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by: Elizabeth Kaur

PHILOLecture7 PHI 001

Elizabeth Kaur

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Seventh Lecture
Intro to Philosophy
George Mattey
Class Notes
The Division of Philosophical Labor, Philosophy 1, Introduction to Philosophy, Moral Worth, Duty, George Mattey, Law, A Priori, Imperatives, The Categorical Imperatives, Man as an End in Itself, Legislating Universal Law, The Kingdom of Ends, Compatibilis
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This 9 page Class Notes was uploaded by Elizabeth Kaur on Sunday January 31, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PHI 001 at University of California - Davis taught by George Mattey in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 9 views. For similar materials see Intro to Philosophy in PHIL-Philosophy at University of California - Davis.


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Date Created: 01/31/16
Kant’s Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals G. J. Mattey Winter, 2016/ Philosophy 1 The Division of Philosophical Labor • Kant generally endorses the ancient Greek division of philosophy into three branches: – Physics (Natural philosophy), – Ethics (Moral philosophy), – Logic. • Logic is concerned only with the forms of thinking. • Physics and ethics are concerned with objects and the laws to which those objects are subject: – Laws of nature (physics), – Laws of freedom (ethics). • Both physics and ethics have empirical and “pure,” a priori components. • Pure moral philosophy “is wholly cleared of anything which can only be empirical”(389). Pure Moral Philosophy Inclination is based on pleasure & pain Inclined to - based on pleasure Inclined not to - based on pain Obeying moral law Inclination are tugging on us The Good In Itself •Ancient ethicists claimed that the good for the human being is happiness (eudaimonia), however that is to be understood. • They claimed that “virtues” and external goods are what is conducive to human happiness. • Kant notes that both the “virtues” and external goods can help us to do bad things. • Even happiness can lead to bad states such as pride and arrogance. • If virtue or happiness go badly, it is because the person has a “bad will.” • The only way that we can avoid bad actions and bad states is through the exercise of a “good will.” • Kant concludes that a good will is the only thing which is good without qualification, or in itself. – Happiness is good only insofar as one is worthy of it, and one is worthy of happiness only by possessing a good will. Good for human beings is happiness Happiness can be understood in various ways -Aristotle Virtues are needed for the good life bc the good life is the virtuous life and external goods are needed for the good life. - InAristotle’s thought Kant says that virtues and external goods can still help us do bad things External goods ➔ greed, pursuit of wealth ➔ causes people to do all sorts of bad things Kant - Happiness is good only when it happens to somebody who is worthy of and deserves happiness. Kant believed that this was a reason to believe in god because in life some people in life were bad but they had happiness and people who deserved happiness were unhappy. Moral Worth •Agood will is a will that acts purely on the basis of duty. • Only such acts have moral worth. –An act that conforms to one’s duty but which is performed for some other reason has no moral value. –Amerchant charges a fair price because it will build a loyal clientele. • Sometimes one’s duties conflict with one’s inclinations or selfish purposes. – I help a person I do not like, and who may even do me harm at some later time. •Acts performed for duty and against inclination and selfish purpose have the highest moral worth. • Even promoting happiness has moral worth only insofar as it done out of duty. Duty based ethics -Agood will is a will that acts purely on the basis of duty. Ex. Seeing a friend because he is sick. But also wanting to see that friend regardless. Not really of any moral value because the inclination it conforms to the duty. Ex. Merchant charges a fair price because it will build a loyal clientele Not really of any moral value either because it’s doing something for the merchant Sometimes one’s duties conflict with one’s inclination or selfish purposes. You may help someone who may even turn around and help you later. Kant -Acts performed for duty and against inclination and selfish purpose have the highest moral worth. Acting from Duty •An action that is done out of duty is an action which is done out of respect for the law. •Adutiful action, like all other rational actions, proceeds according to a “maxim,” or subjective principle that guides the will. • Most maxims that motivate actions show us how to attain our ends. – When my house is unhealthfully unclean, and I want to maintain my health, I act on the maxim “Maintain your health by cleaning the house.” • The maxim of a dutiful action is: – Follow the law, even if your inclinations are thereby thwarted. The maxim of a dutiful action is: Follow the law, whatever your inclinations are. This is what makes an action have moral worth - for Kant • So, an action which has moral worth will