Philosophy Notes on Kant
Morality is entirely determined by what someone wills because a good will is the only thing that is good with out provocations. Every other character trait is only morally good once we qualify it as such. Kant morality is all about what someone wills and not about the end result or consequence is. Someone can be happy but for immoral reasons. Kant it is really the thought that counts. Motivation is everything. What does Bentham and Mills look at consequences and happiness. Kant thinks of these things as matter of riddle in the game of morality. Think of it this way.
If we think of someone as our favorite moral hero in past and present because of the various things they did, accomplish, brought about. All you are doing when you admire such people is judging results. What we see. But if we are really judging moral worth on what we see we are then failing to adjudicate moral worth entirely. After all we have no idea what the shop clerks real motives are. Perhaps she is honest because she thinks this is the best way to make money. If this wasn’t her true motivation she may start ripping people off as soon as she could. Think back to what glaucon says.
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He says it is better to appear to be moral than to really be moral. Kant believes this is a much more comman way of going aobut things that it probably happens most of the time given that many people don’t have moral motivations that we really have no way of knowing what peopole’ motivations are. Perhaps Abraham Lincoln and MLK motivations were not stemmed form good will at all but only for honor, fame or fortune. We simply don’t know. Remember there are many people who were unlucky failed to bring any results even thought they hated good will or moral principles.
They are forever unknown they are forever anonymous. He says we should stick to what pure reason tells and tells us it doesn’t care about consequences, doesn’t care about actions, doesn’t care about results. It cares about motivation. We can never tell anyone’s motivation just from look at them. Kant argues that if we look around the natural world that by in large things seem to fill their end for what they are designed for. Cheetahs usually have four legs and are good at catching prey. By and large, natural entities fulfill their designed purpose. Eyeballs are designed to see and usually do.
Sure they eventually pucker out but for most part our eyes work how they were designed to function. But if we look at this larger thing called the human person and then assumed he was designed for happiness in the same way a cheetah was designed to run and catch prey and the eyes were designed to see we can conclude that the design of the human person were wrong. We can’t be designed for the purpose of being happy because if we were we would be a strange anomaly of nature. But why do we say this because we are species. We are a species that is defined by pain and suffering and anxiety and depression that results in misery.
We are sad, miserable and pathetic. Unfortunately, argues Kant, we aren’t designed to be happy. The purpose of life isn’t to be happy! It is to be moral. Instead we are designed to be moral. Happiness may forever be out of reach but that’s ok because that is not the purpose of being human. The purpose of being human is to be moral and happiness may not have anything to do with each other. Kant’s theory is seen as deontological because it is all about duty. Kant argues that to be moral we have to consider duty compared to what we might want to do based on our emotions and inclinations. The name of the game is DUTY.
We must be motivated by duty in order to be moral. Ex: if we only help out in a soup kitchen only because it makes us feel good then we aren’t properly moral. If happiness is your only motivation because once you stop feeling good about it you will quit working in the soup kitchen. You will burn out fast. Emotions can’t motivate. They can accompany but can’t motivate it. You can’t be motivated by sentiments or emotions. They aren’t moral or immoral. They are just…there. We can’t help them. In other words we are motivated to help because it’s your duty and you also like to help then that is all fine and good.
Consider your enjoyment a nice bonus but a bonus that is entirely outside of the moral realm. Again difference on one hand being motivated by duty whilst liking it all the while and on the other hand being motivated only because you like it is this. If you are motivated by an emotion than once you cease having that emotion you will quit. The man who works in the soup kitchen only because it makes him feel good will immediately quit because he wants to feel good about it. It won’t take him long because it will be really stressful because it’s really smelly work. You have to deal with smelly people.
If someone says if your heart isn’t in it then it is not worth doing. Kant would say this is total rubbish. You have no control over whether your heart will be in it or not. Do it because it is your duty. You only do it because of your rational or rationality. Morality is based on duty and that’s it. So how do figure out what duty is. Kant says we figure out to be what means to be the dutiful person by considering the act from pure reason alone and to get rid of emotion and sentiment. Duty stems from pure reason. Acting from sentiment and emotion is not properly rational. Kant wants to figure out what it means to be a rational, moral person.
