Kant Lect1 - KANT OVERVIEW: Kantian Themes in Parts of the...

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KANT OVERVIEW: Kantian Themes in Parts of the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals NB. Since I’m using a different translation the wording may differ in the passages quoted in my notes from your course text. That is not a problem. 1. Topic #1: The Good Will This topic deals with the kinds of motivations that moral agents have rather than with morality’s content. But Kant’s discussion has been hugely influential. 2. Topic #2: Kant’s Test for Right Actions: the Categorical Imperative This is Kant’s account of the general test for right action that determines morality’s content. It is by assuming that this test is correct that it is often claimed that a deontological theory of ethics is true. I. Topic #1: The Good Will and The Necessity of a Good Will for Moral Value 1. Def’n of a ‘Good Will’: a good will is the intention to perform an action because the person believes that action is right (or a moral duty). Kant describes the good will as being motivated by ‘respect for the moral law’ in contrast to acting from ‘inclination’ or desire: ‘Duty is the necessity of actions from respect for law. For an object as the effect of my proposed action I can indeed have inclination but never respect, just because it is merely an effect and not an activity of a will.’ The Attitude of Respect: To respect something is to honor it for its own sake and not for any other purpose. Ex : visiting a monument or a tombstone to the dead You could go the cemetery to satisfy a desire to visit a parent, or because you desire a walk in a quiet green field (the desire to walk in the green field is the object of your desire), but that behavior is not done from respect. Acting on the basis of respect for the moral law involves doing our duties for no other purpose in mind than the purpose of honoring the moral law: doing our duties b/c it’s right or b/c they are our duties. Ex: obeying God’s law or following the Dalai NB. Kant also claims (above) that the moral law is an activity or creation of a rational person’s will, and in complying with that law we are the cause of our action rather than our behavior being the effect of desires that have been caused in us. This claim is connected to Kant’s thesis that a person can only be an agent, or act in autonomous or free way, if they act on the moral law. But set that claim aside for now. The point : i) Kant would reject the claim that the moral law is the moral law in virtue of being God’s command, rather than the will of rational people. ii) Kant would also claim that a person who complied with the moral b/c they respect God (or respect
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This note was uploaded on 07/15/2010 for the course PHIL 120 taught by Professor Evantiffany during the Spring '08 term at Simon Fraser.

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Kant Lect1 - KANT OVERVIEW: Kantian Themes in Parts of the...

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