XI KANT KONGRESS, XI Congresso Kantiano Internazionale

The Ground of Practical Laws

Andrews Reath

Edificio: Palazzo dei Congressi
Sala: sala Beccaria
Data: 24 maggio 2010 - 17:00
Ultima modifica: 13 aprile 2010


At Grundlegung 4: 428, Kant writes that in an end in itself ‘and in it alone, would lie the ground of a possible categorical imperative, that is of a practical law.’ [My italics] He then indicates that persons are ends in themselves, and thus both the sufficient and necessary grounds of practical laws. It is clear that the existence of an end in itself is a sufficient ground of practical laws: if there are such ends, than there are laws governing proper responses to them. But Kant’s apparent claim that an end in itself is necessary for there to be practical laws is puzzling. In both the Gundlegung and the Critik der praktischen Vernunft, Kant argues for the authority of the moral law without referring to the idea of an end in itself, and he believes that the universal law version of the moral law can be used to derive substantive duties, including the ends of virtue. Thus, he appears to believe that the Formula of Universal Law can stand on its own. So in what sense is the existence of an end in itself a necessary ground of practical laws? This paper addresses this question. I use this issue to think about the relation between the different formulas of the Categorical Imperative, what Kant means by the ‘ground’ of a categorical imperative, and related issues, and will suggest that the notion of ‘ground’ that he has in mind here is much thinner than is usually assumed.