Kant on Acting from Juridical Duty

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Amuchdebatedpassage in the Metaphysics ofMorals often leads commentators to believe that it is not possible to act from juridical duty. On the one hand, Kant says that all lawgiving includes an incentive ‘which connects a ground to determining choice to this action subjectively with the representation of the law’ (MM: 218). On the other hand, he claims that juridical lawgiving ‘does not include the incentive of duty in the law’ (MM: 219). The first claim seems to entail that agents can perform a juridical duty for the sake of that duty; the second seems to entail that agents cannot perform a juridical duty for the sake of that duty. This paper shows that it is possible to reconcile both passages and to claim that one can act from juridical duty in Kant’s terms. First, it gives an account of what can be called the paradox of juridical duties. Second, it discusses briefly how responses to the paradox remain somewhat unsatisfactory. Finally, it clarifies how agents can act with no other incentive but the actual juridical duty without endangering the Kantian moralitylaw divide.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Philosophical Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Kant
  • juridical duty
  • paradox of juridical imperatives
  • acting from duty
  • Metaphysics of Morals


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