1 Duty and Categorical Rules Immanuel Kant Introduction to Ethics, PHIL 118 Professor Douglas Olena
2 Preview This selection from Kant includes: The description of the Good Will The concept of Duty An introduction to the Natural Moral Law
3 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical The Philosophical Knowledge of Morality 171 Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good, without qualification, except a Good Will. Intelligence, wit, judgment, and the other talents of the mind, however they may be named, or courage, resolution, perseverance, as qualities of temperament, are undoubtedly good and desirable in many respects
4 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical The Philosophical Knowledge of Morality 171 but these gifts of nature may also become extremely bad and mischievous if the will which is to make use of them, and which, therefore, constitutes what is called character, is not good.
5 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 171 It is the same with the gi!s of fortune, power, riches, honor, even health, and the general well-being and contentment with one s condition which is called happiness, inspire pride, and often presumption, if there is not a good will to correct the influence of these on the mind. The sight of a being who is not adorned with a single feature of a pure and good will, enjoying unbroken prosperity, can never give pleasure to an impartial spectator.
6 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 171 Thus a good will appears to constitute the indispensable condition even of being worthy of happiness.
7 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 171 Moderation in the affections and passions, selfcontrol, and calm deliberation are not only good in many respects, but even seem to constitute part of the intrinsic worth of the person (virtue) But they are far from deserving to be called good without qualification. For without the principles of a good will, they may become extremely bad.
8 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 171 And the coolness of a villain not only makes him far more dangerous, but also makes him more abominable in our eyes than he would have been without it.
9 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 171 The good will is good in itself and more to be esteemed than all the good that can be brought about by it. It is good even if it performs no act. 172 Its usefulness or fruitlessness can neither add nor take away anything from this value. In order to clear up the idea of good will we will examine the notion of duty, which includes that of a good will.
10 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical The first proposition is that in order to have moral worth an action must be done out of duty unalloyed by inclination or self-interest.
11 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 172 For example, it is always a matter of duty that a dealer should not overcharge an inexperienced purchaser. But it is not a duty when the shopkeeper has done this as a matter of self interest, in order that everyone should know he is a fair businessman. It is not a matter of duty when there is some inclination or other driving the effort to do good or right. It is only duty when any other motivation is taken away and the good deed is done anyway.
12 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 172 To be beneficent when we can is a duty; and besides this, there are many minds so sympathetically constituted that, without any other motive of vanity or self-interest, they find pleasure in spreading joy around them, and can take delight in the satisfaction of others so far as it is their own work. But this has no moral worth because it is on par with other inclinations, e.g. the inclination to honor.
13 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 172, 173 Take the case of the philanthropist who has lost all inclination and self-interested motives, who is now in great personal distress, and now suppose he tears himself out of this dead insensibility, and performs the action without any inclination to it, but simply from duty, then first has his action its genuine moral worth.
14 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 173 It is just in this that the moral worth of the character is brought out which is incomparably the highest of all, namely, that he is beneficent, not from inclination, but from duty. To secure one s own happiness is a duty, at least indirectly. Ordinary discontent and the inclination to transgress is a constant temptation, so that one must promote one s own happiness as a duty and by this would his conduct first acquire true moral worth.
15 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 173 It is in this manner, undoubtedly, that we are to understand those passages of Scripture also in which we are commanded to love our neighbor, even our enemy. For love, as an affection, cannot be commanded, but beneficence for duty s sake may; even though we are not impelled to it by any inclination nay, are even repelled by a natural and unconquerable aversion.
16 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 173 This is practical love, and not pathological a love which is seated in the will, and not in the propensions of sense in principles of action and not of tender sympathy; and it is this love alone which can be commanded.
17 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 173 The second proposition is: That an action done from duty derives its moral worth, not "om the purpose which is to be attained by it, but from the maxim by which it is determined and therefore does not depend on the realization of the object of the action, but merely on the principle of volition by which the action has taken place, without regard to any object of desire.
18 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 173 The third proposition, which is a consequence of the two preceding, I would express thus: Duty is the necessity of acting "om respect for the law. 173, 174 I may have inclination for an object or just bare inclination of my own or another s, say to do something for the enjoyment of it. It is only what is connected with my will as a principle overpowering my inclination, but simply the law of itself, which can be an object of respect, and hence a command.
19 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 174 Now an action from duty must wholly exclude the influence of inclination, and with it every object of the will, so that nothing remains which can determine the will except objectively the law, and subjectively pure respect for this practical law and consequently the maxim that I should follow this law even to the thwarting of all my inclinations.
