Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Eric Entrican Wilson

Second Advisor

Dr. Sebastian Rand

Third Advisor

Dr. Timothy O'Keefe


In this paper I put forth three criticisms against McDowell account of the idea that moral requirements are categorical imperatives. I argue that McDowell’s account fails as a defense of Kant’s doctrine for at least three reasons. First, McDowell claims that agents can appeal to experience in order to formulate and recognize categorical imperatives. However, Kant strongly disagrees with this claim, explicitly claiming that moral requirements cannot be derived from experience. Second, McDowell argues that the virtuous agent will not experience inner conflict when motivating herself to act virtuously, but inner conflict plays a central role in Kant’s picture of moral motivation and virtue. Third, McDowell does not account for how the moral law serves as a necessary incentive to moral action through the a priori feeling of respect. Finally, I suggest that my criticisms cast doubt on the validity of McDowell’s account, and provide insights into some criteria that an account must meet if it is to be a proper defense of Kant’s doctrine of moral requirements as categorical imperatives.