PHIL 230 - Kant

PHIL 230 - Kant - Eric Grandmaison(260270505 TA Pierre...

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Eric Grandmaison (260270505) TA: Pierre Charette November 9, 2007 Kant Essay Moral Worth Immanuel Kant’s fundamental argument in “Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals” is that man’s highest calling is not a pursuit of happiness. Rather “existence has another and much more worthy purpose” (396). Kant convincingly argues that reasoning well is the “supreme calling” of man and can help discover the universal moral law. Whereas previous philosophers have implied people can do nothing but act in accordance with their inclinations and desires, Kant fundamentally argues that reason can act without such inclinations. The more a man with a cultivated reason wishes to use his reason to attain happiness, the further he comes from actually satisfying his desire (395). For this reason, Kant argues that man is called to use his reason to other ends. Our conception of happiness from inclinations is based on our experiences. That is, even though we all seek happiness, no one can ever tell us exactly what happiness truly is. We are left to construct our own idea of happiness through our individual wants and desires. There is no universal inclination that promises to bring happiness. And because of this, ‘happiness’ cannot be seen as good in itself (399). But there is something that is good in itself without basis on anything else. Kant proposes we use our reason for the ends of finding this good. The only thing fitting of this definition is a ‘good will.’ We can discover this by purely looking within ourselves. To Kant, this notion is already implanted within us, and all rational beings. A good will is the only thing that is unequivocally good (393). It can never be in contradiction with
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itself and such is the aim of reason. For Kant, nothing but an action with moral worth reveals a person’s good will. But how rational beings take actions with moral worth? According to Kant, only actions done from a “good will” have moral worth. But this brings us no closer to discovering how to do this. Because rational beings have a respect for the moral law, they would do the right thing without regard to their inclinations and desires. Through reason, we can explain that which we already believe to be true. And thus, we can act more exactly in accordance with what we discover through our reason. According to Kant, we already believe “the concept of a will estimable in itself and good without regard to any further end” (397). Duty is the obligation of all rational beings to act in accordance with moral law.
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course PHIL 230 taught by Professor Stroud during the Fall '07 term at McGill.

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PHIL 230 - Kant - Eric Grandmaison(260270505 TA Pierre...

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