“Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals” or “Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals” by Immanuel Kant (1785) – Part 3

“Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals” or “Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals” by Immanuel Kant (1785) – Part 3

  • Transition from the Metaphysics of Morals to the Critique of Pure Practical Reason
    • 1 – The Concept of Freedom is the key to explaining autonomy of the will
      • Rational & free beings have a will. Cause & effect are according to immutable laws. Physical necessity is a heteronomy of efficient causes (i.e. something is a cause of something else). So then, what is free will other than heteronomy? It’s the will causing an effect
      • The proposition: “To act on no other maxim than that which can also have as a object itself as a universal law” is precisely a formula for a categorical imperative & moral principle so that they & a free will are one & the same
      • Morally with its principle follow from this hypothesis of the free will. However, it’s a synthetic proposition, that an absolutely good will is one whose maxim can always include itself regarded as a universal law, & it can’t be discovered by analyzing an absolutely good will alone. It requires a free will which can’t be the nature of the sensible world. We can’t show how the idea of freedom is legitimate from principles of pure practical reason & the possibility of the categorical imperative
    • 2 – Freedom must be presupposed as a property of the will of all rational beings
      • We can’t assume our own free will without assuming it for all rational beings. Morality serves as a law only because we are rational beings, so it must hold for all rational beings. It also has to be deduced from a property of freedom à for all rational beings
      • It’s not enough to show from experiences with human nature. We have to show it’s a part of a rational being with a will. Every rational being with a will must be given the attribute of the idea of freedom & that he acts entirely under the idea
        • The will of a rational being can’t be its own without the idea of freedom
      • 3 – Of the Interest attaching to the Ideas of Morality
        • We’ve connected the idea of morality to freedom. Freedom must be presupposed if a rational being were to be conscious of his causality in his actions. We ascribe this freedom to all rational beings & self-determination
        • We’re aware of law whose subjective principles of action must always be assumed that they can hold objective
          • Why subject yourself to this principle? Especially when interest urges you & it can’t serve as a categorical imperative. “I ought” is valid for all rational beings so long as nothing in reason hinders it. Sensibility is a spring in cases where necessity is expressed only as “ought”, & subjective necessity isn’t the same as objective necessity
          • It seems that moral law is speaking in a presupposed way about the idea of freedom & as if we can’t prove its reality & objective necessity independently
          • If we ask, “Why must the universal validity of our maxim as law be the condition constricting actions?” or “How do we assign worth of these acts?”, we can’t give a good answer
          • We can take an interest in personal quality without external conditions being examined. Merely being worth of happiness can interest one without actually having the motive of participating in it – the only effect of the importance of moral law we’ve presupposed before. We ought to detach ourselves from interests to find a worth in our own person that can compensate us for the loss of everything that gives worth to our condition. Can’t see where the moral law gets its moral obligation from, though…
        • Freedom & self-legislation of will are both autonomy & reciprocal ideas, & can’t be used to explain each other. But we can ask if we can think of ourselves as a priori efficient causes & when we form the concept of ourselves from our actions as effects through our own senses
          • Obscure discernment of judgment called “feeling”, that all the “ideas” that come to us involuntarily don’t enable us to know objects other than in how they affect us
            • We can only attain knowledge of them via knowledge of appearances & not via the things themselves. We must admit & assume that behind the appearance, there is something else that is not an appearance (i.e. the things in themselves). They can never be known to us except as they affect us. This has to give a distinction between a world of sense & a world of understanding. A man can’t pretend to know what he is in himself from internal sensation, i.e. he doesn’t come by the conception of himself a priori but empirically – because he can only obtain knowledge through the appearances of his nature & how his consciousness is affected. He can only reckon himself as belonging to the world of sense
              • We are very much inclined to suppose behind the objects of the senses something else invisible & acting of itself. We spoil it be sensualizing this invisible again, wanting to make it an object to intuition, not making anyone any smarter
            • Man has a faculty to distinguish himself from everything else, even as affected by objects – reason. This is even higher than “understanding”. But reason can’t produce, from its activity, any other conceptions than those that serve to bring the intuitions of sense under rules & to unite them under one consciousness & without it, sensibility, it couldn’t think at all
            • Reason shows spontaneity with ideas & transcends everything the sensibility can give it & exhibits its most important function – distinguishing the world of sense from the world of understanding
            • A rational being must see himself in the form of intelligence as belonging to the world of understanding & not of the world of sense. He can see himself & his faculties in 2 ways:
              • 1 – In the world of sense, he’s subject to the laws of nature (heteronomy)
              • 2 – In the intelligible world, he’s subject to laws independent of nature, based on reason alone & not experience
