Journal of Philosophical Research


published on August 14, 2021

Catherine M. M. Smith

On Self-Conceit in Kant and the Limits of Arrogance-Centered Theories of Immorality

I argue that we have good textual reason to read Kant’s notion of “self-conceit,” and his theory of immorality more generally as being founded on the claim that we have the tendency to think that our ability to achieve happiness is our most valuable feature. I explain how this is not the same as the claim that we are arrogant or think we are better than others. Self-conceit (and the standard of assessment it implies) can lead to the opinion that one is worth more than others, when life is going well. When life goes badly, however, it leads to the opinion that one is worth less. I explain how this reading of self-conceit also amounts to a better theory of immorality, since we ought not to hold that interpersonal arrogance is at the heart of all immorality.