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Kant Groundwork 33111

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Luis Montes

on 8 April 2014

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Transcript of Kant Groundwork 33111

Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
MORALITY
- What is justice/morality?
- Why should I be just/moral?
- Is the just life better than
the unjust?
- Is justice essentially good?
- Or is justice only good as a
means to something else.
- How does one become just?
- Why should I be just/moral?
Glaucon: Because being just is most likely
to protect you from harm...

Socrates: To be just is essentially good and essentially connected to the proper functioning of human beings...

Consequentialists: Because being moral will lead to the best overall outcome.
Kant said:
NO!
If being moral is only a good thing because it leads to so-called "good consequences" then there may be cases where the best thing to do is
immoral
.
Again, NO!
It is morally permissible to
save the five at the expense
of the one.
It is NOT morally permissible
to save the five at the
expense of the one.
The consequentialist theory of morality would say that the five should be saved in both cases--that the moral requirement to
not commit murder
could permissibly be
violated
in some cases.

Kant wanted to give a theory of morality (an answer to the question, "Why should I be moral?") that would treat moral requirements as absolutely binding.
Kant's goal:
To show (1)
that
moral requirements
are binding on all people (i.e. to
that everyone is required to act
morally) and
(2)
why
moral requirements are
binding on all people.
Kant's argument:
Conclusion: all rational agents are bound by moral requirements.
If all rational agents are bound by the categorical imperative,
then all rational agents are bound by moral requirements.
If all rational agents are self-legislating,
then all rational agents are bound by the categorical imperative.
If all rational agents are free,
then all rational agents are self-legislating.
All rational agents are free.
If all rational agents are bound by the categorical imperative,
then all rational agents are bound by moral requirements.
In this portion of the argument, Kant wants to show that all moral requirements can be reduced to (and derived from) a single principle:
the categorical imperative.
At this point, no one has ever heard of a "categorical imperative", so Kant needs to explain this concept and convince us that all moral requirements could be derived from this single requirement.
To help us understand this concept and how it fits into a larger theory about action and morality, Kant starts by thinking about what goes on when rational agents perform actions.
What happens when
someone acts?
MOTIVATION
Motivation is expressed by "should" statements. ("I should get out of
bed." "I should
write that
paper." "I should not eat fats." "I should speak the truth.")
HYP
OTHETICAL
CATEGORI
CAL
Examples:
"I should brush my teeth, in order to avoid gum disease."
"I should go to medical school, in order to become a doctor."
"I should become a doctor, in order to please my parents."
"I should avoid cheating,
in order to avoid the risk of being caught."
"I should have another drink, to avoid feeling lonely."
"I should tell a lie, in order to avoid getting in trouble."
"I should not murder, in order to not risk imprisonment."
Notice, these imperatives represent actions as necessary for achieving some goal. (If you don't have that goal, then the imperative doesn't apply to you.)
Examples:
"I should not tell a lying promise."
"I should not commit murder."
"I should try to benefit people,
when the opportunity arises."
"I should be kind to my neighbor."
"I should not cheat."
"I should not steal."
Notice, these imperatives represent certain actions as necessary without reference to achieving a further goal. (This is one of the characteristicsof moral requirements, according to Kant.) They are not required
in order to achieve
some further goal. They are simply required--
period
.

In fact, if they were tied to some specific goal, they would no longer apply categorically/universally.
So we've got these two general categories of imperatives/requirements.
What does each (generally) require?
HYPOTHETICAL
CATEGORICAL
Take the means that are
necessary to achieving
your ends/goals.
Act on
whatever
maxim (the "should" statement) that will enable you to achieve your goal(s).
Act
only
on the maxim
(the "should" statement)
that you can will as
universal law.
Act only on those requirements that could apply to everybody.
Notice: Kant thinks that if you always respect this one principle, then you will always act morally. In other words, all moral requirements are reducible to this one principle. Or all moral requirements can be derived from this one principle.
But is Kant right about that?
Can the Categorical Imperative be used to show whether actions are moral or not? How would that work?
The Categorical Imperative functions like a test, to determine whether particular actions are moral or not.
I need money.
Can I borrow
some money?
I'll pay you back.
I won't
really
pay her
back.
"Is the action that you are contemplating one that you could will as universal law? Could you will that every person pecuniarily wanting may make such a lying promise?"

"Is such an arrangement consistent and conceivable?"
Can I borrow
some money?
I'll pay you back.
I won't
really
pay him
back.
He won't really
pay me back.
Can I borrow
some money?
I'll pay you back.
Can I borrow
some money?
I'll pay you back.
He won't really
pay me back.
He won't
really pay
me back.
CHAOS!!!
Telling a lying promise when you need money is
NOT
consistent with the categorical imperative. So if the categorical imperative sets absolute boundaries on what actions are permissible, then telling a lying promise when you need money is not permissible.

This is how the Categorical Imperative is used to show whether actions are moral or not.
If this same pattern holds for all
moral requirements, then it follows
that all moral requirements are
reducible to or derivable from the
categorical imperative.
And that's what we wanted to show in this section!
We showed what a categorical imperative is.

