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Favorite papers on: Kantian Ethics

Hoping folks will share with the group their favorite papers on the topic of Kantian ethics. Perhaps people might add what level they think the paper is most appropriate for (grad seminar, undergrad intro, etc.). A short explanation of what the paper says or what makes it great might be useful as well.

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5 Responses to Favorite papers on: Kantian Ethics

  1. David Sobel says:

    I find Korsgaard’s “Kant’s Formula of Universal Law” paper very clear and persuasive. I think it could be used in an upper level undergrad class, in addition to a grad class. The paper considers various interpretations of how the Universal Law formulation should be understood.

  2. Andrew Forcehimes says:

    Velleman’s “A Brief Introduction to Kantian Ethics” (in Self to Self) is a clear, accessible overview. Perfect for undergraduates. The section on prisoners’ dilemmas and contradictions in willing is especially helpful for students.

  3. Ripstein’s Force and Freedom: Kant’s Legal and Political Philosophy is the best book written recently on Kant’s practical philosophy.

    I’d like to think Chapter 1 of my Kant and the Cultivation of Virtue, “The Project of Kant’s Practical Philosophy,” is quite clear and would be easily accessible to undergrads.

  4. Oh gosh – hundreds I could mention. But I’ll restrain myself:

    Sally Sedgwick, “On lying and the role of content in Kant’s ethics” (an excellent entry point for discussion of the lying problem, rigorism, and associated worries)

    Barbara Herman, “Leaving deontology behind” (I could pick about a half dozen Herman papers, but this one is terrific at motivating a value-oriented rather than a rule-oriented reading of Kant)

    Mark Timmons, “Decision procedures, moral criteria, and the problem of relevant descriptions in Kant’s ethics” (terrific discussion of the relevant maxims problem, raises the possibility that the universal law formula is a decision procedure but not a criterion of right action)

    Marcia Baron’s contribution to Three Methods of Ethics (the best short-ish intro to Kant’s ethics, also helpful because it engages with consequentialist and virtue ethics opponents)

    Marcia Baron, “Virtue ethics, Kantian ethics, and the ‘one thought too many’ objection” (my favorite account of how Kantians can square impartiality with the value of particular attachments)

    Pauline Kleingeld, ““Moral consciousness and the ‘fact of reason’” (great on the strangeness of the fact of reason, as well as helping explain why practical reason must acknowledge a categorical imperative)

    Paulin Kleingeld, “Contradiction and Kant’s formula of universal law” (offers what I think is the most credible reading of the FUL contradiction test)

    Korsgaard, “Morality as freedom” (insightful attempt to make sense of moral freedom as practical in a Kantian way)

    Emer O’hagan, “Animals, agency, and obligation in Kantian ethics” (a good place to begin with Kant’s animals problem)

    Wood, “Unsociable sociability” (good entry point into Kant’s anthropology and social theory, and how he understands human sociability as problematic and redemptive)

    And since we’re here: my own recently published book Understanding Kant’s Ethics ( is, in my humble and unbiased opinion, the very best starting place for those coming to Kant’s ethics for the first time and for those who, having come a first time and left deeply perplexed, want a second go around.

  5. Sven Nyholm says:

    Rae Langton’s “Duty and Desolation”, from 1992, is an ethical analysis of the correspondence between Kant and Maria von Herbert. It criticizes Kant’s conduct, but it does so using Langton’s interpretation of Kant’s humanity formula. This paper is very engaging, and also contains an interesting discussion of how to understand the idea of treating humanity as an “end in itself”.

    Christine Korsgaard’s “Self-Constitution in the Ethics of Plato and Kant”, from 1999, is another favorite of mine. It argues that Kant’s theory of ethics and agency can be interestingly compared to Plato’s city-soul analogy in the Republic. (This argument is developed further in Korsgaard’s book Self-Constitution.)

    Lastly I would also recommend Derek Parfit’s chapters on Kantian ethics in On What Matters Volume 1 as a good source for objections against Kant’s various different formulations of the categorical imperative. Chapters 8-10 and 12-14 cover many standard objections to Kant’s ethics, and also adds some new objections, but at the same time also brings out a lot of what is most interesting and plausible about Kant’s ethics.