performed solely in order to follow thelaw, which itself is objective. An action has moral worth when it’s done out of a maxim Following the Law • To sum up: – The only unqualified good is a good will, –Agood will acts only from duty, –Acting from duty is acting in order to follow the law. • But what is the law which a good will strives to follow? • Since the law in dutiful actions is indifferent to any of its effects, it will be purely formal in character. • The fundamental formal character of law is its universal application. • So, to “follow the law” is to act in such a way that one is willing to allow the maxim of acting to be applicable to all rational beings. •Agood will is a will which acts in a way that it would have every other will act. What is the law wish a good will strives to follow? Kant wants to say that the law has to be formal - It can’t be specific to a situation Universal application Comparable to the golden rule - do unto others as you wish others to do unto you An example • I am in distress, and one way to get out of my dire situation is to make a promise that I intend to break. • I might then act according to the following maxim: – “If there is no other way to get out of trouble, make a false promise.” •Acting from such a maxim “follows the law” only if I am willing to allow this maxim to be applicable universally. • But I cannot will the universal adoption of the maxim. • For then the maxim would be self-defeating, because it would result in a general breakdown in trust, in which case either: – My present lie would not be believed, and hence of no help to me, or – It would be believed, but people would be entitled to lie to me in return. I am in a bad financial situation and I borrow money from a friend and have no intention of paying him back. I might act according to the following maxim: “If there is no other way to get out of trouble, make a false promise.” The universal adoption of the maxim would be bad. No one would trust anyone. OR. It would be believed, but people would be entitled to lie to me in return. If everybody did it, Kant thought there would be a complete breakdown of trust and no point in making promises. Why We Need Moral Philosophy • The preceding account of goodness is taken from nothing more than “the moral cognition of ordinary human reason.” • Ordinary use of reason is sufficient to determine what one ought to do and is available to everyone. • So it might be thought that the everyday use of reason, in its “happy simplicity,” is therefore sufficient for the purposes of morals. • But a problem lies in the power of our needs and inclination, which push us away from strict devotion to duty. • There results a “dialectic,” in which the demands of duty are met with arguments in favor of the satisfaction of our needs and inclinations—in favor of “happiness.” • To secure their moral principles against these arguments, ordinary people must turn to philosophy. Kant thinks that there is a natural philosophical debate going on in our minds: duty vs happiness. Moral Concepts are ‘APriori’ • Experience cannot reveal a single instance of an action performed purely out of a strict devotion to duty. • Nonetheless, reason commands such actions, and we should investigate the origin of that command even if it will never be carried out. • The command to duty cannot arise from experience, because it holds for all rational beings. •And moral worth cannot be determined from examples, since we must first know what is morally good before we can determine what is a proper example of it. • Without an a priori moral philosophy, we are left with “a disgusting mishmash of patchwork observations and half-reasoned principles.” • Showing the a priori origin of moral concepts confers dignity on action from duty, which dignity, in turn, motivates dutiful action. Criterion of acting out of duty is that you do it in such a way that your inclination are not involved at all Does anyone act this way ever? We can’t tell by observing people. Kant - you have to do a theoretical experiment on what it would be like to act purely out of duty The command to do your duty cannot arise from experience because it holds for all rational beings. He says it arises from reason. Moral worth cannot be determined from examples. Kant says this because how can you pick your examples. Kant thought that if we discover that moral concepts (good.bad) are found in reason, not from experience or examples, there is a dignity to these concepts. Imperatives • When the human will acts for reasons, it does so by representing objective principles, which are called “commands.” • The formula of a command is an “imperative,” and is expressed by an “ought.” – “Imperatives say that something would be good to do or to refrain from doing.” • Imperatives apply only to human will, as a “holy will” would not act from anything but objective laws of the good. • Imperatives command in two ways: – Hypothetically: one should do x, in order to accomplish end y, – Categorically: one should do x, period. • Categorical imperatives alone are appropriate to morality. • We cannot tell from experience whether categorical imperatives are ever obeyed, so they must be investigated a priori. Follow the moral law! Command - expressed