DSST Business Ethics Study Guide sm

A maxim a particular directive a subjective principle

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A. Maxim: a particular directive, a subjective principle of volition (a principle upon which you act). The nature of the maxim upon which an action is based is the manner in which intentions are expressed. So a maxim expresses a subjective motivation ( i.e ., a want, a wish, a desire) to act in a specific manner. 1. A maxim can be viewed implicitly as a conditional of the form, “ If I am in circumstances C 1 C n and I seek results R 1 —R n to occur then I do actions A 1 A n ,” although most are expressed much more simply than this. 2. An example of maxim that cannot be generalized is “If I am a student with a student loan and I seek to be financially better off, then I do not repay the loan.” (If this maxim were to be generalized for everyone, no student loans would be paid off, and, consequently, under those conditions, no student loans could be offered.)
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3. Kant assumes that every voluntary act is based upon a maxim of one kind or another. B. Hypothetical Imperative: a conditional command expressing a maxim based on relative means and their related ends in the everyday world. The goal sought here is not based upon pure reason alone but rather upon practical reason. The goal is willed (rather than just wished for). A maxim can be viewed implicitly as a conditional of the form, “ If I am in circumstances C 1 C n and I seek results R 1 —R n to occur, then I ought or should do actions A 1 A n . ” The result of a hypothetical imperative is not something unconditional, like, for example, a duty. Rather, e.g., "If you want to learn philosophy, then you ought to study hard." If an individual does not seek philosophical understanding, then the hypothetical imperative would simply not apply. That is, a hypothetical imperative is dependent upon contingent circumstances or contingent abilities and is understood from a perspective of practical reason. 1. Problematic Hypothetical Imperative occurs when the result or goal is not necessarily willed, i.e. , the willing is contingent on a skill or technique. 2. Assertoric Hypothetical Imperative: occurs when the result or goal is necessarily willed by all persons, or, what amounts to the same thing in the nonmoral sphere, when the result is essential to happiness. (Kant seems to indicate the necessity is natural necessity, and that would presuppose seeking happiness as an end would not be an act of freedom. Thus, to not seek happiness would seem to be a failure of practical reason and not be in accord with the essence of a rational being.)
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C. Categorical Imperative: a rule stating what ought to be done based upon pure reason alone and not contingent upon sensible desires. "I am never to act otherwise than to will that my maxim should become universal law." 1. Moral rules, then, have no exceptions. Killing is always wrong. Lying is always wrong. The action described by the moral rule is necessary and independent of surrounding circumstances or purposes.
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