October 24, 2013
Kant-second lecture (missed previous lecture)
1. Good Will and Duty
A) Good Will= Good Intentions
B) Good intentions, virtues, and results
C) Good Intentions= acting from duty
D) Acting from duty vs. acting in conformity with duty: the trouble case of the
E) Duty – law – universal law
What is good will? It is that which acts from good will.
The idea is to get us to do something that is right because it is right, not because you
feel compelled to do so.
He wasn’t’s to show how acting out of respect for the law can result into acting from
What does it mean to act from duty? It means that you have some kind of a rule, and
you are saying to yourself that you are not going to do bad things. You will give
yourself a rule and stick by that rule, no matter what. When you give yourself a rule,
you are motivated to follow it (no matter what), no matter what situation you are in
you will follow that rule.
He wants us to think about that idea… following a rule, no matter what!
That rule is like a universal law. Now matter what happens in history, wherever,
there is this principle. It is like a universal law (a law that holds no matter
Generally that regularity means it will happen no matter what.
So having a duty is having respect for a law (an idea). This idea is that there are
rules of things that you ought to do and ought not to do.
From there he gets to his famous categorical emperical.
From the text: (p.400) (403)
“The second proposition is that an action from duty has puropose because of the
“Third: Duty is a necessity of action from the law”
“I ought never to act in such a way that my maxim should become a universal law.”
What are imperatives?
Kant’s discussion of methodology.
Section 1 is about ordinary intuitions.
Section 2 he now wants to find out what it means to act by universal law.
a) Hypothetical vs. categorical imparative b) Happiness and practical reason
c) 1 universal law formulation
d) 2 universal law of nature formulation
e) Common sense application
f) Kant’s technical application
An “ought” is something that you should do. The vast majority of ought’s in our
head are about a means to an end. We should do this to achieve something we want.
A moral imperative is something that you should do because it is universally right.
Having the right moral character and making the right decisions has to do with the
pursuit of happiness and worthwhile life. Kant says we can never have a clear
answer as to what it means to be happy.
(p.209)”If only it were as easy to give a categorical idea of happiness… happiness is
such that every human being wishes to obtain it, but is not able to determine what it
is that would make him/her truly happy. One cannot act therefore on the sake of
being happy, .. from this it follows that imperativces of prudence cannot command
actions at all, but they are to be taken as councels, rather than demands of reasons.”
Everyone uses their minds to find out how to be happy. We use our reason to do
this, but it is not a science. Our minds give us suggestions, but they cannot always
Kant is trying to explain that if there was a “perfectly rational being” they would not
act on councils of happiness. To gain morality would come from rational principles.
Categorical Imperatives have this character of being necessary sources of reason.
(p.421) “At only in accordance with that maxim that you can will as with universal
law. Act only as that with could be universal law.”
Why are we in school? Because we want a degree in POL, we translate our reason
into a principle.
What Kant is saying is that we have to ask ourselves if what we are doing is right?
What if everyone acted in this way? What if this was law?
If we think that it is ok to lie if it will save someone being hurt, we must look at the
idea that the rest of the world would also act in this way. We must do a
But how do we know if this would be good or bad?
Kant want’s to give a technical answer.
He isn’t concerned with whether we are happy… we ask if this world is even actually
He says there will be deep contradictions is such a world. It’s not that it wouldn’t be
rational, but the principle itself would be irrational because it would lead to a
contradictory world. 2. Examples
a) Suicide (perfect duty) –can self-love both promote and destroy life?
b) Borrowing on false promise (perfect duty) – self-contradictory as promising
would be impossible
c) The Couch Potato (imperfect duty) – there already exists a law of nature
against couch potatoness.
d) Helping those in need (imperfect duty)- you cant will it because you want it.
Perfect Duty- there is an absolute prohibition
Imperfect Duty- it is unspecified in its duty (it is not determined how you do it)
False Promising- You need money, you promise you will give it back, but you know
you cannot pay it back (it is a sort of lie). False promising and lying are related. So
you ask yourself it this is something to do, you look at your maxim, you ask yourself
what if everyone else acted in this way… Kant says this world would be impossible,
because no one would ever believe any promise. It would be irrational. Even if we
accept that this would be irrational, what is actually wrong with it? Kant wants to
show us that in reason alone shows us there is a problem.
The Couch Potato- A natural law introduces a kind of teleology. Kant believes there
is a type of natural laws. One of the problem that will happen in the case of suicide
is that it will contradict a natural law. You want to know if it is morally permissible,
so you look at the universal maxim. You have internal pain and you make a
judgment about your own selflove (caring for how you feel).
Kant says nature gave us self-love, but how could it lead us to self-caring, but also
self-hatred. It is self-contradictory.
(p.422) “From self love I threaten to end my life when it threatens to cause more
problems than not…”
“The couch potato, wants to go to an island and not have any responsibilities….. the
problem is that, you can want this, but you can’t will it as a universal law. As a
rational being, all his capacities are given to him to develop our talents.
Helping Those in Need- What if we never want to help anyone? We cannot will this
because at some point we will need help. So if this were a universal law, then no one
would ever help one another.
Kant’s point is that human beings are essentially vulnerable and needy.. this is the
human condition. Therefore all of us, by the fact that we are human, will need
someone’s help at some point. Therefore to decide that you will not help anyone
and make this into a universal law is illogical.
The problem is that there is a consistence of logical inconsistencies.
So how do we formulate our