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Lecture 16

PHI 205 Lecture Notes - Lecture 16: The Dealer, Nicomachean Ethics, Unconditionally

Course Code
PHI 205
Eric Carter

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Kant’s Groundwork (excerpts)
Unconditionally Good
Aristotle: Virtue
oKant criticizes this (subtly—does not criticize it outright)
oDoes not believe that virtue is the “highest good” or believe that it is
“unconditionally good”
Kant: Goodwill
oNothing can be considered “unconditionally good” but the goodwill
oHinting at what Aristotle called the “highest good” –virtue
oSomething that is good in and of itself, independent of anything else.
oKant discusses issues that are akin to Aristotle, despite his criticism of Aristotle
Reminders from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: Book I
The highest good
oIndependently good, in and of itself
oIf anything else is good, it is merely “relative” good
oHappiness is a relative good, according to Aristotle
Living according to reason
oLiving in accordance to rationality
oThis is virtue, which Aristotle believes is the highest good
Good according to Kant
Conditionally good
oTalents of mind
Intelligence, wit, etc.
oQualities of temperament
Courage, resoluteness, perseverance, etc.
oGifts of fortune
Power, riches, honor, health, happiness, etc.
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Unconditionally good
oGood Will
All of the examples of the “conditional goods” are virtues (intelligence, courage,
oPractical virtues
Kant does not believe that virtues are “unconditionally good,” and thus these talents of
mind, qualities of temperament, and gifts of fortune are not able to be “unconditionally
Why are these qualities only conditional goods? Why can’t they be unconditional?
oBecause these qualities aren’t inherently good
oThere are conditions under which having what Aristotle calls “virtues” is not a
good thing
oPeople sometimes use them for harmful purposes
Example: using intelligence to create a bomb
Good will
oSelflessness, “doing the right thing”
oIt’s not just the action that’s relevant, but also the motivation/purpose that
someone has in that action
oNot just doing the right thing, but doing the right thing for the right reasons in the
right way
“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more
often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law
within me…”
“…I do not seek or conjecture either of them as if they were veiled obscurities or
extravagances beyond the horizon of my vision; I see them before me and connect them
immediately with the consciousness of my existence.”
oThis is not something seen in Aristotle’s work
oThis is Kant’s starting point
oThis leads Kant’s to duties
Duty according to Kant
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