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  • Now we turn, to the hardest

  • philosopher that we're going to read in this course

  • today we turn to Immanuel Kant

  • who offers a different account

  • of why we have a categorical duty

  • to respect the dignity of persons

  • and not to be use

  • people

  • as means

  • merely

  • even for good ends.

  • Kant excelled at the university ofnigsberg

  • at the age of sixteen

  • at the age of thirty one he got his first job

  • as an unsalaried lecturer

  • paid on commission

  • based on the number of students who showed up at his lectures

  • this is a sensible system that Harvard would do well to consider

  • luckily for Kant

  • he was a popular lecturer and also an industrious one and so he eked out a meager living

  • it wasn't until

  • he was fifty seven that he published his first

  • major work

  • but it was worth the wait

  • the book was the critique of pure reason

  • perhaps the most important work in all of modern philosophy

  • and a few years later

  • Kant wrote

  • the groundwork for the metaphysics of morals which we read in this course

  • I want to acknowledge even before we start

  • that Kant is a difficult thinker

  • but it's important to try to figure out

  • what he's saying

  • because what this book is about

  • is well, it's about what the supreme principle of morality this

  • number one, and

  • it's also

  • it gives us an account

  • one of the most powerful accounts we have

  • of what freedom really is

  • so

  • let me start today.

  • Kant rejects utilitarianism

  • he thinks

  • that

  • the individual

  • person

  • all human beings

  • have a certain dignity

  • that commands our respect

  • the reason the individual is sacred or the bearer of rights according to Kant,

  • doesn't stem from the idea that we own ourselves,

  • but instead from the idea

  • that we are all rational beings

  • we're all rational beings which simply means

  • that we are beings who are capable

  • of reason.

  • we're also

  • autonomous beings

  • which is to say

  • that we are beings capable of acting and choosing

  • freely

  • now, this capacity for reason and freedom

  • isn't the only capacity we have.

  • we also have the capacity for pain and pleasure

  • for suffering and satisfaction

  • Kant admits the

  • utilitarians were half a right

  • of course

  • we seek to avoid pain

  • and we like pleasure

  • Kant doesn't deny this

  • what he does deny

  • is Bentham's claim that

  • pain in pleasure

  • are our sovereign masters

  • he thinks that's wrong.

  • Kant thinks

  • that it's are national capacity

  • that makes us distinctive, that makes us special that sets us

  • apart from and above mere animal

  • existence.

  • it makes us something more than just physical

  • creatures with appetites. Now

  • we often think

  • of freedom

  • as simply consisting

  • in doing what we want

  • or in the absence of obstacles to getting what we want

  • that's one way of thinking about freedom.

  • but this isn't Kant's

  • idea of freedom

  • Kant has a more stringent

  • demanding notion

  • of what it means to be free

  • and though stringent and demanding, if you think it through

  • it's actually pretty persuasive

  • Kant’s reason is as follows

  • when we,

  • like animals

  • seek after pleasure

  • or the satisfaction of our desires of the avoidance pain

  • when we do that we aren't really acting freely.

  • why not?

  • we're really acting

  • as the slaves

  • of those appetites

  • and impulses

  • I didn't choose this particular hunger or that particular appetite,

  • and so when I act to satisfy it

  • I'm just acting according to natural

  • necessity

  • and for Kant,

  • freedom is the opposite

  • of necessity

  • there was an advertising slogan

  • for the

  • soft drink Sprite

  • a few years ago

  • the slogan was

  • obey your thirst

  • there

  • there's a Kantian insight

  • buried in that

  • Sprite advertising slogan

  • that in a way is Kant's point

  • when you go for Sprite,

  • or Pepsi

  • you're really

  • you might think that you're choosing freely sprite versus Pepsi

  • but you're actually

  • obeying

  • something, a thirst, or maybe a desire manufactured or massaged by advertising

  • you're obeying a prompting

  • that you yourself

  • haven't chosen

  • or created

  • and here

  • it's worth

  • noticing

  • Kant’s specially demanding

  • idea

  • of freedom

  • what way

  • of acting, how can my will be determined if not by

  • the prompting sub nature or my hunger or my appetite, or my desires?

