Nov 30, 2012

PHILOSOPHY OF MORAL_By Marsigit






PHILOSOPHY OF MORAL
By Marsigit, Yogyakarta State University, Indonesia

In the Critique of Practical Reason,  Kant  proposed a Table of the Categories of Freedom in Relation to the Concepts of Good and Evil,  using the familiar logical distinctions as the basis for a catalog of synthetic a priori judgments that have bearing on the evaluation of human action. Kant used ordinary moral notions as the foundation for a derivation of this moral law in his Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals (Kemerling 1997-2002). Wallis (2004) elaborated that most of Kant's work on ethics is presented in two works, The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) that is about Kant's search for and establishment of the supreme principle of morality; and in The Critique of Practical Reason (1787) in which Kant attempted to unify his account of practical reason with his work in the Critique of Pure Reason.

Kant viewed that the sole feature that gives an action moral worth is not the outcome that is achieved by the action, but the motive that is behind the action; the categorical imperative is Kant's famous statement of this duty, stated that an act only according to that maxim by which we can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Kemerling, 1997-2002, noted Kant’s claimed that the ultimate principle of morality must be a moral law conceived so abstractly that it is capable of guiding us to the right action in application to every possible set of circumstances; therefore, the only relevant feature of the moral law is its generality. Kant insisted that only rational beings do so consciously, in obedience to the objective principles determined by practical reason; human agents  have subjective impulses that they act in a particular way that is  imperative[1] that may occur in either hypothetical or categorical.

The Conception of Practical Reason[2]

Wallis, 2004 noted that Kant insisted that humans are between the two worlds that are both sensible and intellectual; we are neither wholly determined to act by natural impulse, nor are we free of non-rational impulse, hence we need rules of conduct and need a principle to declares how we ought to act when it is in our power to choose. He noted Kant’s claim that we find ourselves in the situation of possessing reason, being able to act according to our own conception of rules, there is a special burden on us; while other creatures are acted upon by the world, but having the ability to choose the principle to guide our actions makes us actors, therefore we must exercise our will and our reason to act. According to him, Kant concluded that will is the capacity to act according to the principles provided by reason; reason assumes freedom and conceives of principles of action in order to function. As Wallis, 2004, noted that Kant perceived that humans are not wholly rational beings, so they are liable to succumb to their non-rational impulses; and even when they exercise their reason fully, they often cannot know which action is the best. According to Kant, moral actions are actions where reason leads, rather than follows, and actions where we must take other beings that act according to their own conception of the law, into account.

According to Kant, the metaphysical facts about the ultimate nature of things in themselves must remain a mystery to us because of the spatiotemporal constraints on sensibility; when we think about the nature of things in themselves or the ultimate ground of the empirical world we are still constrained to think through the categories, we cannot think otherwise, but we can have no knowledge because sensation provides our concepts with no content; hence, reason is put at odds with itself because it is constrained by the limits of its transcendental structure, but it seeks to have complete knowledge that would take it beyond those limits (Wallis, 2004). Next, he elaborated that freedom plays a central role in Kant's ethics because the possibility of moral judgments presupposes it; freedom is an idea of reason that serves an indispensable practical function and without the assumption of freedom, reason cannot act. Accordingly, if we think of ourselves as completely causally determined, and not as uncaused causes ourselves, then any attempt to conceive of a rule that prescribes the means by which some end can be achieved is pointless.

According to Kant, we cannot both think of ourselves as entirely subject to causal law and as being able to act according to the conception of a principle that gives guidance to my will; we cannot also help but think of our actions as the result of an uncaused cause if we are to act at all and employ reason to accomplish ends and understand the world. Kant insisted that reason has an unavoidable interest in thinking of itself as free that is, theoretical reason cannot demonstrate freedom, but practical reason must assume for the purpose of action. He said that reason creates for itself the idea of a spontaneity that can, on its own, start to act without needing to be preceded by another cause by means of which it is determined to action in turn, according to the law of causal connection; in its intellectual domain, reason must think of itself as free and it is dissatisfying that we cannot demonstrate freedom, nevertheless, it comes as no surprise that we must think of ourselves as free (Wallis, 2004).

