•  1
    Fichte's Deduction of the Moral Law
    In Steven Hoeltzel (ed.), Palgrave Fichte Handbook, Palgrave. forthcoming.
    It is often assumed that Fichte's aim in Part I of the System of Ethics is to provide a deduction of the moral law, the very thing which Kant – after years of unsuccessful attempts – deemed impossible. On this familiar reading, what Kant eventually viewed as an underivable 'fact' (Factum), the authority of the moral law, is what Fichte traces to its highest ground in what he calls the principle of the I as such. However, scholars have largely overlooked a passage in the System of Ethics where Fi…Read more
  •  2
    Fichte holds the striking view that the moral law is by itself an empty concept, amounting to the merely formal imperative, 'strive for self-sufficiency.' This shapes Fichte's conception of the task facing a philosophical justification in the moral law, which in his System of Ethics motivates a new deduction of the law's applicability in Part II of the book. On my reading, the key to understanding this new deduction lies in Fichte's claim that sociality is a transcendental condition for being an…Read more
  • The Concept of Persons in Kant and Fichte
    In Antonia LoLordo (ed.), Persons: A History, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    It is well known that Kant seeks to discredit rational psychology on the grounds that we cannot access the nature of the soul by reflecting upon the ‘I think’ of self-consciousness. What is far less understood, however, is why Kant still believes the theorems of rational psychology are analytically true insofar as they represent the ‘I’ through the categories of substance, reality, unity, and existence. Early post-Kantian thinkers like Fichte would abandon this restriction and approach the conce…Read more
  •  17
    Review: Sittliches Bewusstsein und kategorischer Imperativ in Kants 'Grundlegung' (review)
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 55 (2): 355-356. 2017.
    Heiko Puls's commentary is a welcome, and timely, addition to a growing wave of interest in the third section of Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.
  •  91
    One of the most controversial issues to emerge in recent studies of Fichte concerns the status of his normative ethics, i.e., his theory of what makes actions morally good or bad. Scholars are divided over Fichte’s view regarding the ‘final end’ of moral striving, since it appears this end can be either a specific goal permitting maximizing calculations (the consequentialist reading defended by Kosch 2015), or an indeterminate goal permitting only duty-based decisions (the deontological reading …Read more
  •  224
    Skepticism in Kant's Groundwork
    European Journal of Philosophy 24 (2): 375-396. 2016.
    This paper offers a new interpretation of Kant's relationship with skepticism in the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. My position differs from commonly held views in the literature in two ways. On the one hand, I argue that Kant's relationship with skepticism is active and systematic (contrary to Hill, Wood, Rawls, Timmermann, and Allison). On the other hand, I argue that the kind of skepticism Kant is interested in does not speak to the philosophical tradition in any straightforward se…Read more
  •  67
    Accessing the Moral Law through Feeling
    Kantian Review 20 (2): 301-311. 2015.
    In this article I offer a critical commentary on Jeanine Grenberg’s claim that, by the time of the second Critique, Kant was committed to the view that we only access the moral law’s validity through the feeling of respect. The issue turns on how we understand Kant’s assertion that our consciousness of the moral law is a ‘fact of reason’. Grenberg argues that all facts must be forced, and anything forced must be felt. I defend an alternative interpretation, according to which the fact of reason …Read more
  •  359
    This paper offers an overview of consciousness and personal identity in eighteenth-century philosophy. Locke introduces the concept of persons as subjects of consciousness who also simultaneously recognize themselves as such subjects. Hume, however, argues that minds are nothing but bundles of perceptions, lacking intrinsic unity at a time or across time. Yet Hume thinks our emotional responses to one another mean that persons in everyday life are defined by their virtues, vices, bodily qualitie…Read more
  •  217
    The Duty of Self-Knowledge
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (3): 671-698. 2009.
    Kant is well known for claiming that we can never really know our true moral disposition. He is less well known for claiming that the injunction "Know Yourself" is the basis of all self-regarding duties. Taken together, these two claims seem contradictory. My aim in this paper is to show how they can be reconciled. I first address the question of whether the duty of self-knowledge is logically coherent (§1). I then examine some of the practical problems surrounding the duty, notably, self-decept…Read more
  •  381
    Kant on Moral Sensibility and Moral Motivation
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 52 (4): 727-746. 2014.
    Despite Kant’s lasting influence on philosophical accounts of moral motivation, many details of his own position remain elusive. In the Critique of Practical Reason, for example, Kant argues that our recognition of the moral law’s authority must elicit both painful and pleasurable feelings in us. On reflection, however, it is unclear how these effects could motivate us to act from duty. As a result, Kant’s theory of moral sensibility comes under a skeptical threat: the possibility of a morally m…Read more
  •  81
    Fichte's Voluntarism
    European Journal of Philosophy 18 (2): 262-282. 2010.
