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Kant's Moral Philosophy


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Filosofie, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including History of Modern Philosophy, History of Political Philosophy or Griekse en Romeinse filosofie, Ethiek, Politieke filosofie / Political Philosophy.

  • BA students in Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including World Philosophies: Greek and Roman Antiquity, World Philosophies: Modern Europe, Ethics, Political Philosophy.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement and who have to complete an advanced seminar, to be selected from package B.


This course will be devoted to a comprehensive review of Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy. His moral theory is well-known for downgrading feelings and inclinations in favour of pure reason. In this theory, most of our psychological, empirical conditions, such as our instincts, feelings and desires – especially affects and passions, are seen as obstacles we must overcome if we are to become virtuous. Kant’s discussions of the fundamental principle of morality in the Groundwork and in the Critique of Practical Reason give us grounds for subscribing to this reconstruction. However, in his Metaphysics of Morals and Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, Kant extensively discusses the relevance of certain psychological conditions to our moral agency. Over the past few decades, Kant’s theory of virtue and his empirical psychology have received increasing attention. The subjective, psychological conditions that enable or aid human morality, such as conscience, self-control, moral feelings and cultivated sympathetic feelings, have also been addressed in great detail. Against the common caricature of the Kantian virtuous agent as someone who must be purely rational or devoid of feelings, it has been argued that certain feelings play a positive role in Kant’s doctrine of virtue.

We will first turn to the key concepts Kant uses to explain “pure morality”, but special attention will be paid to the concepts he develops to describe how human beings apply general moral principles in real-life situations. The course will have the form of a research seminar in which we will study a selection of Kant’s texts and relevant secondary literature.

Course objectives

This course aims to provide students with a detailed knowledge of the main features of Kant’s ethics.

Students who successfully complete the course will have:

  • a good understanding of the following concepts: autonomy, maxim, the categorical imperative, hypothetical imperative, heteronomy, the universalisation test, virtue, the duties of virtue, the duties of right, self-control, inner freedom, affects, passions, inclinations, moral strength, moral ends, moral judgment, autocracy, moral motivation, respect, moral feelings, sympathy, beneficence, conscience, character, evil, moral weakness, duties to oneself and duties to others;

  • insight into the relationship between the pure and the empirical perspective in Kant’s ethics.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • explain Kant’s ethical views;

  • critically engage with Kant’s texts and the assigned secondary literature.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


Midterm paper, final paper and one class presentation.


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the two assesments:

Midterm paper (20%)
Final paper (80%)

Successful completion of the class presentation is required.


If the final mark is unsatisfactory, there is an option for re-examination by writing a paper. The mark for the resit will replace previously earned marks. Class participation and the presentation are required for taking the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

All texts will be made available at the beginning of the course.


Enrolment through MyStudymap is not possible for this course. Students are requested to submit their preferences for the third-year electives by means of an online registration form. They will receive the instruction and online registration form by email (uMail account); in June for courses scheduled in semester 1, and in December for courses scheduled in semester 2. Registration in uSis will be taken care of by the Education Administration Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar at the right hand side of the page.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc., contact the Education Administration Office Huizinga


Not applicable.