We showed (in a sketchy way) that moral requirements
can be derived from the categorical imperative.

And that means that:
if rational agents are bound by categorical imperatives,
then they are bound by moral requirements.
BUT WAIT! WE'RE NOT DONE!
Remember, our goal was to show that all rational agents are bound by moral requirements.

We've taken
one step
in that direction. We've shown that
IF
all rational agents are bound by the categorical imperative,
THEN
they are bound by moral requirements.

BUT ARE RATIONAL AGENTS BOUND BY CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVES?
Kant still needs to convince us of that.
That's the next step in the argument:
If all rational agents are self-legislating,
then all rational agents are bound
by the categorical imperative.
In this portion of the argument, Kant
wants to show that rational agents are
bound by the categorical imperative.

Originally we started with the question,
"Why should I be moral?"

Now,
in order to
answer that question,
we need to answer the further question,
"Why should I obey the categorical imperative?"
This is a tough question:
If I think about the question,
"Why should I obey the
hypothetical imperative
?"
the answer seems easy.
Hypothetical imperatives say
that I should act in order to
achieve certain ends/goals.

If someone asks: Why should I
act in order to achieve those
ends or goals?
the answer will be:
You should
act to achieve those ends/goals
IF YOU DESIRE TO ACHIEVE
THOSE ENDS/GOALS.
And if you don't desire to
achieve those ends/goals
then you are no longer
required to act in order to
achieve those ends/goals.

But categorical imperatives
are different.
Categorical imperatives are
supposed to express require-ments that you have to obey
regardless of what you desire
.
But that means that if we ask,
"Why should I obey the
categorical imperative?"
an acceptable answer cannot
make reference to your desires.

But what answer
CAN
we then
give to the question,
"Why should I obey the
categorical imperative?"
To answer this question,
Kant thinks we need to think more
carefully about the categorical imperative.
HYPOTHETICAL
CATEGORICAL
Originally, we distinguished hypothetical and categorical imperatives by saying that...
hypothetical imperatives
are directed at achieving
particular goals...
while categorical imperatives
are not directed at achieving
particular goals.
But there are other ways to distinguish these.
Some have already observed that hypothetical imperatives seem to direct us toward actions while categorical imperatives seem to put limits or boundaries on our actions.
Taking a hint from this point,
Kant says that hypothetical
imperatives are directed at
the achievement of
relative ends
--things that
have worth or value based
on whether we desire them
or not...
while categorical imperatives
are guided by the consideration
of
ends-in-themselves
--things that have worth or value regardless of whether we desire them or not.
But what sorts of things
are intrinsically valuable?
Kant says:
Human beings are
intrinsically valuable.

Well... actually their rational natures.
When a person makes choices,
they confer value on other things
in a way that presupposes their
own value and worth.

This value--the value of a rational
choice-maker--is not to be violated
according to Kant.
Of course, the first version of the categorical imperative,
already was set up to restrict certain
behaviors and so protect rational agents.
Act only on the
maxim that you
can at the same
time will as
universal law
But reflection on why human beings are to be protected yields a new version:
Act so that you
use humanity
always as an end
and never only
as a means.
This new version of the categorical imperative has not yet answered the question, "Why should someone obey the categorical imperative?" but it is helping us to better understand the categorical imperative.
Now the idea of human dignity being grounded in our rational choice-making ability, leads Kant to talk about human beings as
legislators
.
Now, in what sense might human beings be like legislators. Well, what Kant has in mind by the idea of "legislator" is the idea of
"law-giver". And laws express
imperatives
,
requirements
,
obligations
. Laws are
expressed as "
should
" statements.
And remember that Kant thinks all human motivation can be expressed as imperatives or "should" statements.
So what would happen
IF
rational agents could be self-legislating? What would happen if rational agents could and
DID
make laws for themselves?




Well, if they made laws for themselves, then they would be required to act on those laws. And the reason to obey those laws would not be because of desires or consequences
but just because they themselves authored the law.
Now, once again: we're not done yet, and you might still be puzzled about some stuff, so let's review.
What we just finished trying to show is that
IF
rational agents are self-legislating,
THEN
they are bound by the categorical imperative.

Now we have not yet shown that rational agents are self-legislating. That will have to wait for the next part of the argument. All we have tried to show is that if rational agents are self-legislating--if they are the authors of their own laws--that gives them a reason to follow those laws, and that reason does not depend on their desires.
But now you might be worried
about something a little different:
If rational agents are self-legislators, then they
can create laws for themselves. So what's to
stop such a self-legislator from "creating" laws
that are completely self-serving?

