conceptual framework for practical reason, autonomy, and morality is reliant on neither externalism nor theoretical reason nor desires and inclinations.

Kant is of the mind that morality requires the autonomous deliberation of practical reason alone. His entire conceptual framework for practical reason, autonomy, and morality is reliant on neither externalism nor theoretical reason nor desires and inclinations.

Your task will be to examine and assess Kant’s framework in the light of one of two points of view — either Thomas Nagel’s externalism (normative realism) or Bernard Williams’ internalism (or skepticism of practical reason.)

Select either Nagel’s externalism or Williams’ internalism and discuss cogently, clearly, and concisely whether and how Kant’s position for the dependence of morality on the autonomous deliberation of practical reason alone succeeds or fails against either Nagel’s or Williams’ position.


Be mindful of the following:

Nagel’s externalism (normative realism) = the necessity of moral judgments or moral reasons to rely on moral facts, i.e., on the truth that obligations that really exist. Nagel’s externalism is reliant on the point that moral judgements are true, about which there can be no skepticism and about which the necessity of a motive for a judgment or action is mitigated or nullified. Their truth is the outcome of reshaping an individual’s motives by weighing the availability of alternatives outside of her set of motivations in order for her to obtain better control of her behavior and better assessment of her reasons to judge and act. Externalism allows an individual to adopt a position “outside of oneself” to be more impartial and objective in one’s reasons for acting and judging.

**William’s internalism (skepticism of practical reason) = the necessity of moral judgments to rely on “ground projects” or a “set of desires” comprising the ultimate source of meaning and motivation as well as an individual’s character. Adherence to these “projects” or “desires” is what gives an individual reason for living morally. It is a radical practical deliberation, because it entails the individual being more intimate with her desires and projects than Kant or Nagel would allow. These deep attachments are abandoned or severed once the requirements of an impartial and objective morality, as found in Nagel’s externalism and Kant’s internalism, obtain. Here internalism is skeptical of practical reason, not because practical reason needs a supplemental external point of view (Nagel), but because it doubts the scope of practical reason as a motive.

Kant’s internalism = the necessity of moral judgments to be rationally motivating. It is tied to autonomy so that the laws of morality are laws belonging to an individual’s own will, who is rationally prepared to adopt them. In contrast to Williams,’ Kant’s internalism is an endorsement, not a skepticism, of practical reason.

** If you wish to examine Bernard Williams’ internalism for your research paper, please read on ERES two or more of the following essays by Williams. “Persons, Character, and Morality,” pp. 1-19; “Internal and External Reasons,” pp. 101-13; “Ought and Moral Obligation,” pp. 114-23; and “Practical Necessity,” pp. 124-31 in his book Moral Luck. Also “Foundations: Practical Reason,” pp-54-70; and “Morality, The Peculiar Institution,” pp. 174-96 in his book Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy.


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