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Kantian Ethics.doc

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Joseph Boyle

Kantian Ethics The Categorical Imperative Revisited Nelson 415-419 • one basic categorical moral law: the Universalization Principle • acting on a good will does not require acting without inclination • Kant has not shown that categorical imperatives are the basis of morality • it still might be so even if he doesn’t show it • we need to employ a procedure that is impartial among the different persons or interests involved • illness example cannot be willed as a universal law • not at every opportunity, under these circumstances, one could will his maxim of saving her life as a universal law • the principle also requires that we demand the same of ourselves that we demand of others • what if we are willing that others act a way towards us and others do not will that we act this same way towards them? • morally praiseworthy vs. morally correct Moral Luck – Thomas Nagel 441-452 • Kant: luck should not influence our moral judgment of a person • Nagel: we consider someone who has produced painful ends to be a worse person, even if he had the right intention, than someone who hasn’t produced those ends, Nagel says that they are equal • Kant: a bad will is morally irrelevant • K: people cannot be morally assessed for what is not their fault or beyond their control • Nagel: moral judgement is partly determined by external factors • what someone does depends on factors beyond their control • we continue to judge people morally • nothing or almost nothing that a person does is under his control • 1) constituitive luck: the kind of person one is (inclinations, capacities, temperament) • 2) luck in one’s circumstances • moral judgement dependent on outcome of luck • running a red light, hitting a person vs. not, one situation is considered more morally wrong than the other • leaving a baby in a bath with running water, the baby drowning vs. not • moral verdict depends on results • problem: these examples have no moral worth in the first place and Kant’s philosophy deals primarily with cases of moral worth, I do not think that Kant’s philosophy is about morally wrong intentions as much as it is about morally right • Kant: moral irrelevance of qualities of temperament that are not under the control of the will • Nagel’s criticism: a person can be greedy, envious, cowardly, cold, and ungenerous but behave perfectly by a monumental effort of the will • I think that Kant presupposes that in order to have a good will, it is obvious that you possess certain virtues to recognize the importance of the will • How can you be a fully greedy person if you are committed to moral duty? • Nagel: moral judgements arise from what one does but what he does results from a great deal that he does not do (responsible for what he is and is not responsible for) • moral judgement of a person is a judgment of HIM and not what happens to him Kant on the Good Will: The rejection of goods-based ethics • The only thing that is unconditionally good is a good will • 1) unconditional: it is good in itself regardless of circumstance • 2) good will: morally correct choices • other “talents of the mind”, e.g. intelligence, wit, courage, or “gifts of fortune”, e.g. power, riches, health, well-being, and also happiness, can be both good and bad if there is no good will involved • a life of morality is a rational
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