    Abstract: In recent work Stephen Darwall has attacked what he calls J. G. Fichte's ‘voluntarist’ thesis, the idea—on Darwall's reading—that I am bound by obligations of respect to another person by virtue of my choice to interact with him. Darwall argues that voluntary choice is incompatible with the normative force behind the concept of a person, which demands my respect non-voluntarily. He in turn defends a ‘presuppositional’ thesis which claims that I am bound by obligations of respect simply…Read more
  •  240
    Forgiveness and Respect for Persons
    American Philosophical Quarterly 51 (3). 2014.
    The concept of respect for persons is often rejected as a basis for understanding forgiveness. As many have argued, to hold your offender responsible for her actions is to respect her as a person; but this kind of respect is more likely to sustain, rather than dissolve, your resentment toward her (Garrard & McNaughton 2003; 2011; Allais 2008). I seek to defend an alternative view in this paper. To forgive, on my account, involves ceasing to identify your offender with her wrongdoing, and this re…Read more
  •  20
    Review: Hill, Thomas (ed.), Virtue, Rules, and Justice: Kantian Aspirations (review)
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (5). 2013.
    Virtue, Rules, and Justice: Kantian Aspirations is a collection of 16 individual essays. The book is organised into four parts, covering a wide range of topics. ‘Basic Themes’ (Part I) presents an overview of Kant’s ethics and its development in contemporary philosophy; ‘Virtue’ (Part II) considers the notion of virtue from a variety of theoretical perspectives; ‘Moral Rules and Principles’ (Part III) interprets and defends the idea of a ‘Kantian legislative perspective’; and ‘Practical Question…Read more
  •  57
    Kant and Education brings together sixteen essays by an international group of scholars. The range of topics covered in the anthology is impressive. Kant's contribution to contemporary theories of education is central, as well as Kant's intellectual debt to Rousseau, the role of education in Kant's normative theories, and the impact of Kant's ideas on subsequent generations. Add to this the relative shortness of each essay (ten to fifteen pages), and one is left with an accessible introduction t…Read more
  •  121
    Kant, Skepticism, and Moral Sensibility
    Dissertation, University of Toronto. 2010.
    In his early writings, Kant says that the solution to the puzzle of how morality can serve as a motivating force in human life is nothing less than the “philosophers’ stone.” In this dissertation I show that for years Kant searched for the philosophers’ stone in the concept of “respect” (Achtung), which he understood as the complex effect practical reason has on feeling. I sketch the history of that search in Chapters 1-2. In Chapter 3 I show that Kant’s analysis in Groundwork I is incomplete b…Read more
  •  267
    Fichte on Conscience
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 95 (2): 376-394. 2017.
    There is no question that Fichte's theory of conscience is central to his system of ethics. Yet his descriptions of its role in practical deliberation appear inconsistent, if not contradictory. Many scholars have claimed that for Fichte conscience plays a material role by providing the content of our moral obligations—the Material Function View. Some have denied this, however, claiming that conscience only plays a formal role by testing our moral convictions in any given case—the Formal Function…Read more
  •  45
    Agency and Evil in Fichte’s Ethics
    Philosophers' Imprint 15. 2015.
    This paper examines Fichte's proof of evil in §16 of the System of Ethics. According to the majority of commentators, Fichte was mistaken to consider his proof Kantian in spirit (Piché 1999; Kosch 2006, 2011; Dews 2008; and Breazeale 2014). For rather than locate our propensity to evil in an act of free choice, Fichte locates it in a natural force of inertia. However, the distance between Kant and Fichte begins to close if we read his concept of inertia, not as a material force, but as a tendenc…Read more
  •  321
    Rethinking Kant's Fact of Reason
    Philosophers' Imprint 14. 2014.
    Kant’s doctrine of the Fact of Reason is one of the most perplexing aspects of his moral philosophy. The aim of this paper is to defend Kant’s doctrine from the common charge of dogmatism. My defense turns on a previously unexplored analogy to the notion of ‘matters of fact’ popularized by members of the Royal Society in the seventeenth century. In their work, ‘facts’ were beyond doubt, often referring to experimental effects one could witness first hand. While Kant uses the German equivalent in…Read more
  •  257
    Kant’s Deductions of Morality and Freedom
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 47 (1): 116-147. 2017.
    It is commonly held that Kant ventured to derive morality from freedom in Groundwork III. It is also believed that he reversed this strategy in the second Critique, attempting to derive freedom from morality instead. In this paper, I set out to challenge these familiar assumptions: Kant’s argument in Groundwork III rests on a moral conception of the intelligible world, one that plays a similar role as the ‘fact of reason’ in the second Critique. Accordingly, I argue, there is no reversal in the …Read more