“Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals” or “Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals” by Immanuel Kant (1785) – Part 2

“Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals” or “Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals” by Immanuel Kant (1785) – Part 2

  • It’s impossible to find an act done purely out of moral duty, when you look deeper, almost always is the action accompanied by a motive of selfishness on top of duty
    • It’s telling we are smart enough to understand morality, noble to want it but too weak to act purely on its basis
    • We often draw from a posteriori experiences to form moral law because we can’t do so from a priori principles
    • God & Jesus must be compared to an ideal of moral perfection based on a priori principles within us, rational beings. So, we have a concept of moral duty
      • In the absence of examples of actions from principle, we might be inclined to live based on examples of popular ideas of it. But that assumes we’ve found pure rational knowledge of morality (metaphysics of morals) & we can establish it as something to fulfill, & we can’t because all we have is a posteriori examples. They contradict each other & to appeal to popularity causes some conflicts
    • Attempts at this make a collage of moral aphorisms & rules of thumb – but not one comes out of a priori principle
      • To be completely divorced from experience & example
      • As rational beings, we can conform our wills to laws of reason & morals (objective), or with needs (subjective)
  • An objective principle is a command, i.e. what’s obligatory to a will
    • The formula of the command is an imperative
    • Imperatives are expressed by using the word “ought” & refer to an objective law of reason to a will & a subjective constitution doesn’t necessarily follow
      • Things that are practically good according to reason & not out of subjective courses
        • Imperatives are only formulas to express the relation of objective laws of all volition to subjective imperfection of the will of a rational being (e.g. human will)
  • Imperatives are either hypothetical or categorical
    • Hypothetical – practical necessity of a possible action as a means to something else will. Good action only as a means to something else
    • Categorical – represents an action as necessary of itself without reference to another end – as objectively necessary. Conceived as good in itself & consequently, as being necessarily the principle of a will which of itself conforms to reason
      • Imperative declares what action possible done by me would be good & provides the practical rule with respect to a will that doesn’t immediately perform the act simply because it’s good – either because the subject doesn’t know it’s good or bad or the subject’s maxims might be opposed to the objective principles of practical reason
    • Hypothetical – action is good for some purpose, possible or actual
      • Possible – problematical
      • Actual – assertorial practical principle
    • Categorical – declares an action to be objectively necessary in itself without reference to any purpose (i.e. without any other end) & valid practical principle
  • What is possible only by the power of a rational being is possible by a will – & its principles maybe of an infinite source
    • All sciences have a practical part to express an end & imperatives of how to get there (general imperatives of skill)
      • No good or bad but what is needed to be done to succeed regardless of goodness & badness
      • Skill is to be used to carry out a will
    • One end that rational beings have by natural necessity = happiness
      • The hypothetical imperative expressing the practical necessity of an action to get happiness is “assertorial” – it’s of a priori principle because it belongs to every rational being
      • Prudence is the skill to achieve happiness – still hypothetical because it’s a means to another end
  • Categorical Imperative – commands a certain conduct immediately without being a condition to another purpose through it. The matter or the intended result doesn’t matter but principle does. The mental disposition is the most important (morality)
    • 3 types of principles:
      • 1 – Rules of skill
      • 2 – Counsels involve necessity but only holding under a contingent subjective condition, e.g. they depend what a particular man thinks is necessary to be happy (pragmatic imperative)
      • 3 – Only law involves the idea of unconditional & objective necessity, universally valid. Laws must be obeyed, even if you’re inclined to oppose them
        • Categorical imperative isn’t limited by any condition
      • How are all of these possible? How can we conceive the obligation of the will the imperative expresses?
        • Obviously the one willing the end also wills the means. The imperative brings, from volition of the end, the idea of what’s necessary to achieve
        • Synthetical propositions have to be used in the intended action, i.e. if I know that only one process can be used in doing something with success, I’m going to want to use that process because I want the end result
    • If it were easy to define happiness, imperatives of prudence would be the same as the imperatives of skill & analytics. But this is not the case. Every man’s happiness is so different that each man has to do the process separately
      • The elements of the idea of happiness are empirical & must be taken from experience but happiness itself requires an absolute whole
        • Definite concepts aren’t possible. Only empirical counsel works
        • Imperatives of prudence don’t work because they are objectively necessary of the fulfillment but they are also universal & happiness’s prescriptions aren’t universal
    • How imperative of morality works is the only question demanding a solution not resting on a hypothesis. You can’t use subjectively, experience or example
  • Difference between a categorical & counsel: e.g.
