A DISCUSSION OF KANT’S PRINCIPLE OF MORAL CONCEPTS

 In “Grond Work of the Metaphysics of Morals” Kant attempts to search for a practical doctrine of morals and moral laws that is derived from the universal concepts of rational beings that will hold for every rational being regardless of religion. In his search for a principle of mral concepts Kant sets out to present a complete unity of a practical with speculative reason by establishing a supreme principle of morality as the single key to every moral decision. Kant’s postulate that all moral concepts have their seat and origin completely a priori in reason. Kant suggests  just as in reason that is speculative in the highest degree, morals cannot be abstracted from any empirical or mere contingent cognition. He argued that the purity of their origin lies in their dignity, so that they can serve us as supreme practical principles. Kant’s assertion is that in adding anything empirical to them we are liable to subtract just as much from their genuine influence and from their unlimited worth of actions that is not only a requirement of the greates necessity for theoretical purposes, when it is a matter merely of speculation, but also of the greatest practical importance, that which is to draw its concepts and laws from pure reason.

Kant too the position that everything in nature works in accordance with laws and only a rational being has the capacity to act in accordance with the representation of laws that is in accordance with moral principles or has a will. Kant’s assertion is that since reason is required for the determination of actions from laws, the will is nothing other than practical reason, and since reasons infallibly determines the will, the actions of such a being that are cognized as objectively necessary are also subjectively necesssary. This mean the will has a capacity to choose only that which reason independently of inclinations cognizes as practically necessary that is good. Kant’s claim that all moral concepts  have their seat and origin completely a priori in reason, in the most common reason that is speculative in the highest degree. That which cannot be abstracted empirically and therefore merely contingent cognitions. Kant suggest it is in this purity of their origin lies their dignity, so that they can serve us as supreme practical principles and by adding anything empirical to them we run the risk of subtracting just from their genuine influence and from the unlimited worth of its actions. He suggests that it is not only a requirement of the greates necessity for theoretical purposes, or a matter merely of speculation, but it is of the greatest practical importance to draw its concepts and laws from pure reason, that which is set them pure and unmixed, in order to determine the extent of this entire practical or pure rational cognition, as that which determine the entire faculty of pure  rational cognition, as that which determine the entire faculty of pure practical reason. For Kant the only thing which can be quantifiable is a good will, and he ponders whether anyone can even conceive of anything at all in this world, or even out of it, without qualification except a good will. Kant added, some qualities are ven conducive to this good will itself, however.  He suggests however, they have no inner unconditional worth but always presupposes a good will, which limits the esteem one otherwise rightly has for them and does not permit their being taken absolutely as good. Kant thus contrasted a good will with good fortune, which we call happiness. Kant made an important qualification that although good will (morality) is wholly distinct from good fortune (happiness) and we naturally expect that the two will go together. Kant concludes a good will appears to constitute the indispensable condition even of being worthy of happiness. A good will for Kant is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes, or because of its fitness to attain some proposed end, but only because of its volition, that is, it is good in itself and regarded for itself, is to be valued incomparably highr than all that could merely be brought by it in favor of some inclination.

Kant attested that since reason is not sufficiently competent to guide the will surely with regard to its object and the satisfaction of all our needs, and since reason is nevertheless given to us as a practical faculty, that is one that is to influence the will. He suggests were nature has every where else gone to work purposively in distributing its capacities. The true vocation of reason according to Kant must be to produce a will that is good, not as a means to other purposes, but good in itself, for which reason was absolutely necessary. As Kant puts it, this will must be the highest good and the condition of every other, evenfor all demands of happiness.  This concept of a good will for  Kant is that which is to be esteemed in itself and that is good apart from any further purpose, constitutes a concept of duty. Duty  for Kant contains that of good will though under subjective limitations and hindrances, which, however, far from concealing it making it unrecognizable, rather bring it out by contrast and make it out shine forth all the more brightly. Kant makes an all important distinction between acting in conformity with duty versus acting for the sake of duty. He suggests contrasted with reason are inclinations which are strictly empirical, and so of no moral value. In Kant’s moral philosophy when he says an act has no moral worth, he he is not saying that it is a bad act but rather an amoral one. Therefore for Kant duty either coincide with inclinations or be opposed to them. He suggests that when duty is chosen over inclinations, the act is moral, but in the case of coincidence, the act that follows is amoral. For an action to have a moral worth for Kant that action must be for the sake of duty. In Kant’s proposition he is making a distinction between the purpose and the maxim of an action, meaning the aim of an action, that is what that action is trying to achieve. According to Kant neither the purpose nor the actual consequences themselves are a part of moral considerations. For Kant the aim, like the the results of an action, is posteriori which is a direct contrast to priori. The grocer for example,  who might have his aim  to satisfying his customers and making a profit on the sale,  in other for his action to be considered moral, he should act with honesty. It is this intention to act according to what duty demands, and not by any repercussion of the act, which becomes the essential moral aspect of an action. According to Kant’s moral principle, an action done from duty has moral worth, not in the purpose that is to be attained by it, but in the maxim according which action is determined. For Kant, the moral worth of an action depends, not on the realization of the object of the action, but merely on the principle of volition according to which, without regard to any objects of the faculty of desire, the action has been done. From this, it is clear that Kant meant the purposes which we may have in our actions, as well as their effects reagarded as ends and incentives of the will, cannot give to actions any unconditioned and moral worth. Kant rhetorically asked where then can this worth lie if it is not to be found in the will’s relations to the expected effect? Nowhere, Kant replied but in the principle of the will, no regards to the ends that can be brought about through such action.

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  1. volagratis…

    [...]A DISCUSSION OF KANT’S PRINCIPLE OF MORAL CONCEPTS « JUST SOCIETY[...]…

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