20 Transition from the Common Rational Knowledge of Morality to the Philosophical 174 Thus the moral worth of an action does not lie in the effect expected from it, nor on anything that depends on the effect. The pre-eminent good which we call moral can therefore consist in nothing else than the conception of law in itself, #hich certainly is only possible in a rational being. To see this good does not require the observation of an action, for it is good in itself.
21 Review of what we ve covered so far. In the transition from the common rational knowledge of morality to the philosophical section we ve encountered four ideas. 1. The concept of the good will being good in itself without respect to what a person does; 2. The concept of duty as being the kind of activity done not for the goal or object to be gained but because it fulfills the requirement of beneficence, not because a person is inclined to do it or gains honor from doing it, but out of a good will;
22 Review of what we ve covered so far. 3. Duty is the necessity of acting from respect for the law, the law being the natural moral law or practical reason. 4. The pre-eminent good which we call moral can therefore consist in nothing else than the conception of law in itself, which certainly is only possible in a rational being.
23 Preview This selection from Kant includes: The distinction between the Hypothetical and Categorical Imperative Kanťs conception of Happiness More on the Universal Natural Law Four examples of duties How to universalize our maxim of action
24 Hypothetical and Categorical Imperatives 174 Rational beings alone have the faculty of acting according to the conception of laws, that is according to principles. If reason infallibly determines the will, then the actions of such a being which are recognized as objectively necessary are subjectively necessary also, i.e. the will is a faculty to choose that only which reason independent of inclination recognizes as practically necessary, i.e. as good.
25 Hypothetical and Categorical Imperatives 174 The conception of an objective principle, in so far as it is obligatory for a will, is called a command and the formula of the command is called an Imperative. All imperatives are expressed by the word ought [or sha%] showing the relationship between the law (derived by reason) and a will. 175 Imperatives are only formulae to express the relation of objective laws of all volition to the subjective imperfection of the human will.
26 Hypothetical and Categorical Imperatives 175 All imperatives command either hypothetica%y or categorica%y. If now the action is good only as a means to something else, then the imperative is hypothetical; if it is conceived as good in itself and consequently as being necessarily the principle of a will which of itself conforms to reason, then it is categorical.
27 Hypothetical and Categorical Imperatives 175 To Kant, happiness is an end in itself, which we all actually have by a natural necessity. To attain happiness one must have the skill to produce it. Kant suggests the skill required is prudence. The imperative which refers to the choice of means to one s own happiness is still always hypothetical; the action is not commanded absolutely, but only as means to another purpose. All hypothetical imperatives lead to happiness.
28 Hypothetical and Categorical Imperatives 175, 176 A categorical imperative commands a certain conduct immediately, without having as its condition any other purpose to be attained by it. This is the duty of the good will.
29 Hypothetical and Categorical Imperatives 176 Kant distinguishes 3 kinds of imperatives: Technical Pragmatic Moral He asks then how these imperatives are possible.
30 The Technical and Prudential Imperative 176 The Technical imperative is simple. Whoever wills to accomplish some technical goal that requires special skill also implies that the skill must be attained to accomplish the goal. This is an analytic or deductively logical imperative. The Pragmatic imperative is not so simple. The means to attain happiness as a goal are so varied and indefinite that there is no particular skill of prudence that is absolutely commanded to attain it.
31 The Prudential Imperative Kanťs Conception of Happiness 176 Unfortunately, the notion of happiness is so indefinite that although every man wishes to attain it, yet he never can say definitely and consistently what it is that he really wishes and wills. 177 In short, he is unable, on any principle, to determine with certainty what would make him truly happy; because to do so he would need to be omniscient. Kant will agree with Aristotle that attaining happiness requires the exercise of the virtues, but suggests that the required virtues are empirical, requiring practice.
32 The Moral Imperative 177 The question how the imperative of morality is possible, is undoubtedly one, the only one, demanding a solution, as this is not at all hypothetical, and the objective necessity which it presents cannot rest on any hypothesis. Kant suggests that rule against lying is one such moral imperative, but conditions the assertion by showing that there may be many reasons a person would avoid lying that are pragmatic, such as the possible fear of disgrace.
33 The Moral Imperative 177 Kant tells us that since the possibility of a categorical imperative is not empirical, given to us by experience, we must examine the rationale for assuming it to actually be possible. The unconditional command leaves the will no liberty to choose the opposite; consequently it alone carries with it the necessity which we require in a law. Remember what is invested in Kanťs conception of the Law.
