬cation. Since
the mere presence of a desire cannot itself provide it, something else must
contribute to doing so. Third, this other source of justi¬cation must be the
maxim™s conformity to unconditional, universal law. For us to have suf¬cient
reason for adopting a particular maxim, our adopting it must be justi¬ed by
its conformity to a universally and unconditionally valid practical principle.
Fourth, only the Formula of Universal Law (or its equivalents) could be
this principle. Therefore, we must hold the Formula of Universal Law to be
binding on us.
Actually Allison™s argument would do more than ¬ll the gap in the deriva-
tion. Filling the gap would amount to showing that if there is a supreme
principle of morality, then it is the Formula of Universal Law. However, sup-
pose we accept the background assumptions of Allison™s argument, that we
are transcendentally free Kantian rational agents. If successful, his argument
would then establish that the Formula of Universal Law is actually binding
on us.
The chapter begins by exploring the basis of the argument, which is
not merely the assumption of transcendental freedom, but a thick Kantian
account of rational agency (section 2.2). It then considers the ¬rst two steps
of the argument, especially the notion that, as rational beings, we require
some nonsensuously based justi¬cation of our maxims (2.3). The bulk of
the chapter (2.4“5) concerns steps 3 and 4 of the argument, namely the
plausibility of Allison™s claims that our maxims can be justi¬ed only by appeal
to some universally and unconditionally valid practical principle, and that
only the Formula of Universal Law could stand as such a principle.


2.2 A Thick Account of Kantian Rational Agency
Allison bases his argument in a thick account of Kantian rational agency,
three features of which require our attention. The ¬rst is what Allison calls
Transcendental Freedom to the Rescue? 35

the “justi¬cation requirement,” which we have already mentioned (section
1.5). On Kant™s view, says Allison, rational agents must hold that their maxims
are subject to “criteria of reasonableness.”3 At the time they act, the agents
must regard their maxims as “in some sense rationally justi¬able,” whether
it be morally or prudentially.4
Second, the “central insight” of Kant™s theory of rational agency lies in
what Allison calls the “Incorporation Thesis,” a thesis we mentioned earlier
(1.5).5 In Allison™s words, this thesis implies that “inclinations or desires do
not of themselves constitute a suf¬cient reason to act but do so only insofar
as they are “taken up” or “incorporated” into a maxim by the agent.”6 So,
in effect, rational agents never act on brute desires, but they sometimes do
act on self-given rules in which they take account of their desires. To revisit
one of Allison™s examples, the mere presence of a strong desire to eat an
ice cream cone cannot itself give me (a rational agent) suf¬cient reason
to eat one. I can have suf¬cient reason to eat one only if I commit myself
to a rule (a maxim), for example, one permitting me to indulge myself
in this way under certain circumstances.7 Actually, when fully expressed,
the Incorporation Thesis says more, namely that no incentive, including the
moral law, itself constitutes a suf¬cient reason to act unless it is incorporated
into a maxim by the agent.8
In the context of the Incorporation Thesis, “reason” is a translation of
“determining ground,” which, I suggested (1.5), should be understood as
motivating reason or, simply, motive. Allison seems to agree with this view.9
So the Incorporation Thesis says that no incentive can itself constitute a
suf¬cient motive for an agent to act. According to the thesis, a rational agent
simply cannot act on inclinations alone. Whenever an inclination constitutes
a motive of her action, she has incorporated it into some self-given rule.
Returning to the Incorporation Thesis itself, Allison argues that in Kant™s
account an agent must view his incorporating inclinations into self-given
rules as an act of spontaneity on his part.10 The agent must view his “taking
up” a desire into his maxim (or, presumably, his refraining from doing so) as
an act done independently of the causality of nature, that is, as an exercise
of transcendental freedom.11
Transcendental freedom is “independence from everything empirical
and so from nature generally” (KpV 97). According to Allison, a transcen-
dentally free act would be one that was not causally necessitated by preceding
events in time. However, he argues that there is more to transcendental free-
dom than that. If this were all there were to it, then an agent would have
such freedom simply by virtue of possessing a capacity to make causally un-
necessitated choices of means to ends that were themselves foisted upon
her by nature. For example, suppose that the end of experiencing plea-
sure was one she, by nature, always necessarily pursued. She would count as
transcendentally free if she could, without being causally necessitated to do
so, choose between different means of pursuing pleasure.12 To block such
possibilities, in which the scope of transcendental freedom is restricted to
Search for the Supreme Principle of Morality
36

acts of choosing means to ends given by nature, Allison insists that transcen-
dental freedom also involves what he calls “motivational independence.” He
de¬nes this independence as “a capacity to recognize and be motivated by
reasons to act that do not stem, even indirectly, from the agent™s sensuous
nature.”13 For Allison, an agent sees herself as transcendentally free only
if she takes herself to be able to act for reasons that do not stem from her
inclinations or desires at all.
In sum, at the basis of Allison™s argument lies a threefold conception of
rational agency. A rational agent must (1) view the maxims on which he acts
as justi¬ed, (2) hold that he can act on an incentive only if he incorporates
it into a maxim, and (since he holds 2) (3) regard his act of incorporation
as an exercise of transcendental freedom.
Of course, one might question each of these claims. For example, one
might ¬nd problematic the notion that accepting the second requires ac-
cepting the third. Suppose I agree that it belongs to the core of my rational
agency that I cannot act on my inclinations directly but only through maxims
in which I take account of them. Why must I look upon my act of incorpo-
rating an inclination into a maxim as an exercise of transcendental freedom
instead of an event necessitated by natural causes?14 At bottom, Allison re-
sponds that, if I looked upon my act of incorporation as an event necessitated
by natural causes or always motivated by sensuously based reasons, then I
would not be considering myself as a rational agent. In other words, there is
a conceptual connection between seeing oneself as exercising the capacity
to take up desires into self-given rules and seeing oneself as transcenden-
tally free.15 Allison himself acknowledges that this response is not likely to
satisfy his naturalizing critics. In any case, I do not explore this issue here.
My aim is to determine whether the argument succeeds in light of the as-
sumption of transcendental freedom and a robust Kantian view of rational
agency.


2.3 Desire and Justi¬cation of Action
Let us now consider Allison™s argument. According to step 1, assuming that
we (i.e., rational agents) view ourselves as transcendentally free, we must
hold that our inclinations and desires in themselves fail to constitute suf¬-
cient reasons (in the sense of motives) for acting. Since we are assuming that
the Incorporation Thesis is true, this step is unproblematic. For, according
to this thesis, it is essential to being a rational agent that one™s inclinations
or desires do not of themselves constitute a suf¬cient motive to act. A ratio-
nal agent can act on her desires only when she has incorporated them into
some self-given rule.
As we have noted, Allison attributes to Kant a “justi¬cation requirement”
on an agent™s adopting a maxim on which to act (and thus on his acting).
This is the requirement that the agent regard his maxim as, in some sense,
Transcendental Freedom to the Rescue? 37

rationally justi¬ed. Step 2 of the argument applies this requirement to
desire-based action. According to this step, given that we take ourselves
to be transcendentally free rational agents, we must acknowledge that we
require some nonsensuously based justi¬cation for our adopting a maxim

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