I Dislike Clowns Posted September 11, 2004 Share Posted September 11, 2004 Philosophy 302: Ethics Kantian Ethics (beta) Abstract: Kant's notion of the good will and the categorical imperative are very briefly sketched here. Notes are incomplete. Introduction: An attraction to the Kantian doctrines of obligation is begun along the following lines: (1) If the purpose of life were just to achieve happiness, then we would all seek pleasure and gratification and hope that it would lead to happiness. The problem is that happiness is not totally within our power to achieve; to a large extent, happiness is a matter of luck. (2) If we are to avoid nihilism and skepticism and our ethics is to work, it must be unconditional (no exceptions) and universal (applicable to all human beings). -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I. The good will is the only good without qualification. The good will is a will that acts for the sake of duty, as a "good-in-itself." Kant emphasizes these important considerations about duty: The class of actions in accordance with duty must be distinguished from the class of actions performed for the sake of duty. Kant believes only actions performed for the sake of duty have moral worth. He seems to suggest that the greater one's disinclination to act for the sake of duty, the greater the moral worth of the action. If one performs an action by inclination, then that action has no moral worth. Yet, isn't Aristotle correct is his assessment of the formation of character through habit? Isn't it better to do things from inclination? E.g., suppose an acquaintance has to struggle with himself not to start rumors about you and is successful. Should his actions be valued more that an acquaintance who is fair to you by habit? Or as Stace points out, "Isn't it better to do one's duty cheerfully than begrudgingly?" II. Duty is the necessity of acting out of reverence for universal law. Moral value is essentially established by the intention of the person acting. Maxim: a particular directive, a subjective principle of volition (a principle upon which you act). The nature of the maxim upon which an action is based is the manner in which intentions are expressed. Hypothetical Imperative: a conditional maxim based on relative means/ends in the everyday world or every-day circumstances. The goal is not based on pure reason alone but usually upon desires. E.g., "If you want to be confident, then study hard." Categorical Imperative: a rule stating what ought to be done based upon pure reason alone and not contingent upon sensible desires. "I am never to act otherwise than to will that my maxim should become universal law." Moral rules, then, have no exceptions. Killing is always wrong. Lying is always wrong. Ethics, then, is not based on consequences, as it is, for example in utilitarianism. The consequences of our decisions are beyond our control. Is there a problem with event-description in pure practical reason? No two situations in our experience are alike. How much of a difference makes a difference in the application of the Categorical Imperative? Practical Imperative: "Act to treat humanity, whether yourself or another, as an end-in-itself and never as a means." Don't use people in order to obtain your goals or seek an edge or unfair advantage. People have rights which would supercede, for example, the tyranny of the majority in utilitarianism. How far should respect for persons proceed? What if you are constantly used by other persons? Does the practical imperative imply that we should have no goals? What do you think of them? :sneaky: :sneaky: :sneaky: :angry: :angry: :angry: Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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