The Analytic Proposition Underlying Kantian Hypothetical Imperatives

Alexandra Newton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Kant maintains that it is easy to see how hypothetical imperatives are possible, because the following proposition is analytic: "Whoever wills the end also wills (in so far as reason has decisive influence on his actions) the indispensably necessary means to it that is within his control" (GMS, AA 04: 417). I distinguish three readings of the analytic proposition, which correspond to three ways of understanding how it reveals hypothetical imperatives to be possible. The first reads it as a theoretical proposition about constitutive features of an ideal agent. I argue that this fails to do justice to the first-personal character of the analytic proposition, as a proposition about the general practical concept 'I will' (or more generally, 'I intend'). The second reading extracts actual imperatives from the concept of 'willing an end' by means of analysis. Against this, I argue that the derivation of an imperative from an act of willing an end is an act of synthesis, and that analysis of the concept of 'my willing an end' merely yields the possibility of hypothetical imperatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-567
Number of pages25
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 4 2017


  • hypothetical imperatives
  • intention
  • practical reasoning
  • rationality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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