as an imperative - using “ought” Imperatives say that something would be good to do or to refrain from dong something Imperatives command in 2 ways Hypothetical - One should do x, in order to accomplish y (there is an end to be accomplished) Categorical - one should do x, period Only categorical imperatives are appropriate to morality We cannot tell from experience whether categorical imperatives are ever obeyed, so they must be investigated a priori. The Categorical Imperative • There is only one way to explain why one should perform an action without taking into account its end: – The action is one that conforms to a universal law. – I should do x because doing x conforms to law, and not because of any end it might promote. • So a general form of a categorical imperative is this: –Act in such a way that the maxim of the action can serve as a universal law. • Schematically, the categorical imperative functions in this way: – Should I do x? – Yes, if my reason for doing x can be a reason for everyone to do x. • This principle for action is now known as a principle of “universalizability.” Doing something without taking into account the end that could be accomplished The action is one that conforms to a universal law I should do x because doing x conforms to law and not because of any end it might provide So a general form of a categorical imperative is this Act in such a way that the maxim of the action can serve as a universal law The maxim is the principle that you invoke as the basis of your action (ex. work out to attain physical fitness) Schematically, the categorical imperative functions in this way Should I do x? Yes, if my reason for doing x can be a reason for everyone to do x Universalizability The Categorical Imperative and Duties • The categorical imperative is a very abstract principle. • If it is to serve as a moral law governing the actions of rational beings, the specific duties of those beings should be derivable from the imperative itself. • Kant derives instances of four kinds of duties, which are arranged according to the way duties were understood in his time. • By a “perfect duty,” Kant means a duty that permits no exceptions regarding what we are inclined to do. •An “imperfect duty,” then, allows for exceptions based on our inclinations. Perfect Imperfect To ourselves Preserve my own life Develop my talents To others Make honest promises Help others • In each case, a maxim allowing the violation of the duty cannot be universalized. An Example: Making Honest Promises • Perhaps the most famous of these examples is that of a perfect duty to others to make only honest promises to them, an example that was examined in the First Section. • Because the duty is said to be perfect, it should admit of no exceptions in favor of inclination. • Thus, it is forbidden to make a dishonest promise even if making that promise would help ourself (or someone else) escape from difficulty. •Amaxim allowing the making a dishonest promise is not universalizable, because if it were, all trust would be destroyed. • If all trust is destroyed, then making the promise would not serve my interest. • It is a standard objection to Kant that in some cases, such as that of preventing a murder, it is permissible to make a false promise. Justifying the Categorical Imperative •At this point, Kant has explained two things: – How an imperative could be categorical, – How a categorical imperative can account for all possible kinds of duties. • But he has yet to prove that there is a categorical imperative that applies to all rational beings. • The proof cannot be based on experience, given the generality of its application. • Yet it is tempting to appeal to empirical motives and laws, given the difficulty of: – Justifying objective laws like the categorical imperative a priori, – Deriving the authority of the categorical imperative to command from its a priori origin. • The task will require “a step into metaphysics.” The Ends ofAction • Ends are what determine the will to action. • There are two kinds of ends: – Objective ends, which depend on motives that are valid for all rational beings, – Subjective ends, which depend on desires that are relative to individuals. • Objective ends are ends in themselves, while subjective ends are only means to other ends. • Only objective ends could be the basis of a categorical imperative. – If there is a maxim that promotes an end which all rational beings have, such a maxim could be willed to be a universal law. Man as an End in Itself Kant: “Rational beings are called persons inasmuch as their nature already marks them out as ends in themselves.” All of you are ends for me and I am an end for all of you. Treat all other human beings as ends and not merely as mean to some end. Treat other people as having value in themselves and not as beings to your own ends. This is not accepted by everyone. Some people are okay with treating people as ends - Ex. “As long as I get my way” • Kant maintains that every rational being exists as an end in itself. – “Rational beings are called persons inasmuch as their nature already marks them out as ends in themselves.” •An end in itself is an end for every rational being. • In the specific case of human beings, all humans