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Title: The ethical self in Kierkegaard and Kant
Author: Cope, C.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2002
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My thesis focuses on the Kantian influence on Kierkegaard's conception of the self and his view of the progression through the stages of existence. I argue that Kant's distinction between heteronomous and autonomous forms of willing grounds Kierkegaard's fundamental distinction between the aesthetic and ethical forms of selfhood. However, Kierkegaard is critical of Kant's account of the transition from the aesthetic to the ethical sphere, and argues that ultimately the ethical structure of the authentic self can be fully realised only within a religious framework. Within Kant's moral philosophy, an action is heteronomous when it is motivated by an individual's sensuous nature, his inclinations or his desires. The rule for action is given to the will by the object that is desired, and the will is consequently conditioned by the inclinations of the agent. According to Kant, as long as our action is motivated by the desire to realise a particular end it is dependent upon the impulses of our sensuous nature. It is only when we perform an action for its own sake, motivated by the form of the governing maxim and not the matter or purpose which it prescribes, that we can act independently of our inclinations as an autonomous moral agent. In this dissertation I show that this Kantian distinction between formal and material willing, between willing something for its own sake and willing it as a means to a desired end, lies at the heart of Kierkegaard's depiction of the aesthetic and the ethical spheres of existence. Like Kant, Kierkegaard argues that true selfhood emerges only within an ethical structure, when the heteronomy of the aesthetic sphere is transcended by the positive freedom of morality. Both Kant and Kierkegaard argue that a sincere commitment to the ethical goal presupposes a certain relation to religion. It is in his discussion of the nature of this relation that Kierkegaard begin to diverge significantly from the Kantian framework.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available