  • Kant's answer:

  • to act freely

  • is to act

  • autonomously

  • and to act autonomously

  • is to act according to a law that I give myself

  • not according

  • to the physical laws of nature

  • or to the laws of cause and effect

  • which include my desire,

  • to eat or to drink

  • or to choose this

  • food in a restaurant over that

  • now what is the opposite

  • what is the opposite

  • of autonomy

  • for Kant he invest a special term

  • to describe

  • the opposite of autonomy

  • heteronomy

  • is the opposite of autonomy

  • when I act

  • heteronomously

  • I'm acting

  • according to an inclination

  • or a desire

  • that I haven't chosen for myself

  • so freedom is autonomy

  • is this specially stringent

  • idea

  • that Kant insists on.

  • now why is autonomy

  • the opposite of the acting heteronomously or according to the dictates of nature

  • Kant’s point is that

  • nature is governed by laws

  • laws of cause and effect for example

  • suppose you drop a billiard ball

  • it falls to the ground

  • we wouldn't say the billiard ball is acting freely

  • why not?

  • it's acting according to the law of nature

  • according to the laws

  • of cause and effect

  • the law of gravity

  • and just as he has an unusually

  • demanding and stringent

  • conception of freedom,

  • freedom as autonomy,

  • he also

  • has a demanding conception

  • of morality

  • to act freely

  • is not to choose the best means to a given end

  • it's to choose the end itself for its own sake

  • and that's something

  • that human beings can do

  • and that billiard balls can’t

  • insofar as we act on

  • inclination or pursue pleasure

  • we fact as means

  • to the realization of ends

  • given outside us

  • we are instruments

  • rather than authors

  • of the purposes

  • we pursue

  • that's

  • the heteronomous determination of the will

  • on the other hand

  • insofar as we act autonomously

  • according to law we give ourselves

  • we do something for its own sake

  • as an end in itself

  • when we act autonomously

  • we cease to be instruments to purposes

  • given outside us

  • we become

  • what we can come to think of ourselves

  • as ends in ourselves.

  • this capacity to act freely

  • Kant tells us

  • is what gives human life its special

  • dignity.

  • respecting human dignity

  • means regarding persons

  • not just as means

  • but also as ends in them

  • and this is why

  • it's wrong to use people

  • for the sake of other people's

  • well being or happiness

  • this is the real reason Kant says

  • that utilitarianism goes wrong

  • this is the reason it's important to respect the dignity of persons

  • and to uphold their rights.

  • so even if there are cases

  • remember John Stuart Mill said well in the long run if we uphold Justice and respect

  • the dignity of persons

  • we will maximize human happiness.

  • What would Kant's answer be to that?

  • what would his answer be?

  • even if that were true

  • even if the calculus worked out that way

  • even if you shouldn't throw the Christians to the lions because in the long run

  • fear will spread, the overall utility will decline, the utilitarian

  • would be upholding Justice and rights and respect for persons

  • for the wrong reason

  • for a purely contingent reason

  • for an instrumental reason

  • it would still be using people even where the calculus works out

  • for the best in the long run, it would still using people

  • as means

  • rather than

  • respecting them as ends in themselves.

  • so that's Kant's idea of freedom as autonomy

  • and you can begin to see how it's connected

  • to his idea of morality

  • but we still have to answer one more question

  • what gives an act it's moral worth

  • in the first place

  • if it can't be directed

  • at utility or satisfying wants or desires,

  • what do you think gives an action it's moral worth?

  • this leads us from Kant’s

  • demanding idea of freedom

  • to his demanding idea

  • of morality.

  • What does Kant say?