He does this by considering what pure reason is and pure reason is an aspect of the human person that is not particular to emotions or passions, or pathology or hormones or sentiments. For Kant, rationality is something that is much more pure. Something entirely bound up with nothing biological. Nothing evolutionary. Nothing emotional. Nothing empathetic. Kant would have been very much at home with the idea of the intergalactic senate. Lots of different sorts of biological beings with various physical attributes but all sharing in the same transcendental rationality attached to their particular alien biology.
He would have been much more in line with Spocs decision making than captain kirk. Kant is spac. Most of us acting on emotion like Captain Kirk aren’t being truly ration and therefore aren’t truly being moral at least as far as Kant is concerned. To do the moral thing is to do that thing which is based on duty. We determine what our duty on what maxims can be universalized with out contradiction. We consider our duty via pure rationality and pure rationality tells us that one only acts morally if their actions are universalizable.
Kant it is important to consider morality this way because this way we can make morality certain and self-evident. To say we act on a universalizable maxim is to say that a immoral action is precisely that action with is based on a maxim that can not be universalized with out contradiction. Thus, the reason you cannot steal is because to base ones action on stealing you would have to have one maxim that steal if you cannot afford to pay. But this creates a situation that cannot be universalized. If everyone stole if they cannot afford to pay then there would be no such thing as theft.
This would destroy the very concept of legitimate theft. You would destroy the very concept of property and ownership making theft impossible. . You can only make sense of stealing most people don’t steal most of the time. Thus to act immorally is to count on everyone else or most of everyone else to follow a certain role precisely in order for you to get away with not following that rule. What holds for stealing also holds for lying. You can only get away with lying if most people don’t lie most of the time. To universalize lying would destroy the possibility of being able to tell a lie.
Kant differentiates imperative based and hypotheses and imperatives that are categorical or come from pure reason. Hypothetical imperatives and categorical imperatives. Kant says that all imperatives are based on hypotheses that are not properly moral. That is that no action that is based on hypothesis that a certain thing will come about if a action is done can be properly be called a moral action. Thus for example if I base my example that I base my hypothesese that my action will result in a certain pleasure or emotion than it isn’t properly moral. Morality is not a means end rational thing in this way.
It can’t be. Hypothetical imperatives. Precisely because it is only a hypothesis, we do not KNOW with certainty that a certain action will bring about a certain consequence. Morality must be based on some certain principles and all means are based on hypothesis. We think or hypothesize that doing a certain action will give us pleasure or happyness. Utilitarians act on a hypothetical imperative and this is because utilitarians are trying to get good consequences. The problem with this theory, says Kant, is that you are trying to bring about something that you might not have the foggiest clue how to bring about.
Morality by contrast, says Kant, can’t be based on knowledge that you might not have. We don’t know for sure how to bring about happiness. We think we know if we pass a policy that it will bring about more jobs to stimulate the economy but we don’t know that for sure. Morality can’t be an experiment. It must be based on a set of principles or as Kant calls it the categorical imperative. That action which is at the same time is able to be a universal law. Categorical imperatives are based on the certainty that only pure reason gives us. Only categorical imperatives can bring us true morality. This stuff about law is important.
In his theory everyone is a legislature of moral law. We are all moral legislature. Remember that Kant does not think we can discover facts out there in nature or by meditating on the forms like Plato thinks. He actually disagrees with Plato and Aristotle and agrees with the Utilitarians on this point where as these ancient thinkers say we discover moral facts on the nature of the good. Kant argues that we construct moral law from a rightly working from pure rationality like they did in the intergalactic senate. As rational agents we have the ability to construct moral law. We do not discover moral law.
It is not part of the world. We create moral law, based on the logic of pure reason. Literally make it. But just because it is subjectively constructed doesn’t mean morality can’t be objective. If moral principles are based on categorical imperatives from maxims then the constructive moral laws are the same time objective. He concedes that morality is intersubjectively objective. That’s the name of the game to create laws that are intersujectively subjective. Even though morality is constructed, it is still objective. This is because you can only legislate—or create—morality one way: the way given to you by pure reason.