Kant's ethics

Kant's ethics - Lecture on Kants Groundwork of the...

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Lecture on Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals “Two things fill the mind with awe: the starry heavens above and the moral law within…”- Kant Part 1 Good Will and Duty (1) The concept of Good Will- good without qualification. The following things are good with qualification: A. Intelligence, Wit, Judgment, and various talents; B. Fortune, power, riches, honor, even health and complete wellbeing and contentment with one’s condition which is called happiness; C. Moderation in emotions and passions, self-control, and calm deliberation. In sum, nothing is good in itself except a “good will.” Intelligence, judgment, and al other facts of the human personality are perhaps good and desirable, but only if the will that makes use of them is good. (2) What is good will? By will, Kant meant the uniquely human capacity to make decisions or choices on the basis of reasons, or what Kant called “maxims.” A “good will” is a will that chooses to perform an act because it is a moral duty and not merely because the act is in one’s self-interest or gives one pleasure. Duty is the necessity of acting from respect for the moral law. For Kant, my will is “good without qualification” only if it always choose on the basis of this one principle: Could I will that my maxim be followed by everyone as a universal law? Part 2 Categorical Imperatives First Formations of Categorical Imperative “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. “ ---We should do something only if we can will the maxim, or general rule, governing our action to become a universal law. What Kant is saying is that I should never do something unless A. It is possible for everything for everyone to do it and B. I am willing to have everyone do it. (1) Some examples may make this clear . Take the first part of Kant’s categorical imperative: that I should never do something unless doing it is possible for everyone. Consider Kant’s own example of breaking a promise when it suits your purposes. Would this be morally right? Kant would say that you need to ask yourself whether everyone could make promises and then break them when it is convenient. Clearly, breaking promises like this could not become something that everyone does, because people would then stop making promises altogether. Who would accept anyone’s promise, knowing that everyone breaks promises when it is convenient? Take some other examples . Is it wrong for you to cheat on an
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exam? Kant would say this: Ask yourself whether it is possible for everyone to always cheat on exams. Clearly, if everyone always cheated on exams, the very practice of giving exams would break down. Kant also believes that there are some actions that are wrong, not because it is possible for everyone to do them, but because we are not willing to have everyone do them. For example, is it wrong to refuse to help others when they are in great need? Kant suggests that it
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This note was uploaded on 01/29/2011 for the course PHIL 1050 taught by Professor Ashleyhardcastle during the Spring '08 term at North Texas.

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Kant's ethics - Lecture on Kants Groundwork of the...

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