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The Judge in the Mirror: Kant on Conscience

  • Marijana Vujošević (a1)

Kant’s conception of conscience has been relatively neglected by Kant scholars and the secondary literature offers no explanation of whether (and if so, how) his treatments of conscience fit together. To achieve a fuller understanding of Kant’s general position on conscience, I question the widespread assumption that conscience is a feeling and account for the nature of conscience and its multiple functions. On my reading, conscience is ‘the internal judge’ whose verdict triggers certain emotional reactions. Through the moral self-evaluative activities of this inner judge, we come to know our character better. In the judgements of conscience, we take account of various psychological conditions while judging both whether these conditions stand in the way of our establishing moral maxims and whether we hold ourselves accountable for our actions. By arousing certain feelings, these judgements also move us to moral action.

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Willem Heubült (1980) ‘Gewissen bei Kant’. Kant-Studien, 71, 445454.

Thomas Hill (2002) Human Welfare and Moral Worth: Kantian Perspectives. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Thomas Sören Hoffmann (2002) ‘Gewissen als praktische Apperzeption: Zur Lehre vom Gewissen in Kants Ethik-Vorlesungen’. Kant-Studien, 93, 424443.

Jason J. Howard (2004) ‘Kant and Moral Imputation: Conscience and the Riddle of the Given’. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, 78, 609627.

Rudolf A. Makkreel (2002) ‘Reflective Judgement and the Problem of Assessing Virtue in Kant’. Journal of Value Inquiry, 36, 205220.

J. H. Paton (1979) ‘Conscience and Kant’. Kant-Studien, 70, 239251.

Paul Thagard , and Tracy Finn (2011) ‘Conscience: What is Moral Intuition?’ In Carla Bagnoli (ed.), Morality and the Emotions (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 150170.

Jens Timmermann (2006) ‘Kant on Conscience, “Indirect” Duty, and Moral Error’. International Philosophical Quarterly, 46, 293308.

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Kantian Review
  • ISSN: 1369-4154
  • EISSN: 2044-2394
  • URL: /core/journals/kantian-review
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