The Judge in the Mirror: Kant on Conscience

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    Abstract

    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)449-474
    Number of pages26
    JournalKantian Review
    Volume19
    Issue number3
    Early online date30-Sep-2014
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Nov-2014

    Keywords

    • Conscience
    • moral self-appraisal
    • guilt
    • imputation
    • maxim
    • subjective conditions of moral receptivity

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