Kant Answers: Main ideas

This page refers to the reading exercise on Kant.

[1] Reason is not ‘adapted’ to serve an organism well if its aim is survival, or ‘surviving well’ (note that the text conflates ‘conservation’ with ‘happiness’). Reason’s insight into practical matters is ‘weak’.

[2] Indeed, reason bent to the purpose of happiness appears to have the opposite effect. The purpose of life must be something more noble than happiness, and must be something which is fitted to the purpose of the faculty of reason.

[3] Since reason is not fit for producing happiness but is a practical faculty (because it can influence the will), its function must be to produce a will that is good in itself.

[4] K. states that what is needed now is an elucidation of the aim to elucidate the notion of a good will through an explication of the concept of duty. Duty includes the notion of a good will with certain subjective caveats.

[5] K. will not count as ‘duties’ actions done for selfish ends or which merely ‘accord with’ duty, rather than those which are done for duty’s sake.

[6] A maxim or duty has moral worth not when it accords with one’s natural inclinations, but when it disagrees with them. Someone’s action is morally praiseworthy when they act against their inclinations because duty requires it of them.

[7] The moral worth of a character is brought out best when it is seen that the act is beneficient not from inclination but from duty.

[8] We should pursue happiness not from our natural inclination – which we possess in any case – but from duty. Only then do our actions acquire moral worth.

[9] The command to love others is a duty, not an (appeal to) inclination. Neither love nor inclinations can be commanded.

[10] An action done from duty derives its moral worth not from its results or its purpose but from the principle the agent followed in doing it. Moral worth lies in the principle of the will without regard to its aims. The will stands between its apriori cause and its aposteriori effects. Since the will must be determined by something, it must be the rule by which the action was done.

[11] Duty is the necessity of acting from respect for the law. An object of respect, and hence a command, can only spring from something that is connected to my will as a principle. But what authority could one’s will respect? Not your inclinations, these can be approved or loved (sic something that can serve your own interests). After all inclinations and effects are removed, all that remains is the (objective) rule and the (subjective) respect for the rule.

[12] It is the concept of law itself that is the pre-eminent good. An authority that commands the respect of the will for its own sake. An extra argument is given here against Ut: since good effects can be brought about without the will of a human being, then a will is not necessary.

[13] Kant says the fundamental concept of a law or rule is universal conformity The idea is tested by supposing one decides not to keep a promise. Such an action cannot be universalized without undermining the principle of promising.

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