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“An Erring Conscience is an Absurdity”: The Later Kant on Certainty, Moral Judgment and the Infallibility of Conscience

Franz Knappik EMAIL logo and Erasmus Mayr EMAIL logo

Abstract

This article explores Kant’s view, found in several passages in his late writings on moral philosophy, that the verdicts of conscience are infallible. We argue that Kant’s infallibility claim must be seen in the context of a major shift in Kant’s views on conscience that took place around 1790 and that has not yet been sufficiently appreciated in the literature. This shift led Kant to treat conscience as an exclusively second-order capacity which does not directly evaluate actions, but one’s first-order moral judgments and deliberation. On the basis of this novel interpretation, we develop a new defence of Kant’s infallibility claim that draws on Kant’s account of the characteristic features of specifically moral judgments.

KrV

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KpV

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Log

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Me

P. Menzer (ed.): Eine Vorlesung Kants über Ethik. 2nd ed. Berlin-Charlottenburg 1925 (=Moral Brauer [1774/5]).

MpVT

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MS

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RGV

Immanuel Kant: Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloßen Vernunft. Vol. 6 of Kants Gesammelte Schriften. Ed. Königlich-Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften. 29 vols. Berlin 1900-, 1–202. Translation in: Immanuel Kant: Religion and Rational Theology. Trans./ed. A. Wood/G. di Giovanni. Cambridge 1996, 39–216.

V-PP/Powalski

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V-Mo/Collins

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Published Online: 2019-03-06
Published in Print: 2019-03-01

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