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15. Spring 2018 Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals 2

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Alison Suen

on 30 October 2018

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Transcript of 15. Spring 2018 Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals 2

Only actions done from duty are morally worthy
Suppose I help my grandma
because I want to make sure she leaves me a sizable inheritance
, Kant would say that while I am acting in accord with duty, I am not acting from duty. I help her only because it is in my interest to help her.
Ethics of Motive
"Thus the moral worth of an action does not lie in the effect which is expected from it" (17)
The first proposition of morality
NB
: Kant is
not
saying that we must dislike our action in order for it to have any moral worth.
Actions in relation to duty
1) Actions contrary to duty
Good will and Duty
If you have a
perfectly good will
, and if you are always inclined to do the right thing, then the concept of duty will
not
be applicable to you.
Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals 2
1) Actions contrary to duty
Cheating on your partner
Creatures like us
But creatures like us (humans)
do not
have a perfectly good will -- we can, but do not always, act with our good will. The concept of duty arises precisely because we are not always inclined to do the right thing
imperfect will
What is "good without limitation (qualification)"?
Good will
Traits such as "self-control," "moderation in emotions" are good, but not "good without limitation." In fact, they can become "extremely bad" without a good will. Why? (394)
Consider a serial killer. A successful serial killer requires self-discipline and self-control. In fact, a serial killing can probably control his/her emotions better than an average person.
The concept of duty is not applicable to someone with a perfectly good will (e.g., God as it is commonly conceived)
If someone does not have the inclination to do wrong, then doing what is right would not present itself
as a duty
2) Actions in accord (consistent) with duty, but not from duty
3) Actions done from duty
2) Actions in accord with, but not from, duty
a) actions done from a self-interested motive, but the agent is not inclined (does not desire) to do it
3) Actions done from duty
the agent performs the right action
because
it is her duty to do so
b) actions done from an immediate inclination (i.e., the agent desires the action)
What separate 2) and 3) is our
motive
But what if I am helping my grandma
because

it makes me happy
to see that she is happy? According to Kant, this is still not an action done from duty--you are helping simply because
you want to do it
. So it has no moral worth!
Suppose I hate my grandma. I don't need her money (and she has none to leave anyway) and I derive no joy in helping her and seeing her happy. Yet I decided to help her
because it is my duty to help others
.
For Kant, this is a clear example of an action done from duty, and not merely in accord with duty.
To have genuine moral worth, an action must be done from duty (pp.15-16)
Neither is Kant suggesting that our action should never serve our interests. The grandma case is supposed to illustrate a
clear case
of an action done from duty.
An action can still be morally worthy even if it is
consistent with
our interests or desires. However, its moral worthiness comes from the fact that the agent is doing it because
it is the right thing (duty) to do
.
Another example: the duty to help others --
Suppose my grandma called because she needs someone to take her to the doctor. If I say no (even though I could do it), I would be acting contrary to duty.
Faithful to your partner because they are rich, even though they annoy you and you don't love them.
Faithful to your partner because they are hot.
Faithful to your partner even though you are not attracted to them anymore, and that you don't stand to gain anything from this relationship.
"The good will is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes or because of its competence to achieve some intended end...even if this [good] will is wholly lacking in power to accomplish its purpose...it would sparkle like a jewel all by itself, as something that had its full worth in itself" (10)
Kant's view is clearly different from that of a utilitarian. For Kant, an action is morally worthy not because it produces favourable consequences, but that the agent has the
correct
motive.
Second proposition of morality
An action is morally worthy not because of its consequences ("the purpose which is to be achieved"), but because of its
maxim
.
Maxim
:
the principle that guides my action in a given situation
Laws of ethics: "laws according to which everything ought to be happen, but allow for conditions under which what ought to happen often does not" (free will)
e.g., suppose you love tacos and brownies, and you'd eat them for lunch everyday. Imagine your boss now commands, "everyone
must
eat brownies and tacos for lunch today, or else they get fired." Even though it is something that you ought to (must) do, it would not
present itself as a duty
Duty: being faithful to your partner
The moral value of an action cannot lie in its expected consequences -- why?
The consequences of our actions are not always what we expect them to be
ex 1. a store owner was robbed and had to undergo surgery to remove the bullet. During the surgery an embolism was discovered thus saving her life -- it doesn't seem right for the robbers to take credit
A plan of action that frames how you'd act in a certain situation.
Not always explicit: Suppose you see someone with a flat tire and you offer to help. You don't need to explicitly say/think "Here's my maxim: I ought to help this person change his tire because it is my duty to help" -- but you should be able to give an account of your
motivation
, if asked
example
see worksheet
ex 2. your friend had a headache and she asked you for an aspirin. Unbeknownst to you, your brother stored his prescription in an old aspirin bottle. As a result, you accidentally gave her adderall -- inducing a panic attack
"You must not lie"
If you were planning on telling the truth anyway, this command would not *feel like* a duty to you
But if you were inclined to lie, then you would feel the weight of this command -- it presents itself as a duty
Someone with a
perfectly good will
would have no inclination to do any wrong, so moral rules won't present themselves duties to them
Full transcript