Kant and Hegel on Purposive Action
This essay discusses Kant and Hegel’s philosophies of action and the place of action within the general structure of their practical philosophy. We begin by briefly noting a few things that both unite and distinguish the two philosophers. In the sections that follow, we consider these and their corollaries in more detail. In so doing, we map their differences against those suggested by more standard readings that treat their accounts of action as less central to their practical philosophy. Section 2 discusses some central Kantian concepts (Freedom, Willkür, Wille, and Moral Law). In Section 3, we take a closer look at the distinction between internal and external action, as found in Kant’s philosophy of morality and legality. In Section 4, we turn to Hegel and his distinctions between abstract right (legality), morality, and ethical life, as well as the location of his account of action within his overall theory of morality. We discuss the distinction between Handlung and Tat, and non-imputable consequences. The overall aims of our essay are to shed light on some puzzles in Kant and Hegel’s conceptions and to examine where their exact disputes lie without taking a stand on which philosophy is ultimately the most satisfactory.