Rationalizing (Vernünfteln)

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Kant was a keen psychological observer and theorist of the
forms, mechanisms and sources of self-deception. In this Element, the
author discusses the role of rationalizing/Vernünfteln for Kant’s moral
psychology, normative ethics and philosophical methodology. By
drawing on the full breadth of examples of rationalizing Kant discusses,
the author shows how rationalizing can extend to general features of
morality and corrupt rational agents thoroughly (albeit not completely
and not irreversibly). Furthermore, the author explains the
often-overlooked roles common human reason, empirical practical
reason and even pure practical reason play for rationalizing. Kant is
aware that rationality is a double-edged sword; reason is the source of
morality and of our dignity, but it also enables us to seemingly justify
moral transgressions to ourselves, and it creates an interest in this
justification in the first place. Finally, this Element discusses whether
Kant’s ethical theory itself can be criticised as a product of rationalizing.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108625661
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2022

Publication series

Name Elements in the Philosophy of Immanuel Kant
PublisherCambridge University Press


  • Kant
  • ethics
  • self-deception
  • reason
  • authority of morality


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