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PHIL111 13/14 WEEK 12.docx

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PHIL 111
Jon Miller

Week 12 November 25, 2013 Autonomy - The C.I. provides a standard of rationality which is the basis for all moral requirements o Because morality is rationality, immorality is therefore irrationality - Other philosophers have also argued that moral requirements are based on standards of rationality - The difference between Kant and his predecessors is the following o For other philosophers, reason mattered either as an instrument or as a source of unique rational intuitions - Kant agreed that an analysis of practical reason will reveal only the requirement that rational agents must conform to instrumental principles o Practical reason: concerned with actions, not understanding o If we think only of reason in terms of actions, then it is true that reason is an instrument - Yet he argued that conformity to the C.I. and hence to moral requirements themselves, can nevertheless be shown to be essential to rational agency o To be moral beings, we must also be conforming to the test of the categorical imperative; to provide ourselves with our own moral codes - This argument was based on his doctrine that a rational will must be autonomous o What does that mean? A rational will is autonomous just in case it is the author of the law that binds it - The fundamental principle of morality- the C.I.- is none other than the law of an autonomous will - So central to Kant’s moral philosophy is a conception of reason which sees it as much more than a mere instrument - Moreover, the presence of this self-governing reason in each person constitutes grounds for taking all people as possessing equal worth and deserving equal respect How the Categorical Imperative Works - The C.I. gives us a way to determine whether an action that we are contemplating is moral - It offers a two-part test o First, the C.I. determines whether an action is self-consistent (logically coherent?) o Second, it determines whether the action is one which the agent could rationally want everyone to perform (test of content) - If an action passes these tests, then it is morally permissible Illustrations - This example is of someone thinking about not helping those in need o His maxim: “I will take nothing from [another]… only I do not wish to contribute anything to his welfare or to his assistance in need” (663rc) o Kant says that “it is possible that a universal law of nature might exist according to that maxim” (663rc) o Nevertheless, he argues that “it is impossible to will that such a principle should have the universal validity of a law of nature”. Why? “For a will which resolved this would contradict with itself”, since he will likely find himself in need of love and sympathy of others- but by willing th
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