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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 of Königsberg
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?
what makes and action
morally worthy
consists not in the consequences or in the results that flow from it
what makes an action morally worthy has to do with
the motive
with the quality of the will
with the intention
for which the act is down
what matters
is the motive
and the motive must be of a certain kind.
so the moral worth of an action depends on the motive for which it's done
and the important thing
is that
the person do the right thing
for the right reason
a goodwill isn't good
because of what it affects or accomplishes, Kant writes,
it's good in itself
even if by its utmost effort to goodwill accomplishes nothing
it would still shine like a jewel for its own sake
as something which has its full value in itself
and so for any action
to be morally good
it's not enough that it should
conform
to the moral law
it must also be done for the sake of the moral law.
the idea is
that the motive confers
the moral worth
on an action
and the only kind of motive
that can confirm moral
worth on an action
is the motive of duty
well what's the opposite
of doing something out of a sense of duty because it's right,
well for Kant the opposite
would be all of those motives having to do with our inclinations
and inclinations
refer to all of our
desires, all of our contingently given
wants
preferences
impulses
and the like
only actions done for the sake of the moral law
for the sake of duty
only these actions have moral worth
now I want to
see what you think about this idea
but first let's consider a few examples
Kant begins with an example
of a shopkeeper
he wants to bring out the intuition
and make plausible the idea
that what confers moral worth on an action is that it be done because it's right
he says suppose there's a shopkeeper
and an inexperienced customer comes in
the shopkeeper knows
that he could give the customer the wrong change could shortchange the customer
and get away with it
at least that customer wouldn't know
but the shopkeeper nonetheless says well if I shortchange this customer
word may get out
my reputation would be damaged and I would lose business
so I won't shortchange this customer
the shop keeper
does nothing wrong he gives a correct change
but does this action have moral worth?
Kant says no.
it doesn't have moral worth
because the shopkeeper only did the right thing
for the wrong reason
out of self-interest
that's a pretty straightforward
case. then he takes another case
the case of suicide.
he says we have a duty to preserve ourselves
now, for most people
who love life,
we have multiple reasons
for not taking our own lives
so the only way we can really tell
the only way we can isolate the operative motive
for someone who doesn't take his or her life
is to think
to imagine someone who's miserable
and
who despite
having an absolutely miserable life
nonetheless
recognizes the duty to preserve one's self
and so
does not commit suicide.
the force of the example
is to bring out
the motive that matters
and the motive that matters for morality is doing the right thing
for the sake of duty.
let me just
give you
a couple of other examples
the better business bureau
what's their slogan, the slogan of
the better business bureau?
honesty is the best policy
it's also the most profitable. this is the better business bureaus
full page ad in
the new York times
honesty
it's as important as any other asset
because a business the deals in truth, openness and fair value
cannot help
but do well
come join us
and profit from it
What would Kant say
about the moral worth
of the honest dealings that members of the
better business bureau. What he says
that here's a perfect example
that if this is the reason
that these companies deal honestly with their customers
their action lacks moral worth
this is Kant’s point
or couple of years ago at the university of Maryland there was a problem with cheating
and so they
initiated
an honor system
and they created a program with local merchants
that if you signed the honor pledge not to cheat
you would get discounts often to twenty five percent of local shops
now what would you think of someone motivated
to uphold an honor code
with all the discounts
it's the same as
Kant’s shopkeeper
the point is
what matters is the quality of the will the character of the motive
and the relevant motive to morality
can only be
the motive of duty
not the motive of inclination.
and when I act out of duty
and when I resist
as my motive for acting inclinations or self-interest
even sympathy and altruism,
only then
am I acting
freely.
only then and I acting
autonomously, only then is my will not
determined
or governed
by external considerations.
