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The Voice of Conscience

J. David Velleman
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society
New Series, Vol. 99 (1999), pp. 57-76
Published by: Wiley on behalf of The Aristotelian Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4545295
Page Count: 20
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The Voice of Conscience
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Abstract

I reconstruct Kant's derivation of the Categorical Imperative (CI) as an argument that deduces what the voice of conscience must say from how it must sound-that is, from the authority that is metaphorically attributed to conscience in the form of a resounding voice. The idea of imagining the CI as the voice of conscience comes from Freud; and the present reconstruction is part of a larger project that aims to reconcile Kant's moral psychology with Freud's theory of moral development. As I reconstruct it, Kant's argument yields an imperative commanding us to act for reasons whose validity we can consistently will to be common knowledge among all agents. Universalizing a maxim thus turns out to consist in willing, not that there be some universally quantified rule of conduct, but rather that a principle of practical reasoning be common knowledge-as a principle of reasoning ought to be.

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