34 The Moral Imperative 177 In the case of this categorical imperative or law of morality, the difficulty (of discerning its possibility) is a very profound one. 178 Does the idea of even having a categorical imperative suggest what the formula is for deriving it? But when I conceive a categorical imperative, I know at once what it contains. For the imperative contains besides the law only the necessity that the maxims shall conform to this law.
35 The Categorical Imperative 178 There is therefore but one categorical imperative, namely, this: Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at th& same time wi% that it should become a universal law. And since any universal law is also a law of nature, our duty would be expressed this way: Act as if the maxim of the action were to become by thy wi% a universal law of nature. Kant then proceeds to examine what he takes to be universal laws of nature derivable by the categorical imperative.
36 Examples 178, 179 Examples of duties we take to be compelling that could be derivable by the categorical imperative: 1. Duty not to commit suicide 2. Duty not to make a lying promise 3. Duty to develop and use natural talents 4. Duty of beneficence
37 Examination of Duties: Do not commit suicide. 178 His maxim is: From self-love I adopt it as a principle to shorten my life when its longer duration is likely to bring more evil than good. How can he know whether it will be evil or good? Isn t it also a duty to seek to improve your life? To make his principle a law of nature would be wholly inconsistent with the supreme principle of all duty.
38 Examination of Duties: Do not make a lying promise. 178 His maxim is: When I think myself in want of money, I will borrow money and promise to repay it, although I know that I never can do so. How would it be if my maxim were a universal law? Society would crumble because at the very least any society must have trust at its foundation. Soon no one would trust anyone if this maxim became a universal law.
39 Examination of Duties: Duty to develop natural gifts. 179 His maxim is: When in comfortable circumstances, there is no need to enlarge and improve my happy natural capacities. How would it be if my maxim were a universal law? This could not work in any place except in the south sea islands where everything is provided by nature. Ordinary life and even survival requires the development of our natural gifts and capacities.
40 Examination of Duties: Duty of beneficence. 179 His maxim is: Though I can do good there is nothing that requires that I do good for the less fortunate, or even for those in desperate straits. How would it be if my maxim were a universal law? This principle though not ensuring the failure of the individual would in the case where the individual fell into destitution leave him without any help whatsoever. Why should anyone help this man?
41 Willing the Maxim 179 We must be able to wi% that a maxim of our action should be a universal law. All of our duties and obligations depend on the same principle.
42 Willing the Maxim There are perfect and imperfect duties. Some must be done. Do not lie. Others must be done conditionally. One cannot give all one s wealth away to the poor leaving one s self destitute in need of charity.
43 A Contradiction 179, 180 If we considered all cases from one and the same point of view, namely, that of reason, we should find a contradiction in our own will, namely, that a certain principle should be objectively necessary as a universal law, and yet subjectively should not be universal, but admit of exceptions.
44 Short Review There are categorical and hypothetical imperatives. The difference between them is that categorical imperatives are absolute duties while hypothetical imperatives are good for achieving other goals, including happiness. There is only one categorical imperative. The principles derived from it are tantamount to laws. Some principles are perfect and some imperfect.
45 Preview The source of a possible categorical imperative The Practical Imperative Kingdom of Ends Principles of Rationality Morality and Duty
46 A Source of a Possible Categorical Imperative 180 Supposing, however, that there were something #hose existence has in itself an absolute worth, something which, being an end in itself, could be a source of definite laws, then in this and this alone would lie the source of a possible categorical imperative, i.e. a practical law. Now I say: man and generally any rational being exists as an end in himself, not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will [and] must be always regarded at the same time as an end.
47 The Practical Imperative 180 Rational beings are called persons, because their very nature points them out as ends in themselves, that is as something which must not be used merely as a means. The foundation of this principle is: rational nature exists as an end in itself. Accordingly the practical imperative will be as follows: so act as to treat humanity whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as means only.
48 The Practical Imperative Return to the four examples: 180 Under the head of necessary duty to oneself: He who contemplates suicide should ask himself whether his action can be consistent with the idea of humanity as a' end in itself. If he destroys himself he uses a person merely as a mean. 181 As regards necessary duties, or those of strict obligation to others; he who is thinking of making a lying promise to others will see at once that he would be using another man merely as a mean.
49 The Practical Imperative Return to the four examples: 181 As regards contingent duties to oneself; it is not enough that an action does not violate humanity in our own person as an end in itself, it must also harmonize with it. Kant has a view about human improvement. With respect to human improvement, a person who does not improve himself, is not contrary to treating man as an end in himself, but is contrary to advancement toward the inevitable improvement of mankind.
