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Maximic Actions, Noumenal Self, and Evil

Zhou, Lu

In this paper I examine Kant’s account of maximic action and his discussion of the universal ground of evil in human nature in the Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. First I lay out what Kant takes to be the only two kinds of factors to whose influence the agent is motivationally susceptible as she decides on an action and then carries it out. Then I outline Kant’s account of how these factors manage to motivate the agent through maxims, and discuss how an action is to be conceived in Kantian terms, in particular whether the adoption of a maxim is internal and integral to the action itself, what the ground of the adoption of a maxim is, and whether this ground is knowable. Equipped with a better account of agency and action, I then develop a practical argument for Kant’s claim that there is a universal tendency to evil in human nature. Finally, by trying to explain various kinds of evils, namely those due to fragility, impurity, depravity, and wickedness, in terms of this account, I argue that it is both explanatorily competent and practically justifiable both in general and in particular against the Augustinian objection concerning the possibility of doing evil purely for the sake of evil.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Philosophy
Thesis Advisors
Kitcher, Patricia
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 19, 2016
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