This whole idea of rational agents as self-
legislators is supposed to show that everyone
is required to be moral. But if everyone can
"make their own laws" then is there really a
reason to think that everyone will agree?
Kant can be so confident that everyone who
is rational will come to the same set of laws
because he believes that the same rational
nature is shared by everyone.
LEX
The idea that everyone shares the same rational nature might seem odd to us, but
it would make sense from Kant's perspective.
Why are the laws
of logic (basically)
universally recognized?
Why is there such broad
consensus about the find-
ings of the sciences?
Admittedly rational discourse isn't always
successful, but in many cases it is. What
explains its success?
Socrates would attribute the success of our mathematics, science, and reasoning to the fact that there are objective facts and even abstract objects to which our ideas about math, science, and reasoning answer.
But Kant takes a different view. Kant believes that knowledge of the objective character of the external world is not available to us. Rather, all our ideas and understanding of the external world are filtered and interpreted through a set of laws (like lenses).


What explains the widespread agreement in our theoretical understanding of the world, then, is that everyone shares the same set of interpretive lenses. The same rational nature is shared by all rational agents. And this rational nature determines not only how we will think about the external world but what actions can be universalized.
What makes people different are their individual circumstances, histories, desires, aims, goals, and ambitions.
What people share in common is their basic rational nature. The rational nature is what gives us laws--laws for interpreting experience and laws for guiding our actions. It would make sense, then, that a "self-legislating" agent would give laws that apply universally.
This yields a third version of
the categorical imperative.
So act that through
your maxim you
could consider
yourself as univer-
sally legislating
If Kant is right, then there
are limits on what one
could imagine oneself
as willing as a universal
legislator.
As Kant thinks about different ways
to express what is required by the
categorical imperative, the idea of
"self-legislators" leads Kant to think
about rational nature as the basis for
community.
He calls the ideal community the "kingdom
of ends." It is a community comprised of rational agents--all of whom act as legislators and are in complete agreement.
Kant's conception of the ideal community, you might expect, was very
democratic
.
If all rational agents are free,
then all rational agents are self-legislating.
In this portion of the argument, Kant
needs to show that being self-legislating
follows from being free.

To do this he needs to first clarify what it means for somebody to be free. Once he's clarified the definition of "free" then he can see whether "self-legislation" follows from being free.
So what does it mean to be
FREE
?
FREEDOM
Negative
Positive
The idea of freedom in the 'negative' sense is the idea of freedom
from
determi-nation by external forces.
The idea of freedom in the "positive" sense
is
autonomy
--the ability of the will to be a law to itself or to provide itself with laws.
Now Kant is not very excited
about "negative" freedom.
After all, freedom from
external forces is not
worth much if you're
not able to control
your own choices and
life. He thinks that
"positive" freedom is what
we really care about. We want
to be able to exercise control
over our lives in addition to being
free from external influence.
This now provides us with the answers we were
looking for. We started out by asking, "Why
should a person obey the categorical imperative?"

Kant's answer goes something like this:
People should obey the categorical imperative
if (and because) it is a product of their
own self-legislation.

And that's what we set out to show:
If rational agents are self-legislatng,
then they are bound by the categorical imperative.

According to Kant, being free means that one is a law to oneself--that one is autonomous.
But being self-legislating also means being a law to oneself (i.e. being autonomous).
That means that if an agent is free (in the positive sense) then they are self-legislating.
Now if that seems like an awfully fast argument (especially compared to the rest of Kant's argument...
...well...
it is an awfully fast argument. It takes, like, half-a-page.
All rational agents are free.
So the last thing that Kant needs to
do to persuade us is show us that we are
(or have good reason to think that we are)
actually free in the positive sense.
Kant already showed us that...
If rational agents are free,
then they are self-legislating.

If rational agents are self-legislating,
then they are bound by the
categorical imperative.

If rational agents are bound by the categorical imperative, then they are bound by
moral requirements.

So...
But here's the problem!
When scientists used the tools of science
(and especially Newton's new physics) to
look at the world...
... they did not see room in the world for freedom.
The best scientific theories seemed to indicate
that human actions are determined by the physical
laws of nature just like everything else. And if human
actions are determined by external actions, then
human beings are NOT free.
How could Kant maintain that belief in freedom
was still reasonable?
This is why Kant's views about reality, knowledge,
and human reason were so important to his views.
Kant did not buy the idea that Newton's theories uncovered the objective truth
about what the world is like.
After all, Newton's theories were based on
human observations of the world and,
according to Kant, all human experiences
and observations are shaped by the lenses
through which
we interpret those experiences.
So if Newton's theories tell us that everything
in the universe is determined, that only tells
us that things look determined from that
perspective and based on that interpretation.
But things might look very different from
another perspective.
And Kant maintains that there
is another perspective that we
can and do take on things.

Kant thinks that we can approach the world as an
observer/theorizer
. Or we can approach it as an
agent
.
An observer/theorizer attempts to understand
how absolutely everything in the world fits
together. For this, it is necessary to posit laws
that cannot be violated.


An agent, on the other hand, seeks to perform
actions. And performing actions does not require such strict laws. In fact, the way we think of ourselves, as agents, actually requires us to think of ourselves as free. We cannot do otherwise than think of ourselves as free, says Kant.
Since (i) we do, necessarily, think of ourselves
as free and (ii) no evidence from the sciences can legitimately undermine the idea that we are free, Kant thinks that we can and should accept that
we are free.
Now he's shown us that
rational agents are free

Rational agents are bound by moral requirements.
Full transcript