Good Will[3]

Wallis, 2004, exposed that Kant perceived that when we act, whether or not we achieve what we intend with our actions is often beyond our control, the morality of our actions does not depend upon their outcome; what we can control, however, is the will behind the action that is, we can will to act according to one law rather than another. He further noted Kant’s claim that the morality of an action, therefore, must be assessed in terms of the motivation behind it. According to him, Kant said that goodness cannot arise from acting on impulse or natural inclination, even if impulse coincides with duty; it can only arise from conceiving of one's actions in a certain way. Kant argued that all intended effects could be brought about through other causes and would not require the will of a rational being, while the highest and unconditional good can be found only in such a will; it is the possession of a rationally guided will that adds a moral dimension to one's acts and so it is the recognition and appreciation of duty itself that must drive our actions. 

Sayre, G. & McCord, 2000, elaborated that Kant distinguished between "good without qualification" and “good under certain conditions”; the former is a good will that is the only thing we can even imagine is good without qualification, the second related to everything else being at best good only with qualification. Kant maintained that good will itself serves as a condition of the value of everything else that is something can be good only if it is compatible with a good will; therefore, a good will seems to constitute the indispensable condition of being even worthy of happiness and if a good will is unconditionally good then its value cannot depend upon its having good effects, furthermore if its value did depend on its having good effects it would be valuable only on the condition that it had those effects.

They reminded that Kant recognized that the idea that the role of reason is to make possible a good will rather than to help us satisfy our inclinations or make ourselves happy may seem high minded none sense; therefore, if nature's purpose in giving us reason was to help us satisfy our inclinations or desires or preferences or to make us happy, it would have made a big mistake. Accordingly, a person is not exercising a good will when she does what she knows is wrong; however even when she is doing what she knows to be right she will be exercising a good will only if she does what she does because it is right and not because she expects some reward or happens to want to do it; therefore a person exercises a good will when that person acts is governed by whether so acting is compatible with her duty. It can be summed up that good will related to only thing that can be called good without qualification and it can be perceived as good intentions and as an a priori concept; while will it self as the faculty of choosing from what comes before consequences deduced from principles that are assumed deductive reasoning from what is already known. Good will is good in itself, regardless of effects or consequences whether absolutely or with qualification that consisted of talents of mind e.g. intelligence, wit, judgment; qualities of temperament e.g. courage, perseverance; and gifts of fortune e.g. power, wealth, honor.

Duty[4]
 
According to Kant, the value of the action a person performs finds its value or worth not in the purpose that is to be attained by it but in the maxim according to which the action is determined that was at least compatible with duty. However, if the value of an action done from duty is found not in the consequences it produces but in the respect for duty it expresses then one's duty must be to express that respect rather than to produce any particular effects. He stressed that doing one's duty because it is one's duty must then be a matter not of trying to achieve some effect but of conforming one's will to a principle of duty that commands respect. According to Kant, moral value is non derivative from nor dependent upon non moral value[5], and the morality is intrinsic to moral agency; while moral laws are “laws of freedom”; they are constraints that arise through the moral agent's own autonomous self-regulation.

Kant maintained that the very idea of moral duty already contains the idea of a law to which all rational agents are subject, and that we will agree that this is so when we reflect on what we ourselves think. Moreover, Kant argues that, because the idea of moral duty includes this idea of a law or necessity to which all rational agents are subject, it cannot be grounded empirically; there can be no adequate justification for such an idea simply through our sensory or felt experience; the idea is a priori . (Darwall, 1997).  He noted that Kant claimed that everything in nature works in accordance with laws; only a rational being has the power to act in accordance with his idea of laws that is in accordance with principles and only so far has he a will; since reason is required in order to derive actions from laws, the will is nothing but practical reason. Since the universalized maxim is contradictory in and of itself, no one could will it to be law, and Kant concluded that we have a perfect duty [6](to which there can never be any exceptions whatsoever) not to act in this manner.

