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Social Theory and Practice


published on January 5, 2020

Mavis Biss

A Kantian Response to the Problem of Reception

This paper addresses the problem of explaining the relationship between social recognition and justification of moral action, or “the problem of reception.” It is an especially acute and distinctive problem for agents who resist oppression by challenging established norms because action may be necessary even when good reception cannot be expected. I draw on recent work in Kantian ethics that acknowledges the conditions of socially embedded rational agency to argue that moral resisters’ misread actions may count as moral achievements, despite the fact that failed reception may frustrate the realization of moral ends, threaten moral confidence and inhibit rational flourishing.

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