    • Categorical – “Don’t make false promises.”
    • Counsel – “Don’t make false promises because it’ll hurt your reputation.”
      • Meaning – “If you don’t want to have your reputation destroyed, don’t do this.” Many other reasons are possible too
    • Categorical – “Don’t do this.” No reason, explanation given, just a pure imperative, categorical, absolute
  • Categorical has the purport of a practical law on the principles of the will – whatever is necessary to attain any arbitrary purpose, free from precept, no liberty to do the opposite. It has all the necessary the necessity required of law
    • It’s very difficult to discern its possibility, we must see if there’s a formula for it
    • With hypothetical imperatives, we don’t know what it’ll contain until we get its conditions because it’s for a secondary purpose
  • Categorical Imperative IN WORDS: “Act only on the maxim that you would will to be a universal law”
    • The universality of the law is “nature”. Apply the categorical imperative to nature
    • Let’s examine a few duties to ourselves & others, & perfect & imperfect duties
      • 1 – A man’s so down he’s considering suicide. He thinks that life has more pain that good. Can this principle based on self-love required to improve life à can’t be a universal law because it’s inconsistent
      • 2 – A man is forced to borrow money he knows he’ll never be able to repay. He can’t get it without promising to repay it on time. His current need conflicts with his future in the present. It can’t be a universal law to make promises you know to be impossible. It’s contradictory
      • 3 – A man of talent can improve his skill & make himself very useful to others. But he’d prefer to indulge in pleasures & let his talents dwindle but still sees his duty is to develop his talents. His inclinations & his duty conflict & can’t be a universal law of nature
      • 4 – A wealthy man sees others in poverty & knows he can help them. But he figures every man should do as well as God wants or what he can do for himself. He’s not hurting anyone but he’s not helping. The human race can survive like this but it wouldn’t do well. It also contradicts his need for the love & sympathy of others, when he’s not willing to offer it himself
  • The examples fall into 2 classes of the categorical imperative
    • We must be able to will a maxim of our action to be a universal law of nature.
    • Some examples are contradictory & impossible, & can’t be conceived of as a universal law, let alone being something we’d actually want as one (Impossible)
    • Some without intrinsic impossibilities, are still not candidates because to will one thing would conflict without another thing we’ve also willed (Self-conflicting)
      • We can’t do the impossible. We can’t contradict other wills or make exceptions in our own favor – NO EXCEPTIONS
    • If duty means anything & real legislative authority is to be put over our actions, it can only be expressed in categorical imperative
    • We’ve yet to prove a priori. There actually is an imperative & there’s a practical law commanding absolutely of itself without other impulses
    • We also have to remember not to deduce the reality of the principle from attributes of human nature because it has to be practical & of an unconditional necessity for all rational beings – & a law for all human wills
      • With respect to human characteristics (feelings, propensities, etc.) – they might not hold to all rational beings. They might supply us with a maxim but not a law or a subjective principle to act on but not an objective one we’d have to act on even if we don’t want to
    • This means it has to be fixed & philosophy shows its purity as an absolute director of its own laws, not to be supplied with them. Their source must be purely a priori. Empirical elements hinder the purity of morals because they must be free of all influence of contingent grounds – that’s what humans do
  • Question: Is it a necessary law of all rational beings that they should always judge their actions by maxims that can serve as universal laws?
    • If yes, it must be connected with the concept of a rational being’s will. To find out the connection, you have to go into metaphysics of morals
      • In practical philosophical reasons things matter less than the laws of what ought to happen à objective practical laws
        • Physics = philosophy of nature based on empirical laws
      • But we want objective practical laws with respect to the will as it is determined by reason alone. If reason itself determines the conduct, it must do so a priori
    • The will is a faculty that determines itself in accordance with the conception of certain laws. à Can only be found in rational beings
      • What serves the will is the only objective ground of its self-determination is the end.
      • What merely contains the ground of possibility of the action of which the effect is the end is the means
        • Subjective ground of desire = the spring
        • Objective ground of volition = motive
          • The distinction between the 2 is valid for all rational beings
    • Practical principles are formal when they abstract from all subjective ends. They are material when we assume them & are particular springs of action
      • All relative ends can lead only to hypothetical imperatives
    • Something, whose existence has in itself an absolute worth, being an end in itself, could be a source of definite laws. Only in this thing would lie the source of a possible categorical imperative à practical law
  • Rational beings exists as ends themselves – not as means to be used by some will but all his actions must be considered an end
    • Objects of inclinations only have a conditional worth because without inclination their object would be without value
    • The inclination (sources of want) are so far from having absolute value that it must be a universal wish by all rational beings to be free from them
      • The worth of any object acquired by action is conditional
      • Being depending on nature for existence (not our will) if they are irrational & only have a relative value as means (things)
      • Rational beings = persons because they are objective ends themselves.
