Kant Section II

Karina De-Bourne
Flashcards by Karina De-Bourne, updated more than 1 year ago
Karina De-Bourne
Created by Karina De-Bourne over 6 years ago


Ethics Flashcards on Kant Section II, created by Karina De-Bourne on 06/02/2014.

Resource summary

Question Answer
Kant analyses practical reason with the result telling us that the Categorical Imperative is the principle of pure practical reason and that autonomy lies at the root of morality. Everything in nature works in accordance with laws. Only beings capable of acting in accordance with representation of laws has a will. Reason is required for derivation of actions from laws; the will is nothing other than practical reason.
Practical reason lays down imperatives which determine what constitutes rational and irrational conduct. There are better and worse reasons for action. Theoretical reason? - individuals can believe things for reasons and also lays down rules/imperatives for rational/irrational belief. Practical reason has two types of imperative: categorical and hypothetical.
The hypothetical imperatives depend upon desires and inclinations. These differ between persons hence they only apply contingently. Hume believed that practical reason only issued these; upon this practical reason is only concerned with us taking the means to our ends (set by desire). It does not cast verdict on ends themselves. Kant however thinks it issues imperatives not dependent upon desires/inclination. Pure practical reason (uninfluenced by desire) sets its own normative standards. This results in categorical imperatives which commands independently of desire profile of agent.
Kant believed that ethics was a system of categorical imperatives. Even if you desire to torture people, the command not to still applies to you. They are unconditional with no exceptions. This is implicit in the concept of the categorical imperative; it is unconditionally binding. This the content of the categorical imperative.
Assuming that Kant is right about this, he tries to relate this to the content of everyday morals. The result is the Formula of the Universal Law (I ought never to act upon a maxim unless it could be willed as a universal law). This grounds the truth of everyday moral principles; we could derive injunction against killing and deception from this. It also explains the truth of everyday moral principles; do not make lying promises as doing so means acting in a way that involves making an exception of yourself.
Ethics is about acting on principles that all rational beings could act upon. Thus, do not act in a way that involves making an exception of oneself. It can also serve as a test for maxims of our own actions; we can purportedly provide ethical guidance to agents. The Test: i) Formulate your maxim ii) Consider it transformed from a particular maxim applying just to you, into a universalised law that everyone is subject to. iii) Imagine you are in the world of the universalised maxim and imagine that you are willing to act upon the original maxim.
iv) Ask self: am I able to conceive of myself acting upon original maxim in the world where it is universalised? If no, the maxim is impermissible to act upon. v) Ask self: am I able to rationally (consistently) will that this become universal law? If no, the maxim is impermissible to act/not act upon. On iv, there is a contradiction in conception (yields perfect duties). On v, there is a contradiction in will (yields imperfect duties).
Contradiction in Conception It could be said that it is a logical contradiciton here generated by the way that we try to will our maxim in the world of the universalised maxim; the proposed world would be impossible/inconceivable. Applied to lying-promise There would be no such thing as repayment promises, false or otherwise. Yet the agent is to be imagined attempting to make a repayment promise; contradiction.
If this is right the Formula of the Universal law will render permissible actions impermissible and impermissibile permissible. Kill your rival example. However it may not always be obvious that there is a contradiction and it could be read as being a practical contradiction. If the maxim were universalised then the proposed action/policy would be inefficacious for securing its purposes. Its efficacy depends upon its being an exception.
A main problem for the formula as mentioned earlier is that it may warrant permissible maxims impermissible such as leaving the football early. Another problem is that it does not necessarily explain the agents maxims. One way to solve this is to change the formulation or at least opt for a different one; however Kant believed them all to be equal. It is also unclear what the 'correct' way of formulating maxims is hence it is unclear whether we can gain ethical guidance.
Some believe that we need to be more sympathetic towards Kant and feel that we just need a better understanding upon the relationship between the categorical imperative and rational agency. Formula of Humanity So act that you use humanity whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never as a means; do not treat people as objects.
i) All imperatives must make reference to ends. ii) Hypothetical imperatives command us relative to contingent ends that we have have, set by inclination. iii) Categorical imperatives must command us relative to a necessary end that we all share. No such end could be set by an inclination. One argument Kant gives is to appeal to what is apparently implicit in our thinking, that the end is rational nature itself (necessary end); the capacity to act on reasons, to be self-directed.
Another argument is that as rational agents, we necessarily take our own rational agency as having a value above any of our discretionary ends. Our valuing things presupposes that we take ourselves to have value. Thus, by recognising this in ourselves, we are rationally required to attribute the same value to other rational beings. We can only value rationality in ourselves if we value it in others. (Same with everyone) Thus we get the Formula of Humanity.