50 The Practical Imperative Return to the four examples: 181 As regards meritorious duties toward others: the natural end which all men have is their own happiness. Now humanity might indeed subsist, although no one should contribute anything to the happiness of others Here as in the self improvement example we begin to see what Kant intends for the community of humans. There is something besides duty that binds us all together.
51 The Practical Imperative We do not have an absolute duty to improve ourselves or to provide mankind with happiness. 181 Disappointingly, all the labor spent in finding a supreme principle of duty was irrevocably lost. In any case the imperative must be conditional, and could not by any means be capable of being a moral command. I will therefore call this the principle of Autonomy of the will.
52 The Kingdom of Ends 181 The conception of every rational being as one which must consider itself as giving in all the maxims of its will universal laws [is] that of a kingdom of ends. By a kingdom I understand the union of different rational beings in a system by common laws. 181, 182 For all rational beings come under the law that each of them must treat itself and all others never merely as means, but in every case at the same time as ends in themselves.
53 The Kingdom of Ends 182 A rational being belongs as a member to the kingdom of ends when although giving universal laws in it, he is also himself subject to these laws. He belongs to it as sovereign when, while giving laws, he is not subject to the will of any other.
54 Reiteration of the Categorical Imperative 182 This principle, then, is its supreme law: Act always on such a maxim as thou canst at the same time will to be a universal law; this is the sole condition under which a will can never contradict itself; and such an imperative is categorical.
55 Alternate Restatements of the Categorical Imperative 182 Act on maxims which can at the same time have for their object themselves as universal laws of nature. Such then is the formula of an absolutely good will. What Kant has done here is to put every rational being into the kingdom of ends. In this kingdom, each participant is both a lawmaker and a subject to the same laws.
56 Alternate Restatements of the Categorical Imperative 182 So act in regard to every rational being (thyself and others), that he may always have place in thy maxim as an end in himself. Act upon a maxim which, at the same time, involves its own universal validity for every rational being.
57 Principles of Rationality 182 In this way a world of rational beings is possible as a kingdom of ends, and this by virtue of the legislation proper to all persons as members. 183 A kingdom of ends is thus only possible by maxims, that is self-imposed rules And it is this that makes every rational subject worthy to be a legislative member in the kingdom of ends: for otherwise he would have to be conceived only as subject to the physical law of his wants.
58 Morality and Duty 183 Morality, then, is the relation of actions to the autonomy of the will, that is to the potential universal legislation by its maxims. An action that is consistent with the autonomy of the will is permitted; one that does not agree therewith is forbidden. A will whose maxims necessarily coincide with the laws of autonomy is a holy will, good absolutely. The objective necessity of actions from obligation is called duty.
59 Dignity 183 The dignity of humanity consists just in this capacity of being universally legislative, though with the condition that it is itself subject to this same legislation.
60 Review i In the transition from the common rational knowledge of morality to the philosophical section we ve encountered four ideas. 1. The concept of the good will being good in itself without respect to what a person does; 2. The concept of duty as being the kind of activity done not for the goal or object to be gained but because it fulfills the requirement of beneficence, not because a person is inclined to do it or gains honor from doing it, but out of a good will;
61 Review ii 3. Duty is the necessity of acting from respect for the law, the law being the natural moral law or practical reason. 4. The pre-eminent good which we call moral can therefore consist in nothing else than the conception of law in itself, which certainly is only possible in a rational being.
62 Review iii There are categorical and hypothetical imperatives. The difference between them is that categorical imperatives are absolute duties while hypothetical imperatives are good for achieving other goals, including happiness. There is only one categorical imperative. The principles derived from it are tantamount to laws. Some principles are perfect and some imperfect.
63 Review iv The source of a possible categorical imperative is the individual rational person The Practical Imperative: never treat anyone as a merely a means. Kingdom of Ends: by exercising the categorical imperative to create laws that take into account the practical imperative we become subject to those same laws. Principles of Rationality Morality and Duty
64 Review v Principles of Rationality: And it is this that makes every rational subject worthy to be a legislative member in the kingdom of ends: for otherwise he would have to be conceived only as subject to the physical law of his wants.
65 Review v Morality and Duty: 183 Morality, then, is the relation of actions to the autonomy of the will, that is to the potential universal legislation by its maxims. An action that is consistent with the autonomy of the will is permitted; one that does not agree therewith is forbidden. The objective necessity of actions from obligation is called duty.
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