 Kant stated that duty is the necessity of an action done out of respect for moral law and the only motive that counts to do an action strictly out of respect for moral law therefore we should seek for our inclination and duty to correspond, but if it doesn't duty should/ ought prevail and determining duty is a matter of reason (reason determines the form of the moral law). Related to argument for an un-qualifiedly good will, he claimed that biological organisms are the fittest and best adapted for the purpose they serve; humans are rational creatures[7](i.e., humans possess reason); reason produces pain as well as happiness; happiness must not be the real end of nature for a being possessed of reason and will; reason is meant to have influence on the will ; and therefore, reason’s proper function must be to produce a will good in itself[8]  (as an end, not as a means). He then outlined that action consists of actions that contrary to duty, actions that in accordance with duty but with no immediate inclination [9](remote), actions in accordance with duty but with immediate inclination, and actions in accordance with duty but contrary to some immediate inclination; therefore, duties composes of not to lie, preserve one's life, be of help to fellow human beings, and develop our skills and talents.

Propositions of Morality and Moral Imperative


Kant outlined that to have moral worth, an action must be done from duty and duty should always be on top of inclinations for action if the actions is to have moral worth; hence, the moral worth of an action done from duty lies not in the purpose to be achieved but in the maxim by which it is determined in which moral worth does not depend upon the outcome. He perceived motive as an inclination, maxim as a rule or principle one follows in which moral worth depends upon this, and purpose as the ends to be achieved; while duty is the necessity of an action done of respect for law and that deserving respect is excellent as well as that deserving unqualified respect is that which is morally excellent. He noted that common reason doesn't' think of morality so abstractly in its universal form, but the categorical imperative is the standard for our judgments and ordinary reason has as much hope of getting the right moral answer as any philosopher so philosophy is necessary because common reason can more readily be led astray and needed to provide a ground for morality.

Kemerling, 1997-2002, elaborated that although everything naturally acts in accordance with law, Kant supposed that only rational beings do so consciously, in obedience to the objective principles determined by practical reason; and human agents have subjective impulses that are desires and inclinations that may contradict the dictates of reason. Therefore, we experience the claim of reason as an obligation, a command that we act in a particular way, or an imperative that may occur in either of two distinct forms, hypothetical or categorical. He noted that, according to Kant, a hypothetical imperative conditionally demands performance of an action for the sake of some other end or purpose in the form "Do A in order to achieve X."; while a categorical imperative unconditionally demands performance of an action for its own sake in the form "Do A. It can be concluded that hypothetical imperatives means to some end; good for some purpose and categorical imperatives means objectively necessary, without regard to any other end and no reference to purpose.

Darwall, 1997, explained that, according to Kant, moral imperatives are categorical imperatives, grounded in what he calls the Categorical Imperative; any free rational agent is committed to the Categorical Imperative by the logic of deliberative thought and   if anything is morally right or wrong, then it is by virtue of (moral) norms that bind all rational agents. Kant claimed that it is impossible to conceive anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be taken as good without qualification, except a good will. Kant then concluded that a good will is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes that is because of its fitness for attaining some proposed end; therefore, it is good through its willing alone that is, good in itself; and because its goodness is entirely intrinsic, and unconditioned by context, it is good without qualification. Kant claimed that the goodness of moral character is intrinsic and unqualified; the only motives available to an agent are those provided by momentary inclinations and those that arise through practical reason. 

