Kant's theory of right as Aristotelian Phronesis

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Many philosophers believe that a moral theory, given all the relevant facts, should be able to determine what is morally right and wrong. It is commonly argued that Aristotle's ethical theory suffers from a fatal flaw: it places responsibility for determining right and wrong with the virtuous agent who has phronesis rather than with the theory itself. It is also commonly argued that Immanuel Kant's ethical theory does provide a concept of right that is capable of determining right and wrong in specific cases. I argue, however, that Kant never gives a determinate moral theory of right. Rather, I argue that Kant's moral theory is similar in many ways to that of Aristotle, in that it still holds that a moral agent with phronesis, rather than the theory, determines what is right. Kant's practical philosophy was not so much meant to tell us right and wrong as to prevent bad moral theory from corrupting our moral common sense, and it is our moral common sense that determines right and wrong naturally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-246
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Philosophical Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


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