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Immanuel Kant Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals

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1 Immanuel Kant Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals
“Duty is the necessity of an action done out of respect for the law.” (Humanities 4)

2 Immanuel Kant 1724-1804 “What is enlightenment?”
“Sapere aude” Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason, Critique of Judgment, Metaphysics of Morals Ethics & epistemology

3 A Good Will “There is no possibility of thinking of anything at all in the world , or even out of it, which can be regarded as good without qualification, except a good will.” (§393) Some things (intelligence, strength, etc.) seem good, but are only good if animated by a good will Some things (moderation, self-control) seem good, but are not “good without qualifications,” but only because they are conducive to the development of a good will, or because they facilitate its work (§394) “A good will is good not because of what it effects or accomplishes, nor because of its fitness to attain some proposed end; it is good only through its willing, i.e., it is good in itself.” (§394) The good will is good even if, through inability, failure, or mischance it accomplishes nothing material Acts done without a good will may be desirable or pleasant, but they cannot be recognized as moral.

4 Reason & Happiness But it seems awfully strange to say that the only moral good is in the good will, separate from any consequence, let alone that we have reason to develop good wills. After all, isn’t reason meant to make us happy? Let’s think this through. (§395) Take any organism Now, take it as given that no organ in that organism will be found unless it’s the best for accomplishing whatever end it’s meant to do Humans have the faculty of reason How does reason do at making us happy? Not so great. “In fact, we find that the more a cultivated reason devotes itself to the aim of enjoying life and happiness, the further does man get away from true contentment.” In fact, if being happy were what being human is about, we’d have been much better off being guided by instinct instead of reason! (§ )

5 Reason & Happiness Due to this, “many persons” (by which I mean Rousseau) come to hate reason, and think that even science just gives us more ways to be unhappy and more needs unmet! So, “some people” “come to envy, rather than despise, the more common run of men who are closer to the guidance of mere natural instinct and who do not allow their reason much influence on their conduct.” And look, “some people” have a point: reason isn’t going to lead us to happiness. But this doesn’t mean reason’s bad, it just mean that happiness isn’t what reason is for. Reason is for something much more important, and more human: “its true function must be to produce a will which is not merely good as a means to some further end, but is good in itself. To produce a will good in itself reason was absolutely necessary, inasmuch as nature in distributing her capacities has everywhere gone to work in a purposive manner.” (§396)

6 But what is the “will that is good in itself”?
It has to do with duty. Doing something solely from duty is the only morally commendable thing. Okay, what’s duty? Here’s what it’s not: 1. Obviously, it’s not doing anything contrary to duty. Security guards obviously don’t have a duty to steal from their employers. 2. It’s also not when you do something that IS your duty, and you do it, but not because you really want to, but because it’s in your long-term self-interest. Like when a shopkeeper charges everyone the same price. It’s not because he’s committed to fairness or anything like that, it’s because he doesn’t want to get a reputation as a cheat. Even if he IS committed to fairness, this incentive remains, so charging a fair price isn’t morally commendable (§397)

7 But what is the “will that is good in itself”?
Duty is also not 3. When you do something that is in line with your duty, but you have no inclination not to do it. This isn’t moral, it’s just that your desires and morality happened to line up. You love & desire your wife, so you don’t cheat. You’re really happy, so you don’t kill yourself. You love your kid, so you feed her. What do you want, a parade? (§397) Duty IS: 4. When you don’t want to do something, and you have no incentive to do it, but you do it anyway because it’s right. You’re terribly unhappy, with no prospect of improvement, but you don’t kill yourself because that would be wrong. You’ve fallen out of love with your husband, but you still contribute to the household and treat him well, because you should. THIS has moral worth. (§398)

8 Duty Suppose there’s a man who loves humanity and can’t stand to see anyone suffer, so he goes around helping people. Now suppose there’s somebody who has no feeling whatsoever about other people, and seeing them suffer doesn’t bother her at all, but she still helps people because she knows it’s the right thing to do. She’s the moral person here. She “is benificent, not from inclination, but from duty.” (§398) It’s like when Jesus says to love your enemies. He can’t mean you should feel love for them, only that you should act as if you do. It’s “practical, not pathological love.” (pathos) (§399) It would be unreasonable to demand pathological love.

9 Duty 1. To have moral worth, an action must be done out of duty.
2. That action’s worth is not determined by its result, but the ‘maxim’ that decides it. Maxim: subjective principle of will that motivates an action 3. “Duty is the necessity of an action done out of respect for the law.” Law: An objective principle that could serve all individuals subjectively, as maxims, if reason were to master desire perfectly Respect for the law to the extent that it overwhelms and forces from consideration the desires and inclinations of the individual. An action of real moral worth must be undertaken purely out of this respect, excluding every desire and motive other than respect for law. (§ )

10 Reason & Morality But! We can never be sure of our motives. Even when we think we’re acting out of pure duty, it’s not possible to know the deepest motives for our actions. And it’s the motive, not the outcome, that matters! In this way, we can’t derive moral principles from examples Lots of apparently moral acts were in fact done out of emotion, not duty, and thus have no moral worth. They may be beneficial, but they aren’t moral. (§ )

