As a rule, the Kantian capacity for self-control is interpreted as a kind of tool for compelling ourselves to act on the basis of the maxims we have adopted. To the extent that we merely acknowledge its role in following already-adopted maxims, however, we fail to capture the distinctive aspect of moral self-control identified by Kant. In this paper, I propose a fuller account of the Kantian capacity for moral self-control; I do so mainly by analyzing this capacity as our ability to “abstract from” various sensible impressions. This analysis shows that Kant’s conception of moral self-control involves two intimately related levels, which are subject to different criteria. Whereas the first level is connected to our ability to adopt moral maxims and requires that we abstract from all sensible impressions, the second is associated with our ability to follow these maxims and does not necessarily require this radical abstraction.
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