However, there is a gap between claiming that we necesarily regard our own rational nature as having unconditional value and that we therefore ought to regard other rational natures in the same way. Doubt the move from 'I value my rational agency' to 'I must value rational agency in others'. Each of us has a capacity to act upon reasons to deliberate about what to do. We thus serve as limiting conditions upon the actions of others; as rational agents there are some things that others ought not to do to us. Our rational nature is not to be sacrificed at the expense of merely conditional ends.
Humanity and Content The formula of humanity can plausibly deal with the 'problem' cases for the formula of the universal law. It is generally taken to entail strong injunctions against coercion, eg. rape and enslavement. By coercing others, you are not representing their ability to make decisions about their own life and actions. It also standardly imposes constraints on our making the world as good as possible. We are sometimes 'forbidden' from bringing about good consequences. You are forbidden from using rational nature as a mere means to bringing about good results. Does this then mean that we are sometimes permitted to fail to bring about the best consequences. Options?
Imperfect Duties -Developing talents and giving aid to those in need. - Failing to do either of these does not obviously conflict with preserving or respecting rational nature as an end in itself; he does think that we have a duty to promote and foster rational nature. So we have a duty to make some efforts to developing talents and providing aid. However it is not clear how extensive these are hence it is unclear whether Kant's ethics allows for options.
Overall... acting in a way that not everyone could is incompatible with respecting the freedom of other people. However it is not obvious that the formulations pick out the same actions as permissible and impermissible; how then could they be equivalent? Further Formulations Formula of Autonomy: act only so that the will could regard itself as at the same time giving universal law through its maxim. Formula of Kingdom of Ends: act in accordance with the maxims of a member giving universal laws on a merely possible kindgom of ends.
Self-Imported Law The categorical imperative is the law of practically rational beings (the principle of pure practical reason). As practically rational beings, we are the authors of the law. It is a law we impose on ourselves; this idea of self-legislation is autonomy. It is Kant's account of normativity. Importance of Autonomy cannot be overstated. As authors of the law we recognise its authority; as practically rational agents it is our law thus we are subject to it. It is required for moral action; if the law was not our law all action would be inclination based and not moral action. This would involve heteronomy.
For moral action, it must be possible to act on the basis of something that the will can provide; it is our law. This is the proper object of respect. Without autonomy, there is no morality. If the moral law was not our law then our only motivation to act in accordance with it would be inclination based. Then moral commands would be hypothetical and not categorical imperatives. Thus the autonomy of the will is the supreme principle of morality.
Are we autonomous? A free will and a will under moral laws are the same thing - Section 3. There is an important connection between having a free will and autonomy hence subject to the categorical imperative. Freedom This is the property of such causality that it can be efficient independently of alien causes determining it. This is the negative conception; freedom from determination of laws by nature. This is inadequate to articulate the essence of freedom.
Will is a kind of causality hence it must be law-governed for Kant. A free-will must be law-governed. But to be free, it must be governed by its own law. This is the postive conception of freedom; it sounds just like the definition of autonomy hence free will and a will under the moral law are the same. How does Kant show that we are at least entitled to think of ourselves as free? Any being that cannot act otherwise than under the idea of freedom is just because of that really free in a practical respect - Section 3
One interpretation Whenever I am deliberating about action I must presuppose that it is up to me how I act. This practical standpoint seems inescapable. However acting under the idea of freedom does not imply that we are really free... Nor does it entitle us to think that we are free. It is especially problematic as Kant believes we are members of the phenomenal world which is thoroughly deterministic and rejects compatibilism.
Kant tries to avoid this by saying that although we are members of the phenomenal world, thinking that all there is to the world is the phenomenal world is an inadequate conception of the world. We have reason to/ are entitled to posit a noumenal realm wherein freedom is possible. In CPR, Kant argues that we know a priori, the law of phenomenal world that every event has a cause. This presupposes something that it cannot explain, an uncaused cause/ a free cause. Thinking that there is a phenomenal world commits us to thinking there is a noumenal world; we can be entitled to think of ourselves/consider ourselves as free.
Note Kant is not claiming that we are free. this is metaphysically profligate. Also, there is a potential incoherency between the worlds. Kant believes upon this, that we have reached the highest limit of all moral inquiry.
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