Kant concluded that Categorical Imperative, that is strips morality of everything but form, never act in such a way that we could not will our maxim[10] should be universal law and if a maxim cannot be willed into universal law, it must be discarded. He stressed that maxim is a subjective principle of volition and it can be less than universal that is for the individual alone or universal that is maxims that can have full universality in everyone's life; all maxims have a form of consisting in universality; a matter that is namely, an end, and here the formula says that the rational being, as it is an end by its own nature and therefore an end in itself, must in every maxim serve as the condition limiting all merely relative and arbitrary ends; and a complete characterization of all maxims by means of that formula, namely, that all maxims ought by their own legislation to harmonize with a possible kingdom of ends as with a kingdom of nature. According to Kant, the formulation of the Categorical Imperative can be Universal Law, End-in-Itself or Autonomy. He insisted that in the Universal Law, act is perceived as though the maxim of our action were by our will to become a universal law of nature; in End-in-Itself, act is perceived as such thing that we treat humanity whether in our own person or that of another in which it always as an end and never as a means; and of Autonomy, it is about the will of every rational being legislates universal law.

Morality and Law

Darwall, 1997, elaborated Kant’s exposition that when we act for reasons we commit ourselves to beliefs about what any  person would have a reason to do that is we commit ourselves to universal norms or principles applying to all rational agents. Accordingly, only a rational being can act in accordance with his idea of laws.  Based on Kant, he lectured that the root idea is that the same features that make human beings subject to the moral law at the same time entitle them to respect as beings with their own wills and own reasons for acting.  According to Kant, the moral law itself requires a respect for that very capacity and we must respect it in ourselves and in others; he then argued that moral imperatives are categorical imperatives; any imperative that is conditional on some end is merely hypothetical; the possibility of a categorical imperative depends on there being some end which is essential to practical reason; the only possible such end is rational nature itself; there can be categorical imperatives only if rational nature is an end in it-self; and there can be moral imperatives only if rational nature is an end in itself, therefore  there is a moral law only if it requires that persons respect rational nature as such.

Kant distinguishes two kinds of law produced by reason to elaborate what is the duty that is motivating our actions and giving them moral value. According to Kant, giving some end to achieve, our reason can provide a hypothetical imperative, or rule of action for achieving that end. A hypothetical imperative says that if we wish to achieve the end we must determine what sort of conditional goal and conceiving of a means to achieve some desired end is by far the most common employment of reason; however, the acceptable conception of the moral law cannot be merely hypothetical due to the fact that our actions cannot be moral on the ground of some conditional purpose or goal, therefore morality requires an unconditional statement of one's duty (Wallis, 2004). Kant argued that reason produces an absolute statement of moral action and the moral imperative is unconditional; reason dictates a categorical imperative for moral action.

According to Kant, there are at least three formulations of the Categorical Imperative that are: act only according to that maxim by which we can at the same time will that it should become a universal law; act as though the maxim of our action were by our will to become a universal law of nature; and act so that we treat humanity, whether in our own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only. Kant argued that moral law has an aspect of acting according to the concept of law that is all nature works according to laws, however only humans can act according to the conception of laws that is acting according to principles. He insisted that the will is a faculty of choice in which a good will always chooses what the moral law commands; while imperative was perceived as a command and they are always expressed by 'ought'. For Kant, of God, the 'ought' is an 'is' and for humans God always chooses to do the right thing; therefore, of God, imperatives apply only to subjectively imperfect human will.

The Worth of Moral Beings

Kant insisted that morality alone is the condition which makes a rational being an end-in-itself in which morality and humanity alone have dignity[11]; the worth of moral beings have its relative value of price that can be replaced by equivalent and dignity that is intrinsic value which cannot be replaced by anything while each individual human being has also absolute value. Darwall, 1997, elaborated from Kant that, in moral common sense, persons are not mere things or instruments; they have a dignity hat is worthy of respect..  Accordingly, they cannot be treated as objects to manipulate or use for one's own ends; they must always be treated with respect for their nature as rational and moral agents. He noted that it is wrong simply to use people; rather one must respect their dignity as persons.  He noted that, according to Kant, the sublimity and intrinsic dignity of the command in duty are so much the more evident, the less the subjective impulses favor it and the more they oppose it, without being able in the slightest degree to weaken the obligation of the law or to diminish its validity.   

