Was Kant successful in establishing the autonomy of the will, and hence the authority of moral demands over us?

Kant appeared not to recognize the gap existing between the law of an autonomous rational will and the CI. He also stated that it is simply a ‘fact of reason’ (Factum der Vernunft) that our wills are bound by the CI, and used this to argue that our wills are autonomous.

Is it beyond his scope to argue for the autonomy of the will? Surely this is central to his account of moral behaviour. How might this problematise his account? Thanks.


This probably cannot be answered per se. Instead, I'm going to answer by just sketching the interpretive field as I understand it.

The general view among contemporary philosophers who interpret Kant is that Kant does not succeed in his proof in Groundwork part 3. This view is held by Christine Korsgaard, Henry Allison, and Allen Wood. Korsgaard offers an alternative where she argues that we attest to this by engaging in action at all. This occurs several places in her corpus but is the basic outcome of Sources of Normativity.

This might be attested by his reduction of this to a fact of reason in Critique of Practical Reason. An attempt at a proof doesn't reoccur in Metaphysics of Morals, but there is something similar in Religion. In that volume, there's a consideration of how character works.

Some see this as a failing of Kant's project as proof his idea of will is empty and his theory too. This is common as criticism from Hegelians and communitarians. Other's think it's replaceable with a different argument.

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