    • If there is a supreme practical principle (to humans, this is the categorical imperative) must be drawn from the concept of what’s an end itself – objective principle of will & serve as a universal practical law
      • Man conceives of his own existence as such
        • Subjective principle of human actions
      • Other ration beings do similarly
        • Applied to other rational beings, as for humans
        • Also an objective principle as a supreme practical law. All laws of the will must be capable of being deduced
          • Therefore the practical imperative = So act as to treat humanity, whether yourself or anyone else, as an end, never just as a means
  • Examples:
    • 1 – Duty to oneself – One who contemplates suicide should ask if his action is consistent with the idea of humanity as if an end itself. To destroy oneself to escape pain uses a person as a means to make a condition more tolerable until the end of life
      • You can’t dispose of a man, even in one’s own person because it makes a bad situation more tolerable
    • 2 – Duties & obligations to others – A man who makes a lying promise to others would be using another man as a means to his end. He wouldn’t knowingly approve of your action & therefore can’t be a part of the end, making him the means of your action. It’s transgressing the rights of a man intending to use him as a means via deception
    • 3 – Meritorious/contingent duties to oneself – It is not enough that an act doesn’t violate humanity in oneself as an end itself – it must harmonize with it. There are always ways to perfect a man/oneself & to neglect these might not violate maintenance of humanity but violates advancement of man
    • 4 – Meritorious duties to others – All men have happiness as their natural end. Humanity would subsist if no one contributed to the happiness of others if he didn’t take away from it – That would harmonize negatively, by not detracting, but not positively with humanity as its own end
      • Humanity’s own end includes the person involved. He must forward himself as an end & humanity as an end to have the full effect
  • The principle that humanity & all rational creatures are ends themselves doesn’t come from experience because
    • 1 – It’s universal & experience determines nothing about them
    • 2 – It doesn’t present humanity as an end to men subjectively but as an objective end & must come from pure reason
    • Objective principle of all practical legislation lies in the rule & its universality that makes it capable of being a law
    • Subjective principle is in the end of each rational being
    • Ultimate condition of its harmony with universal practical reason – the idea of the will of every rational being as a universally legislative will
      • All maxims inconsistent with will being the universal legislator to be rejected. The will isn’t just the subject but so much so that it gives the law & therefore subject to it
      • Previous examples show conformity of actions to general laws (physical system of nature). They were assumed to be categorical because we were discussing duty
      • One thing to indicate in the imperative itself by some determinate expression – volition out of duty removes interest as a factor making it a universally legislating will. Individual wills need laws restricting them from interest from requiring self-love as a part of universal law
      • Therefore the principle that every human will is “a will which in all its maxims gives universal laws” can be adapted to the categorical imperative because universal laws are unconditional imperatives
    • The previous examples (1-4) failed to get to the principle of morality. Man was bound to laws by duty but they weren’t laws he gave. While they were universal they were not of his own interest but only so via attraction or constraint because it wasn’t from his own & he’s being obliged by something else to act a certain way
      • All supreme principle of duty is lost. Duty wasn’t there, only interest private or otherwise – & the imperative wasn’t a moral command. It’s the principle of autonomy of will in contest to “heteronomy”
    • The conception of the will of every rational being in giving itself maxims of universal laws à leads to the kingdom of ends
      • “Kingdom” meaning the union of different rational being in a system of common laws. If we abstract from personal differences of rational beings & their private goals, we can see all the combined ends in a systematic whole that is based on the preceding principles
        • Rational beings must all treat themselves & others as ends & not only as mean. The systematic union result with common objective laws
        • A rational being belongs to the kingdom as a member of the kingdom when he gives universal laws & is subject to them. He is a sovereign of it while giving it laws & he is not subject of the will of any other
      • Rational beings must see themselves as members or sovereigns in the Kingdom of Ends. One  can’t stay sovereign by maxims of one’s will but only when one’s independent, without wants & with unrestricted power necessary for one’s will
      • Morality consists in the reference of all action to legislation & that alone can make the Kingdom possible. The legislation must be able to exist within all rational beings & coming from their well – so that the principle of will is never to act on any maxim that couldn’t also be a universal law without contradiction
        • If the maxims of rational beings aren’t consistent with this, then the necessity of acting on it is “practical necessitation”, which doesn’t apply to the sovereign of the Kingdom of Ends but to all its members