According to Kant, in the kingdom of ends everything has either value or dignity and whatever has a value can be replaced by something else which is equivalent; whatever has reference to the general inclinations and wants of mankind has a market value; whatever corresponds to a certain taste that is to a satisfaction in the mere purposeless play of our faculties which constitutes the condition under which alone anything can be an end in itself that is dignity. Kant insisted that morality is the condition under which alone a rational being can be an end in him-self, since by this alone is it possible that he should be a legislating member in the kingdom of ends; therefore morality and humanity as capable of it, is that which alone has dignity.

Due to the fact that nothing has any worth except what the law assigns it, the legislation itself which assigns the worth of everything must for that very reason possess dignity that is an unconditional incomparable worth and the word respect alone supplies a becoming expression for the esteem which a rational being must have for it. Darwall, 1997, from Kant, insisted that neither fear nor inclination is the spring which can give actions a moral worth; if our own will act only under the condition that its maxims are potentially universal laws, this ideal will which is possible to us is the proper object of respect; and the dignity of humanity consists just in this capacity of being universally legislative, though with the condition that it is itself subject to this same legislation.

Morality and Religion[12]

In the Critic of Practical Judgment, Kant stated that the man that is actually in a state of fear, finding in himself good reason to be so, because he is conscious of offending with his evil disposition against a might directed by a will at once irresistible and just, is far from being in the frame of mind for admiring divine greatness, for which a temper of calm reflection and a quite free judgment are required. Furthermore, Kant stated that:

Only when he becomes conscious of having a disposition that is upright and acceptable to God, do those operations of might serve, to stir within him the idea of the sublimity of this Being, so far as he recognizes the existence in himself of a sublimity of disposition consonant with His will, and is thus raised above the dread of such operations of nature, in which he no longer sees God pouring forth the vials of the wrath. Even humility,  taking the form of an uncompromising judgment upon his shortcomings, which, with consciousness of good intentions, might readily be glossed over on the ground of the frailty of human nature, is a sublime temper of the mind voluntarily to undergo the pain of remorse as a means of more and more effectually eradicating its cause. In this way religion is intrinsically distinguished from superstition, which latter rears in the mind, not reverence for the sublime, but dread and apprehension of the all-powerful Being to whose will terror-stricken man sees himself subjected, yet without according Him due honor. From this nothing can arise but grace-begging and vain adulation, instead of a religion consisting in a good life.[13]

Kant further claimed that sublimity[14], therefore, does not reside in any of the things of nature, but only in our own mind, in so far as we may become conscious of our superiority over nature within, and thus also over nature without us; everything that provokes this feeling in us, including the might of nature which challenges our strength, is then, though improperly, called sublime, and it is only under presupposition of this idea within us, and in relation to it, that we are capable of attaining to the idea of the sublimity of that being which inspires deep respect in us, not by the mere display of its might in nature, but more by the faculty which is planted in us of estimating that might without fear, and of regarding our estate as exalted above it. Kant insisted that the proper mental mood for a feeling of the sublime postulates the mind's susceptibility for ideas; without the development of moral ideas, we merely strike the untutored man as terrifying.

Note:


