Immanuel Kant Metaphysics of Morals

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Immanuel Kant Metaphysics of Morals

Kant argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he dubbed the “Categorical Imperative” (CI). Immorality thus involves a violation of the CI and is thereby irrational. This argument was based on his striking doctrine that a rational will must be regarded as autonomous, or free in the sense of being the author of the law that binds it. The fundamental principle of morality ? the CI ? is none other than this law of an autonomous will.

Thus, at the heart of Kant’s moral philosophy is a conception of reason whose reach in practical affairs goes well beyond that of a Humean ?slave’ to the passions. Moreover, it is the presence of this self-governing reason in each person that Kant thought offered decisive grounds for viewing each as possessed of equal worth and deserving of equal respect.

In Kant’s terms, a good will is a will whose decisions are wholly determined by moral demands or as he refers to this, by the Moral Law Kant’s analysis of commonsense ideas begins with the thought that the only thing good without qualification is a ? good will’. While the phrases ? he’s good hearted’, ? she’s good natured’ and ? she means well’ are common, ?

the good will’ as Kant thinks of it is not the same as any of these ordinary notions. The idea of a good will is closer to the idea of a ? good person’, or, more archaically, a ? person of good will’ The basic idea is that what makes a good person good is his possession of a will that is in a certain way ? determined’ by, or makes its decisions on the basis of, the moral law The idea of a good will is supposed to be the idea of one who only makes decisions that she holds to be morally worthy, taking moral considerations in themselves to be conclusive reasons for guiding her behavior.

This sort of disposition or character is something we all highly value. Kant believes we value it without limitation or qualification. First, unlike anything else, there is no conceivable circumstance in which we regard our own moral goodness as worth forfeiting simply in order to obtain some desirable object Second, as a consequence, possessing and maintaining one’s moral goodness is the very condition under which anything else is worth having or pursuing.

Intelligence and even pleasure are worth having only on the condition that they do not require giving up a commitment to honor one’s fundamental moral convictions In Kant’s terms, a good will is a will whose decisions are wholly determined by moral demands or as he refers to this, by the Moral Law A holy ordivine will, if it exists, though good, would not be good because it is motivated by thoughts of duty. argues that a dutiful action from any of these motives, however praiseworthy it may be, does not express a good will and other outcomes of lawful behavior.

Indeed, we respect these laws to the degree, but only to the degree, that they do not violate values, laws or principles we hold more dear. Yet Kant thinks in acting from duty that we are not at all motivated by a prospective outcome or some other extrinsic feature of our conduct. We are motivated by the mere conformity of our will to law as such Kant holds that the fundamental principle at the basis of all of our moral duties is a categoricalimperative.

It is an imperative because it is a command (e. g. , “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”) More precisely, it commands us to exercise our wills in a particular way, not to perform some action or other. It is categorical in virtue of applying to us unconditionally, or simply because we possesses rational wills, without reference to any ends that we might or might not have. It does not, in other words, apply to us on the condition that we have antecedently adopted some goal for ourselves. Kant’s first formulation of the CI states that you are to “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.

” First, formulate a maxim that enshrines your reason for acting as you propose. Second, recast that maxim as a universal law of nature governing all rational agents, and so as holding that all must, by natural law, act as you yourself propose to act in these circumstances. Third, consider whether your maxim is even conceivable in a world governed by this law of nature. If it is, then, fourth, ask yourself whether you would, or could, rationally will to act on your maxim in such a world. If you could, then your action is morally permissible.

Kant held that ordinary moral thought recognized moral duties toward ourselves as well as toward others. Hence, together with the distinction between perfect and imperfect duties, we recognize four categories of duties: perfect duties toward ourselves, perfect duties toward others, imperfect duties toward ourselves and imperfect duties toward others Kant’s example of a perfect duty to others concerns a promise you might consider making but have no intention of keeping in order to get needed money At the heart of Kant’s moral theory is the position that rational human wills are.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 14 November 2016

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