Moral selfhood from Kant to Kierkegaard

Andrew James Komasinski, Fordham University


In this dissertation, I look at the accounts of moral knowledge and moral selfhood in Kant, Confucius, Levinas, and Kierkegaard. By moral knowledge, I mean that which tells a moral self what would be right or wrong. By the moral self, I mean a self with moral knowledge, sufficient freedom to act on this knowledge, and who could be held responsible for these actions. From these considerations, I maintain that moral knowledge must include a relational component and then consider three different ways of accomplishing this. In the first chapter, I present a "front-to-back" reading of Kant's account of the moral self where G and CPR frame the account and Kant's moral self is a self that has a free will, possesses reason (by which I mean formal absolute, universal a priori reason), and can determine the right action through the use of this reason. In the second chapter, I apply a Hegelian critique to this account arguing that Kant's "abstract" account fails insofar as it lacks relational dimensions of moral knowledge that are necessary for human moral selves. I then turn to the relational accounts of moral knowledge in Confucius, Levinas, and Kierkegaard. In each case, I explain how they see the self and his moral knowledge as relational, then look at what they mean by common moral ideas such as the "Golden Rule" and "love your neighbor" and, finally, how each view handles moral conflict. In my view, each account has a weakness. The limit of the Confucian account of moral knowledge is its limited resources to move past its strong cultural dependency. The difficulty I see for Levinas's account is the question of how to integrate his account of "responsibility" as the origin of moral knowledge with an account of justice without losing the pure nature of "responsibility" received in inverted intentionality. The largest limit of Kierkegaard's account of the moral self is the centrality of the God-relation and the questions that follow from this about voluntarism in God's commands and whether this makes the self non-relational towards her neighbors.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Komasinski, Andrew James, "Moral selfhood from Kant to Kierkegaard" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3598853.