Skip to content
  • Video
  • 5 mins

Sandel on Kant and the capacity for reason

Updated Tuesday, 18th January 2011

Michael Sandel looks at how Kant's emphasis on our capacity to reason has a place for beings who lack much in the way of reasoning ability or rationality

This page was published over five years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see our Archive and Deletion Policy



Copyright The Open University


Sandel on Kant and the capacity for reason

It’s true Kant does consider that human beings are worthy of respect in virtue of our capacity for reason.  But when it comes to those who are before the age of reason, young children for example, or the mentally disabled, he does not say that they are also not bearers of human dignity, to the contrary - all human beings as rational human beings are worthy of respect, even if they haven’t realised their capacity for rational action.  What matters is the capacity for reason, not the extent to which any of us succeeds in realising it. 

For Kant rationality includes the capacity to will the moral law, the capacity to act freely, to act as autonomous beings, and it’s really our capacity for autonomy that enables us to be held morally responsible.  We can’t hold someone or something responsible who’s incapable of reason, that’s a consequent mental idea.

Dur: 1’06”


Find out more

Want to know more about philosophy, ethics and right and wrong? Consider these courses from The Open University:





Related content (tags)

Copyright information

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?