11 Reason & Morality Only reason, not history, can guide us in determining what morality is We must even judge Jesus by our rationally-determined standards before we praise him Reason leads us from popular philosophy to philosophical judgment to metaphysics, the laws of morality “Everything in nature works according to laws. Only a rational being has the power to act according to his conception of laws, i.e., according to principles, and thereby he has a will.” (§ ) “The proper and inestimable worth of an absolutely good will consists precisely in the fact that the principle of action is free of all influences from contingent grounds, which only experience can furnish.” (§426) Reason exists a priori, apart from experience and from history True virtue is stripped of sensuality, reward, and self-love (fn. 19)

12 The Imperative When an objective principle necessitates the compliance of will, it is a “command (of reason).” The expression of the command is an imperative. All imperatives are expressed by an ought, because it indicates the relationship between an objective law of reason and a subjective will. All imperatives are either hypothetical or categorical Hypothetical: a means to an end “If you want to get a date, you should probably put on a clean shirt. No, not that one.” While all humans want to be happy, happiness looks different for everyone, so every imperative about it is hypothetical. Categorical: The action is objectively necessary in itself, not because of another end. (§ )

13 The Categorical Imperative
Morality is a categorical imperative It is not concerned with the outcome of the action, but with its form and motive Morality belongs to “free conduct as such, i.e., to morals (§416) What kind of law can guide the will perfectly, without any regard for outcome, that we could call absolutely good?

14 The Categorical Imperative
“There is only one categorical imperative and it is this: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” (§421) This is for Kant what real morality looks like The abstracting away of the individual This categorical imperative is the source of all the imperatives of duty. This universal imperative of duty may also be expressed: “Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature.” (§421) Autonomy vs. heteronomy auto nomos

15 The Categorical Imperative
If you find yourself transgressing duty, behaving immorally, you’ll find that either you do not want the maxim of your will to become a universal law. We make an exception for ourselves to serve our inclination Seen from the standpoint of reason, you are allowing inclination to trump your rational will(§424) The categorical imperative applies to all people at all times (§425)

16 Examples I’m in trouble, and the only way out of it is to make a promise that I have no intention of keeping. This seems to be in accord with prudence, but does it accord with duty? If I made my maxim (lie when convenient) a universal law, no one could trust anyone, and thus my lie would be ineffective. Seeing this, I must reject my maxim and tell the truth. (§ ) “What if everyone acted like that?”

17 Examples A man is very unhappy, sees no prospect for improvement, and his natural self-love leads him to want to kill himself. But can it be made a universal law that one ought to kill oneself out of self-love? This is absurd, and so his duty is to endure. Another man has a talent that would make him socially useful, but would like to be lazy and not develop it. But what would become of the world if everyone do this? Clearly, duty requires that he develop his ability.

18 Examples Yet another man is doing very well, but sees others suffer. May he say, “I got mine! You’re not my problem. I won’t hurt you, but I won’t help”? On the one hand, maybe the world would be better off if we minded out own business this way. Could it be a universal law? No, because times will inevitably arise when he needs help. If his maxim was made law, he would deprive himself of necessary assistance. (§423)

19 Ends and Means All humans have reason, and thus have wills
Thus, they must each be regarded as an end in themselves, not only as means to be used for this or that will. If one regards another, or the self, as a means, one ought not do so without regarding them as an end in themselves (§428) Animals have only conditioned ends. They cannot will a thing for its own sake. Thus, they do not have reason, and thus do not have wills. Thus, they have only relative value as means, and can be thought of as things. Rational beings, having wills, are not only subjective ends They have a value that is not reliant on our actions or value to us They are ends in themselves, and there exists no end for which they should be treated solely as means (§ )

20 The Practical Imperative
Rational nature exists as an end in itself All individuals ought think of their existence, treating it as an end in itself “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means.” (§429)

21 Examples I’m in trouble, and the only way out of it is to make a promise that I have no intention of keeping. By deceiving the other individual, I treat him as a means to my own happiness A man is very unhappy, sees no prospect for improvement, and his natural self-love leads him to want to kill himself. This would be treating himself only as a means to a tolerable existence. But a man is not a thing to be used!

22 Examples Another man has a talent that would make him socially useful, but would like to be lazy and not develop it. Inherent in humans are perfectible capacities. To neglect them is not consistent with regarding humans as as ends. To improve them is to be an end, to be fully human. Reason Yet another man is doing very well, but sees others suffer. May he say, “I got mine! You’re not my problem. I won’t hurt you, but I won’t help”? To help them is to recognize them as ends in themselves (§ )

23 Autonomy All practical laws are grounded in universality
All beings are ends in themselves The practical imperative is thus “the supreme condition of the will’s conformity with universal practical reason, viz., the idea of the will of every rational being as a will that legislates universal law.” “The will is thus not merely subject to the law but is subject to the law in such a way that it must be regarded also as legislating for itself and only on this account as being subject to the law (of which it can regard itself as the author.” (§431)

24 Autonomy All other ways of thinking & behaving are heteronomy
Being ruled directly by others Regarded by others purely as a means Having my will and behavior conditioned by my inclinations, and thus the practical necessities of serving them (§433)

25 The Kingdom of Ends Kingdom
A systematic union of different rational beings through common laws A society which recognizes each individual as an end Treating themselves and all others as ends in themselves, their autonomous, rational laws would be identical Every individual a legislator “In the kingdom of ends everything has either a price or a dignity. Whatever has a price can be replaced by something else as its equivalent; on the other hand, whatever is above all price, and therefore admits of no equivalent, has a dignity.” (§ )

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