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Idealistic Studies

Volume 45, Issue 1, Spring 2015

Florian Demont
Pages 41-52

Self-Consciousness and Moral Responsibility

For Kant and the German Idealists, self-consciousness is a central notion and can be used to explain the concept of moral responsibility. The paper begins with Sebastian Rödl’s notion of self-consciousness and explains how self-consciousness is related to freedom. A distinction between spontaneity and the causality of thought will be drawn. The first, spontaneity, is used to explain how self-consciousness allows human beings to have unmediated knowledge of their thoughts. The second, the causality of thought, is used to explain what forms of rational action and belief we find in human beings. It is argued that Rödl’s conception of spontaneity is sound, but that his conception of a causality of thought should be rejected. Based on Friedrich Schelling’s essay on freedom, the moral dimension of thought and talk will be introduced in order to derive a conception of moral responsibility.

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