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Lecture

PHL lecture, feb. 7.doc

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Department
Philosophy
Course
PHL100Y1
Professor
Peter King
Semester
Winter

Description
Kant: Morality and Duty • Kant attempts to straighten out what morality is concerned with and to discover the fundamentals of morality o The rational core of morality o There are fundamental rules that form moral thoughts  Doesn’t matter where you are, killing someone for no reason is wrong o Finds this interesting • Kant claims that the only thing conceivable thing that is “good without qualification” is a good will. o What does this mean? o Distinguish agents, actions and events  Actions are events that are brought about (performed by) agents  This matters when wee try to get a handle on the scope of ethics- we can say that ethics is concerned with actions rather than events, and with the agents behind the actions • Ethics is not concerned with events as such, only with actions o We don’t hold events that are not somehow the product of voluntary choice to be morally good or evil  Earthquakes are deplorable and they cause suffering, but they are not in themselves evil o Instead we are interested in actions, that is, in events starring agents • No actions, or types of actions, are good or bad in themselves o Any action can be ‘contextualized’ so that is good in one set of circumstances, bad in another  The goodness of an action does not depend on the kind of action it is  NOTE: this flies In the face of traditional moral codes • The goodness or badness of an action is not due solely to its consequences o Think of failures to accomplish an action, or unforeseen consequences, or the impossibility of taking all the consequences into account o Upshot: we should not try to explicate goodness or badness in terms of actions, but rather in terms of the sources of actions: the agent’s intentions, aims or motives o Kant’s move • We can support Kant’s move by noting that often the motive of an action has a lot to do with how we evaluate the action o A putatively good action can be vitiated when we learn that the motive is to impress other people rather than helping someone in need • The motive of an action is why the agent performs the action • The intention is what the agent takes herself to be doing • The aim is the purpose or sake for which the action is performed • We choose to act the way we do o May not be in control of the motives but we need not act on them
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