Acting with Feeling from Duty

Tannenbaum, Julie
September 2002
Ethical Theory & Moral Practice;Sep2002, Vol. 5 Issue 3, p321
Academic Journal
A central claim in Kantian ethics is that an agent is properly morally motivated just in case she acts from duty alone. Bernard Williams, Michael Stocker, and Justin Oakley claim that certain emotionally infused actions, such as lending a compassionate helping hand, can only be done from compassion and not from duty. I argue that these critics have overlooked a distinction between an action's manner, how an action is done, and its motive, the agent's reason for acting. Through a range of examples I demonstrate how an emotion can determine an action's manner without also serving as the motive. Thus, it is possible for an agent to act compassionately from duty alone. This distinction between the manner and the motive of an action not only restores a central claim in Kantian ethics but it also allows for an expanded role of emotions in moral action.


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