are ends in themselves and thus ends for every human being. • So I can universalize the following maxim: – Treat all other human beings as ends (and not merely as means to some end). • My reason for treating all humans (including myself) as ends is a reason for all humans to treat all humans as ends. • We can then explain the duty of honest promising, on the grounds that to promise dishonestly to another is to treat that other person as a means to my own ends. Legislating Universal Law Where the moral law comes from From reason Now, Kant tells us that our own will is an origin of the categorical imperative Given the universal scope of the categorical imperiatve, the rational will dictates universal law The universal law is independent of any of our special interests Because of its universal legislating activity, the will is called its autonomous Awill which is subject to external laws is heteronomous We dictate moral law to ourselves We build our own prison <- If you want to think about it this way • The moral law, as given in the categorical imperative, is not imposed on us from without. • Instead, it is dictated by the rational will itself. • So, given the universal scope of the categorical imperative, the rational will dictates universal law. • This universal law is independent of any of our special interests. • Because of its universal legislating activity, the will is called its “autonomous” (where the Greek “nomos” = “law”). •Awill which is subject to external laws is “heteronomous.” •Autonomy of the rational will is the only way to explain the a priori origin of the moral law. The Kingdom of Ends • The concept of an autonomous rational will gives rise to “another very fruitful concept,” that of a “kingdom of ends.” • Kant claims that it is possible that there be a systematic union of rational beings under legislation that mandates treating each one as an end. • Morality can then be understood in terms of a possible kingdom of ends: –Amoral act is one that is based on legislation that makes a kingdom of ends possible. • Potential membership in a kingdom of ends constitutes human dignity, which is intrinsic worth. • Dignity is beyond all price, because what has a price can be replaced by something with an equivalent price. •All the other virtues (skill at work, wit, etc.) give us only delight, which has a price but not intrinsic worth. An idealized world in which everyone treats everyone else as an end only, and not a means to an end. For Kant, this would be the best possible situation for any rational being to be in. Human dignity lies in the fact that we all have potential to be in the Kingdom of Ends When we adapt our behavior to the moral law, we are atlas qualifying ourselves for the Kingdom of End Dignity, Kant says, is something that cannot be bought, it is beyond all price, irreplaceable The Good Will • In Section One, Kant claimed that according to the common conception of morality, only a good will is good in itself. Kant was more interested in just and unjust actions Morally good person is one who has a good will.Agood will is defined in itself to do one’s duties, a dutiful person. • He now connects the concept of a good will with the categorical imperative, which is the highest principle of morality. Categorical Imperatives - it commands w/out any qualification at all “do it” “don’t do it” Universalizability Is it moral? Well, how would it be if everyone acted accordingly? If it’s bad, then you shouldn’t do it. We should also treat people as merely ends; not as means to an end. We should treat them as an end in him or herself. Legislating in the Kingdom of Ends - Kant has an idealized society where everyone treats everyone else as only ends. No one is treated as means. •Awill which is absolutely good is a will whose maxims can be universalized, i.e. a will which acts only on the basis of the categorical imperative. •An absolutely good will is therefore a will that legislates in the kingdom of ends. Kant thought that duty is based on human reason. So, he claimed human reason is the source of what he calls the moral law.And in fact, that human reason dictates the moral law. I, as a rational being, actually supply a law for myself. • Such a will is a “holy will,” which is the kind of will a supreme being would have. This will is something that can bring about dignity to human beings because the source lies within ourselves. • The dignity of the human will lies not in its being subject to the moral law, but in its being the source of its own law as an autonomous being. Spurious Principles of Morality •All genuine moral principles presuppose the autonomy of the rational will. • Spurious moral principles presuppose its heteronomy. – The law governing the will is sought in its objects, not in itself. • Such laws can only be hypothetical imperatives. • They may be based on either: – Experience, or – Pure reason. Against Empiricism in Ethics • Empirical principles of morality promote happiness as an end. • They may do so in one of two ways: –As private happiness, (whatAristotle was promoting - cultivate yourself in a way to be happy) –As a “moral feeling” that is produced by a special “moral sense.” We are equipped with a way of detecting moral actions and filtering out other