1.       Sayre, G. & McCord, 2000, Kant's Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals A Very brief selective summary of sections I and II,http://www.google.com/search , summed up from Kant that one's judgments that one ought to act in one way or another fall into two different categories; sometimes the grounds one has for judging one ought so to act depend upon certain conditions being satisfied, so that the imperatives are hypothetical or conditional  that is their practical force or their implications for action depends upon the conditions in fact being satisfied. Other times, the grounds one has for judging one ought so to act depend on nothing contingent, so that the imperatives are categorical that is their practical force or their implications for action is unconditional and so not dependent on the hypothesis that certain conditions are satisfied.
2.       Ibid. Practical reason is the faculty of choice (the Will)
3.       Darwall, 1997, Philosophy 361: Ethics: Kant Ii, Text Analysis Project Assignment For 10/22:  Kant, Groundwork, Chapter 1: first three         paragraphs and bottom p. 64 through p. 66, http://www.google.com/search, noted from Kant the  contrast between good will, which he also refers to as a good of character, and, respectively, talents, temperament, and gifts of fortune.  On what grounds are these, and their value, distinguished? First, the contrast seems to be between what the agent directly controls (his intention and effort to realize them) versus what is part of the choice context that confronts him.  We are free to be good--not just what we do, but also, what principles we act on is up to us; second, the distinction in value that are the latter are not always good, and whether they are good depends on other things, importantly on whether they are accompanied by a good will and the value of the good will is not qualified by its relation to anything outside of it.  Its value is independent of context and entirely unconditional.
4.       Immanuel Kant, 1785, Fundamental Principles of The Metaphysic Of Morals, Second Section: Transition From Popular Moral Philosophy To The Metaphysic Of Morals translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott, indicated that we have thus established at least this much, that if duty is a conception which is to have any import and real legislative authority for our actions, it can only be expressed in categorical and not at all in hypothetical imperatives.
5.       Garth Kemerling, 1997-2002, Kant: The Moral Order, noted Kant argument that the moral value of the action can only reside in a formal principle or "maxim," the general commitment to act in this way because it is one's duty. Kant concluded that "duty is the necessity to act out of reverence for the law."
6.       Kant: perfect duty that is to which there can never be any exceptions whatsoever not to act in this manner.
7.       Rational creatures  that is  humans possess reason
8.       Good in itself that is as an end, not as a means
9.       Immediate inclination means remote
10.    Sayre, G. & McCord, 2000, Kant's Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals A  Very brief selective summary of sections I and II, http://www.google.com/search, noted Kant that a maxim might fail by not being universalizable that is  by being such that the very conception of it as being a law governing all is inconsistent and therefore we have, as Kant would put it, a perfect duty to refrain from acting on such maxims or a maxim that might be universalizable might fail the requirements of the categorical imperative by being such that a person could not consistently will that the maxim be a universal law. According to Kant, the failure of the maxim is a failure of consistency in an important sense; there is no question that an immoral maxim can itself be perfectly consistent, after all people actually act on them. What is inconsistent is either (i) the conception of that maxim as a universal law or (ii) willing that the maxim serve as a universal law. Thus in testing a maxim (and so evaluating an action that might be performed on its basis) we can look for two kinds of inconsistency -- inconsistency in conception and inconsistency in willing.
11.    Immanuel Kant, 1785, Fundamental Principles of The Metaphysic Of Morals,translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott, insisted that whatever has reference to the general inclinations and wants of mankind has a market value; whatever, without presupposing a want, corresponds to a certain taste, that is to a satisfaction in the mere purposeless play of our faculties, has a fancy value; but that which constitutes the condition under which alone anything can be an end in itself, this has not merely a relative worth, i.e., value,but an intrinsic worth, that is, dignity.
12.    Darwall, 1997, Philosophy 361: Ethics: Kant I, Text Analysis Project             Assignment For 10/22:  Kant, Groundwork, Chapter 1: first three       paragraphs            and bottom p. 64 through p. 66, http://www.google.com/search, cited from "Life, the Universe and Everything," in the memorable formula of Douglas Adams, elaborated that morality and religion have a far more limited rational content, returning to many of the same issues over and over again, but such issues happen to include, not just the questions about how to live, but the ultimate questions about the meaning of life and existence.
13.    The Critic of Pure Judgment
14.    Theodore Gracyk, 2004, in Philosophy Of Art, Hume And Kant:
Summary and Comparison, noted that Kant gives equal attention to beauty and sublimity. Another difference between Kant and Hume is that Kant emphasizes nature as an important object of taste. Finally, Kant does not share Hume's optimism that their common assumptions, associating beauty and sublimity with specific feelings, offer any basis for constructing a standard of taste. Recognition of sublimity has an explicitly moral dimension; section 42 of the Critic of Pure Reason, identifies a superiority of natural beauty over that of art on the grounds that the former indicates an interest in moral goodness; when we cannot postulate real purposes, nature's beauty interests those with a good moral attitude by suggesting that our moral ideas are similarly compatible with nature.

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