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Monday, March 7, 2016

The Data Against Kant

By Vlad Chituc and Paul Henne
The New York Times
Originally published February 19, 2016

Here are two excerpts:

This principle — that “ought” implies “can,” that our moral obligations can’t exceed our abilities — played a central role in the work of Immanuel Kant and has been widely accepted since. Indeed, the idea seems self-evidently true, much as “bachelor” implies “man.”

But is it actually true? In 1984, the philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong outlined a series of thought experiments that, he contended, demonstrated that “ought” does not always imply “can.” Though his argument found some adherents, most philosophers were not convinced. We think that the consensus view that “ought” implies “can” is mistaken.


While this one study alone doesn’t refute Kant, our research joins a recent salvo of experimental work targeting the principle that “ought” implies “can.” At the very least, philosophers can no longer treat this principle as obviously true.

The article is here.