            • Independence of the determinate causes of the sensible world is freedom, which is inseparably connected to autonomy & the universal principle of morality – the foundation of all rational beings’ actions
              • We’ve laid down freedom as a factor because of the moral law only so that we can infer moral law from freedom. We can’t prove it but it is an idea any sensible mind would accept – leaving us with freedom & autonomy of the will & the consequence of morality with ourselves under its obligation, since we belong both to the world of sense & world of understanding
            • 4 – How is the Categorical Imperative Possible?
              • Every rational being through his intelligence sees himself belonging to the world of understanding & calls causality his will. On the other hand, he knows he also belongs to the world of sense where causality is otherwise referred to as desires & inclinations
              • In the world of understanding, all actions conform to the principle of autonomy of pure will. In the world of sense, they’d conform to the natural law of desires & inclinations (heteronomy of nature)
                • You have to see yourself as a member of both worlds submitting to both forces.
                • The synthesis of these 2 means the categorical imperative applies to the world of understanding & within the world of sense, the actions “ought” to conform, making a “categorical ought”
                • No one, when shown examples of honesty, good maxims, sympathy, benevolence, etc. wouldn’t also want these qualities. Only his impulses & inclinations prevent him & make him want to lose them to be free from the impulses of sensibility to be a better person. Then he’d be forced involuntarily by the idea of freedom
              • 5 – Of the Extreme Limits of all Practical Philosophy
                • All men say they have a free will. They always talk about what ought to have been done even though it hadn’t been done
                  • Freedom isn’t an experience because it still remains whether something happened or didn’t happen. It’s the necessary condition of it happening
                  • But it’s necessary that everything that does happen does so according to the laws of nature. Laws of nature are also not an empirical conception. They involve the motion of necessity & are a priori cognitions. They can be confirmed by experience
                  • Freedom is only an idea of reason. Nature is a concept of understanding
                • Dialectic of Reason
                  • Speculative Purposes – finds the road of physical necessity much more beaten & more appropriate than that of freedom
                  • Practical Purposes – narrow path of freedom is the only one possible to make us use reason in our contact
                • Philosophy must assume no contradiction between freedom & physical necessity of the same human actions because nature & freedom are on even terms. If the thought of freedom contradicts itself or nature does, freedom must be given up on
                  • Problem with speculative philosophy to show its illusion respecting the contradiction rests on the fact that we think of man in a different sense & relation when we call him free & when we see him as subject to the laws of nature as just being part of nature itself
                • Claims of freedom of will made by common reason are founded on the consciousness o& admitted supposition that reason is independent of merely subjectively determined causes, together belonging to sensation only. When man thinks of himself like that, he thinks of himself as an intelligence with a will & a causality, but also subject to the laws of nature
                  • Man claims to have a will without considering desires & inclinations, & conceives actions that can only be done by disregarding desires & sensible inclinations. The causality of these actions in an intelligence in him based on the principles of the world of reason. The world’s laws apply to him directly & categorically. His desires don’t impair the laws of volition
                  • When practical reason thinks itself into a world of understanding, it doesn’t transcend its own limits as it would with intuition or sensation. If borrowing a will from the world of understanding, it would overstep its bounds & make unfounded claims. The conception of the world of understanding is only a point of view & compelled to take outside appearances to conceive itself as practical
                  • Reason would overstep its bounds if it tried to explain how pure reason could be practical or how freedom is possible. Freedom is a mere idea & its objective reality can’t be shown according to laws of nature & never from experience, example or analogy
                  • Where determination according to laws of nature ceases, all explanation ceases & nothing remains but defense – removal of objections to understanding the nature of things
                  • Subjective impossibility of explaining free will is similar with interest in making moral law. We can only use “moral feeling” as a standard of moral judgment – purely subjective
                  • Rational beings affected by senses ought to will reason alone to guide them. Reason should allow them the power to infuse pleasure for fulfilling a duty
                • Q: How can a Categorical Imperative be possible?
                  • We can assign only the hypothesis on which it’s possible – the idea of freedom via practical exercise of reason without matter of interest (which would be moral)
                • 6 – Concluding Remark
                  • Speculative employment of reason with respect to nature leads to the absolute necessity of some supreme cause of the world. Its practical use with respect to freedom leads to absolute necessity but only to laws of action of rational beings.
                  • Essential principle of reason to push knowledge to a consciousness of its necessity. Essential restriction that it can neither discern the necessity of what happens nor what ought to happen
                  • No fault in deduction of supreme principle of morality but can’t lead to a practical law
                  • While we don’t understand the practical necessity of the categorical imperative, we know it is incomprehensible & that’s a good start in philosophy

Author: knowit68

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