that's the link
between Kant’s idea of freedom
and of morality. now I want to pause here
the see
if all of this is clear
or if you have some questions
or puzzles
they can be questions of clarification
or
they can be challenges
if you want to challenge this idea
that only
the motive of duty confers moral worth on the action action
what do you think
I actually have two questions of clarification
the first is there seems to be an aspect of this that makes it sort of
self-defeating in that
once you’re conscious of
what morality is you can sort of alter your motive to achieve that end of morality
give me an example
what do you have in mind
the shopkeeper example
if he
decides that he wants to give the person of money is to do the right thing
and he decides that’s his motive to do so
because he was the moral then isn't that sort of defeating
trying to
isn't that sort of defeating the purity of his action if
morality is determined by his motive
is his motive is to act morally
so you're imagining a case
not of the purely selfish calculating shopkeeper
but of one who says
well he may consider
shortchanging the customer
but then he says
not, while my reputation might suffer if word gets out,
but instead he says
actually I would like to be the kind of
honest person
who gives the right change to customers
simply because it's the right thing to do
or simply because I want to be moral
because I want to be moral
I want to be a good person
and so I'm going to conform all of my actions to what morality requires
it's a subtle point, it's a good question
Kant does acknowledge
you're pressing Kant on an important
point here,
Kant does say there has to be some
incentive
to obey the moral law
it can't be a self-interested incentive
that would defeat it
by definition
so he speaks of
a different kind of incentive from an inclination he speaks of reverence for the moral law
so if that shopkeeper says
I want to develop a
reverence for the moral law
and so I'm going to act, so I'm going to do the right thing
then I think he's there, he's there as far as Kant’s
concerned
because he's formed his motive
his will
is conforming to
the moral law
once he sees the importance of it
so it would count
it would count
and secondly very quickly
what stops morality from becoming completely objective in this point?
what stops morality from becoming completely
subjective, yea, like
how can
if there's, if morality is completely determined by your morals then how can
you apply this or how can it be enforced?
that's also a great question, what's your name?
my name's Ahmady. Ahmady?
all right
if acting morally means
acting according
to a moral law out of duty
and if it's also
to act freely in the sense of autonomously
it must mean
that I'm acting according to a law that I give myself that's what it means to act autonomously
Ahmady is right about that
but that does raise a really interesting question
if acting autonomously means acting according to a law I give myself
that's how I escape
the chain of cause and effect and the laws of nature
what's to guarantee
that the law I give myself
when I'm acting out of duty is the same
as the law that Ahmady is giving himself
and that each of you
gives yourselves
well here's the question
how many moral laws
from Kant’s point of view are there in this room
are there a thousands or is there one
he thinks there's one
which in a way does go back to this question all right what is the moral law, what does it
tell us
so what guarantees, it sounds like it
to act autonomously is to act according to one's conscience according to a law
one gives oneself
but what guarantees
that we, if we all exercise our reason we will come up with one and the same moral law?
that's what Ahmady wants to know.
here's Kant's answer,
the reason that leads us
to the law we give ourselves
as autonomous beings
is a reason
it's a kind of practical reason
that we share as human beings
it's not
idiosyncratic
the reason we need to respect
the dignity of persons is that we're all rational beings we all have the capacity for reason
and it's the exercise of that capacity for a reason
which exist
undifferentiated
in all of us
that makes us worthy of dignity, all of us
and
since it's the same capacity for reason
unqualified by particular
autobiographies and circumstances it's the same universal capacity for reason
that delivers the moral law
it turns out that to act autonomously
is to act according to a law
we give ourselves exercising our reason
but it's the reason we share with everyone
as rational beings
not the particular reason we have given our upbringing, our particular values our
particular interests
it's pure practical reason in Kant's terms
which legislates apriori
regardless of any particular
contingent
or empirical ends. Well
what moral law would that kind of reason
deliver?
what is its content?
to answer that question
you have to read the groundwork
and we'll continue with that question next time.
