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PHIL111 13/14 WEEK 11.docx

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Queen's University
PHIL 111
Jon Miller

Week 11 November 19, 2013 A Contrast - Utilitarianism might allow for the sacrifice of an individual’s happiness, if that will maximize overall happiness o For example, utilitarianism might enjoin hanging an innocent prisoner if doing so brings about the greatest amount of happiness o To determine what’s right, weigh the consequences of the different possible actions and go with the one most likely to bring about the greatest sum total of happiness  Would hanging maximize happiness? - Many think this conflicts with the requirements of morality, for it doesn’t recognize the intrinsic worth accorded to each individual o Whether a riot might be prevented is morally irrelevant, for morality must take into account the value of the individual, and that eliminates hanging o To determine what’s right, consider the intrinsic merits of possible actions apart from their effects Kant - Exemplified German punctuality and fastidiousness - Career divided into three parts: the pre-critical period, silent decade, the critical period - We will read part of the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals A Kantian Criticism of Utilitarianism - Utilitarianism involves means-end reasoning toward a specific good, which is happiness o There is an end: maximizing happiness o The right action is the best means to that end: it is the one most likely to maximize happiness - But, says Kant, happiness is not wholly good o Why isn’t happiness wholly good?  Happiness and other “gifts of fortune” may “inspire pride, and often presumption, if there is not a good will present” (648lc)  Happiness is neutral • The goodness of happiness depends on whose happiness it is; good if the person himself is good - Since happiness is not wholly good as utilitarianism requires, something is wrong with utilitarianism - Instead of thinking about morality in means-end terms, Kant proposes that we should think about it in terms of duty or what we have an obligation to do The Good Will - To learn about morality, we ought to reflect on the only thing with is unqualifiedly good; the good will o “Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good without qualification, except a good will” (647rc) - What makes a will good is not merely performing the right actions, but also doing them for the right reasons o The agent must engage in an action which satisfies the requirements of morality o In addition however, she must do so because the action satisfies the requirements of morality - If an agent does the right action for the right reasons, then she has acted morally, no matter the actual consequences o “What is essentially good… consists in the mental disposition, the result being what it may” o “A good will is not good because of what it accomplishes, or effects, not by its aptness for the attainment of some proposed end, but simply by virtue of the volition- that is, it is good in itself” (648lc) November 20, 2013 - So far, Kant’s ethics have been entirely formal. How are we to know what to do? - His substantive moral views center around the categorical imperative Imperatives Generally - An imperative is generally a command to perform an action o As Kant says, “The conception of an objective principle, so far as it is obligatory for a will, is called a command (of reason), and the formula of this command is called an imperative” (658lc) - There are two basic kinds of imperatives; hypothetical and categorical (658rc) o Hypothetical imperative  A command based on a desire. In Kant’s words, hypothetical imperatives “represent the practical necessity of a possible action as in a means to something else that is willed” (658rc) • For example, if you want to lose weight, then exercise more and eat less o Categorical imperative  A command based on reason. In Kant’s words, a categorical imperative is one “which commands a certain conduct immediately, without having as its condition any other purpose to be attained by it” (659rc) • Because the C.I. is based on reason, it doesn’t require rational beings to have any particular desires or goals. It applies to them simply in virtue of their rationality - Because morality applies to all humans, regardless of what differences exist among them, the imperatives of morality are categorical, not hypothetical. So the C.I. better describes our moral duties and obligations The Categorical Imperative - The C.I.: “Act only on that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it become a universal law” (662rc) o Note: this is one formulation of the C.I.; there are two others. We will return to this issue in later discussion - What does this mean? o Key concepts are maxim and universal law - Maxim o A maxim is a principle on which an agent acts o It reflects the end that an agent has in view when choosing actions of a certain type in given circumstances o Maxims ar
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