XI KANT KONGRESS, XI Congresso Kantiano Internazionale

Kant’s argument for the existence of duties to oneself. An interpretation of § 2 of the "Tugendlehre"

Dieter Schonecker

Edificio: Palazzo dei Congressi
Sala: sala Fermi
Data: 22 maggio 2010 - 14:30
Ultima modifica: 08 aprile 2010

Abstract

In § 1 of the "Tugendlehre", Kant confronts his own ethical theory with the objection that the concept of a duty to oneself is self-contradictory because such a duty makes one and the same person both the subject and object of obligation. In reacting to this problem in § 2, Kant seems to argue that unless there are duties to oneself, there are no duties whatsoever and hence no duties to others as well. Thus, the standard interpretation reads Kant’s argument as follows: If there are no duties to oneself, then there are no duties to others; there are duties to others; therefore, there are duties to oneself. I will submit that this is not Kant’s argument; it is not Kant’s argument that somehow duties to oneself are a necessary condition for duties to others. Rather, his argument is as follows: If there are no duties to oneself as duties from oneself, then there are no duties to others as duties from oneself; there are duties to others as duties from oneself; therefore, there are duties to oneself as duties from oneself. Kant’s basic idea is that all duties are duties of autonomy and thus are duties from oneself; if the objection stated in § 1 were substantial, then the very concept of duty were to be abolished and thus the concept of duties to others as well. If, however, there is no problem with the concept of duties to others, then there is no problem with the concept of duties to oneself; there is no problem with the concept of duties to others; therefore, there is no problem with the concept of duties to oneself.