          • This isn’t based on feelings or impulses but relations between rational being with each other. It is a legislation but it is purely an end in itself
        • In the Kingdom of Ends, everything has dignity or value. Whatever has value can be replaced by an equivalent. Whatever is above all value & has no equivalent has a dignity. Whatever has reference to the general inclinations & wants of mankind has market value. Whatever without presupposing a want, corresponds to a taste that is satisfying to the playfulness of our faculties is a fancy value. Dignity is an intrinsic worth & has no relative worth to other things
  • Morality is the condition where a being can be an end in himself & alone in this is a legislating membership of the Kingdom of Ends. Morality & humanity capable of it are the only things with dignity
    • What justifies virtue or a morally good position in making such claims? Purely a rational being being able to participate in giving universal laws, qualifying him to be a member of a Kingdom of Ends & legislate for it
  • 3 Modes to present the principle of morality – so that all maxims have:
    • 1 – A Form – consisting in universality. Maxims must be chosen as if they were to serve as universal laws of nature
    • 2 – A Matter – an end. The rational being is an end of nature & itself. It must serve in every maxim as the condition limiting all relative & arbitrary ends
    • 3 – A Complete Characterization – of all maxims, which ought to harmonize with a Kingdom of nature. There’s a progress in the order of categories of unity of form of the will (its universality), plurality of the matter (the ends) & the totality of the system of the them
      • In forming moral judgment of actions, start with categorical imperative: “Act according to a maxim which can at the same time make itself a universal law” by using the 3 conditions above
  • Start with an unconditionally good will – can’t be evil & in a maxim can never contradict itself. It must be stated as a categorical imperative
    • The end must not be seen to be effected but as existing independently. It must be conceived negatively. The principle is: “So act in regard to every rational being including yourself that he may always have place in your maxim as an end in himself – Never as a means, always as the end
      • He, being an end in himself, must regard himself as a legislative member of universal law. It implies his dignity above more physical things. A world of rational beings is impossible as a kingdom of end & all persons are members & must act as though his maxims are legislation for universal laws, to which he himself is also subject.
      • Morality is the relation of actions to the autonomy of the will to the potential universal legislation by the maxims. Actions consistent with the will are permitted & those not are forbidden
        • A will who maxims necessarily coincide with laws of autonomy is a holy will – absolutely good
        • Objective necessity of actions from obligation is a duty
  • The Autonomy of the Will as the Supreme Principle of Morality
    • Autonomy of the will is the property of the will which is a law to itself & its principle is: Always so to choose that same volition shall comprehend the maxims of our choice as universal law
      • Can’t prove this practical rule is imperative by an analysis of its conceptions because it’s a synthetical proposition
      • Must go beyond cognition of objects to a critical examination of the subject & the synthetic proposition must be a priori. Its principle must be  categorical imperative
  • Heteronomy of the Will as the Source of all Spurious Principles of Morality
    • If the will seeks the law to determine it outside of the fitness of its maxim – i.e. in other objects, it’s heteronomy. This is only for hypothetical imperatives because the end is only chose as a means to some other end
  • Classification of all Principles of Morality which can be Founded on the Conception of Morality
    • Here & elsewhere, human reason has gone down a lot of dead ends to find the one true way. All principles are empirical or rational
      • Empirical – drawn from the principle of happiness, built on physical or moral feelings. They’re incapable of being the foundation of moral laws. Once their foundation is taken from the constitution of human nature, they sense to be a priori & are taken from the observation of human nature & people’s happiness. They can’t serve as categorical imperatives because they often contradict themselves
      • Rational – principle of perfection built on rational conception of perfection or of independent perfection (God’s Will) as the determinant of our will
        • There may be problems deriving rational principles of morality but it is also difficult to distinguish from divine will
      • If I had to choose between the idea of the moral sense & that of perfection in general, I’d choose the latter because it draws more directly from pure reason even if it’s useless
      • In all cases, where the object of the will determines the will, the rule is heteronomy, with a conditional imperative. This includes inclinations like private happiness, etc. Then the will will be prescriptive – i.e. in order to fulfill a purely subjective ends (which don’t necessarily apply to others). You should do this…
      • An absolutely good will will be indeterminate with respect to all objects & will only contain volition to make universal law
      • To prove morality isn’t a human invention, it supposes the possibility of a synthetic use of pure practical reason…

Author: knowit68

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