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Maxims in Kant's Practical Philosophy
Abstract

A standard interpretation of Kantian "maxims" sees them as expressing reasons for action, implying that we cannot act without a maxim. But recent challenges to this interpretation claim that Kant viewed acting on maxims as optional. Kant's understanding of maxims derives from Christian Wolff, who regarded maxims as major premises of the practical syllogism. This supports the standard interpretation. Yet Kant also viewed commitments to maxims as essential for virtue and character development, which supports challenges to the standard interpretation, and raises questions about the coherence of Kant's overall conception of the role of maxims in practical philosophy.