Kants Morality Essay Research Paper Kant starts

Kant`s Morality Essay, Research Paper

Kant starts off making two distinctions regarding kinds of knowledge,

empirical/rational and formal/material. Empirical or experience-based knowledge

is contrasted with rational knowledge, which is independent of experience. This

distinction between empirical and rational knowledge rests on a difference in

sources of evidence used to support the two different kinds of knowledge. Formal

is contrasted with material knowledge. Formal knowledge has no specific subject

matter; it is about the general structure of thinking about any subject matter

whatsoever. Material knowledge is of a specific subject matter, either nature or

freedom. Rational knowledge is metaphysics, of which there are two branches, the

metaphysics of nature and of morals. The metaphysics of nature is supposed to

provide rational knowledge of the laws of nature. These are not empirical laws;

they are more like universal principles of nature that any empirical physical

would presuppose, such as that no event in nature occurs without a natural

cause. The metaphysics of freedom is supposed to provide knowledge of the laws

of freedom. These are the universal rules which free agents devise to govern

them. Thus, Kant’s grounding, his initial attempt at a critique of rational

reason, is an investigation of the possibility of purely rational knowledge of

morals. Take, for example, the Moral Rule: Thou shalt not lie. If the moral law

is valid as the basis of moral obligation or duty, then it must be necessary.

Kant using the word "necessity" means that the rule obligates or binds

whatever the conditions or in all circumstances. It also means that the rule

applies to all rational beings and not only to human beings. In this second

sense we can say that the rule is universally binding. So in fact, moral rules

are universal and necessary. If a moral rule is to be universal and necessary,

the moral law must be derived from concepts of pure reason alone. Therefore, if

a moral rule or law can only be derived from reason alone, there must be a pure

moral philosophy whose task is to provide such a derivation. In the

"Grounding", Kant sets himself the task of establishing the

"supreme principle of morality" from which to make such a derivation.

According to Kant good will and only a good will is intrinsically good. Kant

distinguishes two different types of intrinsic or extrinsic goods. If a thing is

only extrinsically good, then it is possible for that thing not to be good, or

to be bad or evil. Intrinsic goodness is goodness in itself; if a thing is

intrinsically good, its goodness is essential to it; and its goodness is not a

function of factors other than itself. Kant holds that only a good will, not

happiness, is intrinsically good. The idea that it is reason rather than natural

impulse which guides action for the sake of happiness is false. Parts of a

person perform their functions by surviving and this provides happiness for the

person. Reason functions poorly in serving that purpose; instinct does better

job. Natural instinct rather than reason provides better for happiness. Kant

distinguishes between having a reason to act and acting for a reason. The

motivating reason is the reason for which agent acts. A justifying reason is the

reason that justifies, warrants, provides the criterion of rightness for the

action. The agent’s motivating reason might or might not provide a justifying

reason for his action. Kant then defines three types of motivating reasons. One

type of non-moral motivation is natural motivation. Action in accord with duty

is motivated by immediate or direct inclination. Direct inclination includes

such motives as love, sympathy, instinct for self-preservation, or the desire

for happiness. The other type of non-moral motivation is prudence. An action in

accord with duty, but motivated by prudence, is action motivated by the pursuit

of self-interest or happiness. Since all human beings naturally desire

happiness, prudential motivation is indirectly motivated by a natural

motivation. Moral motivation is the third type of motivation. The action is not

only in accord with duty, but motivated by duty, done from duty, or for sake of

duty. The agent’s motivating reason, the reason for which he acts, is that the

action is what morality demands and he wants above all to do what reason




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