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Rousseau's Conscience in Modern Moral Philosophy

Lavin, D; (2022) Rousseau's Conscience in Modern Moral Philosophy. In: Conant, J and Rödl, S, (eds.) Practical Reason: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. De Gruyter Verlag: Berlin. (In press).

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Abstract

This paper argues that Rousseau’s theory of conscience provides a strong alternative, not a weak precursor, to Kant’s grounding of moral requirement in the nature of a free and self-determining agent. Both philosophers reject the accounts of practical reason offered by empirical naturalism and by rational intuitionism. Empirical naturalism cannot account for the universality of moral requirement. Rational intuitionism saves this universality through a dubious metaphysics, and risks severing moral knowledge from motivation. Like Kant, Rousseau avoids both positions by arguing that morally motivated actions are expressions of our practical reason. Unlike Kant, Rousseau analyzes neither the laws governing nor those given by conscience. This silence has often been seen as a philosophical failure; I argue instead that it is motivated by Rousseau’s view of philosophy as rooted in practical aims that would be ill served by such an analysis.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Rousseau's Conscience in Modern Moral Philosophy
Publisher version: https://www.degruyter.com/
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Rousseau, Kant, conscience, moral obligation, rationalism, empiricism, practical reason, morality, autonomy
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1472271
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