13kant - 1 NOTE ON KANT'S GROUNDWORK, PP. 1-40 WINTER, 2009...

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1 NOTE ON KANT'S GROUNDWORK , PP. 1-40 PHILOSOPHY 160 WINTER, 2009 Dick Arneson SECTION I. Kant argues in this section to the conclusion that we believe that we are bound by the categorical imperative. That is, ordinary common sense includes beliefs that imply a commitment to the categorical imperative. This is the principle that Kant asserts is the supreme principle of morality. Kant does not think this shows that we really are bound by the categorical imperative: ordinary common sense, what we all believe as a matter of course, might in fact be mistaken. Hence to show that acceptance of the categorical imperative is warranted, a different type of argument is needed, an excursion into what Kant calls "the metaphysics of morals," in section two. Kant's starting point is the claim, which he believes common sense accepts, that nothing is good unconditionally except a good will. Some things are good conditionally: They are good given the presence of certain conditions. For me, tuna fish is not unconditionally good, it's good only on the condition that mayonnaise is also available. Kant thinks that after reflection we will all agree that the only thing that is good under all circumstances, good no matter what other conditions obtain, is a good will. Happiness, says Kant, is not good unconditionally; the thought of an evil person gaining happiness is repulsive. Bravery is not unconditionally good, because "the coolness of a scoundrel" (p. 8) renders her more abominable than she would be if she were prone to fear. Even if the good will is entirely ineffectual and unable to bring about good consequences, "like a jewel, it would still shine by itself, as something that has its full worth in itself" (p. 8). Kant's next step is to identify a good will as a will that is disposed to act from duty. Duty is how morality presents itself to beings like us, partly rational but partly animal and so prone to act from inclinations. Morality would not appear as duty to a perfectly rational being. For beings like us, a good will is a will that acts from duty. To explain the idea of acting "from duty," Kant distinguishes four cases. Case 1 involves acting contrary to duty. Such an act clearly lacks moral worth. Case 2 involves acting in accordance with duty but not from duty. In this case, the act done is what duty requires, but the agent has no immediate inclination to do the moral act, but sees that doing the moral act will serve his purposes and does the moral act as a means to satisfy his inclinations. For example, a shopkeeper might give correct change to customers because he figures that a reputation for honesty will bring him greater profit in the long run, and he is honest in order to maximize his long-run profit. This act also has no moral worth. Case 3 is an act that is also in accordance with duty, but here the agent is moved to do the moral deed because he has an immediate inclination to do so. In Kant's example, suppose the shopkeeper
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This note was uploaded on 09/07/2011 for the course PHIL 13 taught by Professor Arneson during the Spring '08 term at UCSD.

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13kant - 1 NOTE ON KANT'S GROUNDWORK, PP. 1-40 WINTER, 2009...

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