actions so we can distinguish through what had been called a moral feeling between what’s a good and bad action. If someone does something and you say it’s wrong and they ask why, you might say well, i can’t give you a principle but it feels wrong to me.And anyone who is not corrupted more likely than not will see it’s wrong. •Aprinciple that promotes private happiness does not distinguish between virtue and vice. Kant says that private happiness is an impossible way of distinguishing between right and wrong. Good people can be unhappy and vice versa. • If there is a “moral feeling,” promoting it would be superior to promoting private happiness. Relativity - there’s no universal signal for what’s wrong and right There’s natural way to distinguish between right and wrong but that can be corrupted. • But feelings are variable among people and therefore cannot provide a universal standard for distinguishing right actions from wrong actions. Against Rationalism in Ethics • Some moral philosophers try to derive moral principles analytically from a concept of perfection: (some kind of moral perfection - if we can understand this, we will know moral from immoral) (very Platonic approach) – Divine perfection, or To look at a perfect being, to look at God – Ontological perfection (maximal degree of reality) Very abstract notion. The most perfect being, the most real being • But a definite conception of divine perfection can only be constructed in two ways: – From ourselves, in which case we do not need to appeal to divine perfection, Look at God as an idealized human being (us without all of our faults) But if we take ourselves as an example, we don’t need to appeal to god because we’re getting the standards from ourselves – From ideas of domination and vengeance, which have no place in morality. The moral law is dictated by god and then whether we are acting morally or not depends on whether or not we conform to god’s or divine law and if we do, we’ll be rewarded and, if not, punished This notion of domination, laying down the law, or vengeance, punishing • We have no definite conception of ontological perfection (maximal degree of reality) We don’t really have a good understanding. Just pure perfection • Because it is empty, ontological perfection at least does not conflict with morality, and so it is better. There’s no domination, or vengeance. There’s nothing that conflicts with morality. • It is also better than any empirical concept, because it is not corrupted by a connection to experience. But it still doesn’t give us what we want. Rational Man and Natural Man Kant has described in the first two section of his book what the moral law is. But is it really a moral law for human beings? We could say that if we as humans have a rational will then this will is autonomous and will give laws to itself. • In Section Three, Kant discusses the question of how the categorical imperative is related to human beings. • If a human being has a rational will, it is autonomous and lays down the moral law for itself. • But human beings exist in the natural world and act in that world according to their desires and inclinations. Our problem is our bodies. We want to avoid pain, we want pleasure. We act on the basis of impulses as Hobbes said. • In order for it to be possible for humans to have an autonomous rational will, it must be possible to conceive of them as beings acting independently of their desires and inclinations. Human beings have two completely isolated bases of action. Natural inclinations VS the law that the rational will lays down. And these two are often in conflict • To do so, we must distinguish humans as appearances in nature and as things in themselves that are not subject to natural “springs” of action. Kant splits the being into two parts 1. The Natural part “Appearance” 2. The Rational Will “Athing in itself, independent of experience”, it can act on it’s own. • Thus, our rational will, which is the basis of morality, must be conceived as a member of an intelligible world, in which we would do what in nature we ought to do. Ration will - inhabits its own word “an intelligible world” - Kant Compatibilism • The doctrine of the necessity of all natural actions appears to threaten the freedom of the rational will that underlies reality. ‘Ought’implies ‘can’ • But there is a way to reconcile the two. •Agiven human action may be regarded as the product of both: – Desire and inclination, (natural cause) and – The free exercise of the rational will This is possible because of the division of the human being: “natural” vs “rational” • The compatibility is due to the fact that the human being can be regarded as appearance and as thing in itself. • But although we must, for purposes of morality, think that we are free, we cannot comprehend how we are free. We have to assume that this is possible because otherwise there is no morality. We have to think we are free in some way not to do it. •And because it is detached from all interests, the unconditional “ought” laid down by the categorical imperative is incomprehensible. Kant thought that the moral law led to the categorical imperative “Transcendental Freedom” - what Kant called it


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