For Kant,
morally speaking suicide is on a par with murder
it's on a par with murder because what we violate
when we take a life
when we take someone's life, our's or somebody else's,
we use
that person
we use a rational being
we use humanity as a means
and so we fail to respect humanity
as an end
today we turn back to Kant, but before we do
remember this is the week
by the end of which
all of you
will basically get Kant, figure out what he's up to
you're laughing
no, it will happen
Kant's groundwork
is about two big questions,
first what is the supreme principle of morality
second
how is freedom
possible?
two big questions
now, one way
of making your way through
this dense philosophical book
is to bear in mind
a set of opposition or contrasts or dualisms
that are related.
today I’d like to talk about them
today we're going to answer the question, what according to Kant,
is the supreme principle of morality
and in answering that question in working our way up to Kant’s answer to that question,
it will help to bear in mind
three contrasts or dualisms
that Kant sets out
the first you remember
had to do
with the motive
according to which we act
and according to Kant,
only one kind of motive
is consistent with morality
the motive of duty
doing the right thing for the right reason
what other kinds of motives are there
Kant sums them up
in the category inclination
every time
the motive
for what we do
is to
satisfy a desire
or a preference that we may have, to pursue some interest
we're acting out of inclination
now let me pause to see if
if in thinking about
the question of the motive of duty of good will
see if any of you has a question
about that much of Kant's claim.
or is everybody happy with this distinction
what do you think? go ahead.
when you make that distinction between duty and inclination is there ever any moral action ever?
I mean you could always kind of probably find some kind of
some selfish motive, can't you?
maybe very often people do have self-interested motives
when they act
Kant wouldn't dispute that
but what Kant is saying
is
that in so far as we act
morally that is in so far as our actions have moral worth
what confers moral worth
is precisely
our capacity to rise above self-interest and prudence and inclination and
to act out of duty
some years ago I read about
a spelling bee
and
there was a young man
who was declared the winner
of the spelling bee
a kid named Andrew, thirteen years old
the winning word, the word that he was able to spell
was echolalia
does anyone know what echolalia is?
it's not some type of flower no,
it is the tendency to repeat as an echo, to repeat what you've heard
anyhow, he misspelled it actually
but the judges misheard him they thought it spelled it correctly and awarded him the
championship of the national
spelling bee
and
he
went to the judges
afterward
and said
actually
I misspelled it
I don't deserve the prize
and he was regarded as a moral hero
and he was
written up in the new York times
misspeller
is the spelling bee hero
there's Andrew
with is proud mother
and but when he was interviewed afterwards
listen to this, when he was interviewed afterwards
he said quote
the judges said I had a lot of integrity
but then he added
that part of his motive was quote
I didn't want to feel like a slime
all right what would Kant say?
I guess it would depend on whether or not
that was a marginal reason or the predominant reason in whether not and why he decided
to confess that he didn't actually spell the word correctly
good and what's your name. Vasco.
that's very interesting is there anyone else
who has a view about this?
does this show that Kant’s
principle is too stringent too demanding
what would Kant say
about this? yes
I think that Kant actually says that
it is the pure motivation that comes out of duty that gives the action moral worth, so it's like
for example in this case
he might have more than one motive, he might have a motive of not feeling like a slime
and he might have to move of
doing the right thing
in and of itself out of duty and so while there's more than one motivation going on there
does not mean that action is devoid of moral worth just because he has one other motive
so because the motive which involves duty is what gives it moral worth. goo, and what's your name? Judith
well Judith I think that your account actually is true to Kant
it's fine to have sentiments and feelings
that support doing the right thing
provided
they don't provide
the reason for acting
so I think Judith has actually a pretty good defense of Kant
on this question
of the motive of duty, thank you
now
let's go back to the
three contrasts
it's clear at least what Kant means when he says
that
for an action to have moral worth it must be done for the sake of duty
not out of inclination
but as we began to see last time
there's a connection
between
Kant’s stringent notion of morality
and especially demanding understanding
of freedom
and that leads us to the second contrast
the link between
morality
and freedom
a second contrast describes
two different
ways that my will can be determined
autonomously
and heteronomously
according to Kant
I'm only free
when my will is determined
autonomously
which means what?
according to a law that I give myself
we must be capable, if we're capable of freedom as autonomously, we must be capable of acting
accordingly 0:37:26.0laws that's given or imposed on us
but according to a law we give ourselves
but where could such a law
come from?
a law that we give ourselves?
reason, if reason
determines my will
then
the real becomes to power to choose
independent
of the dictates
of nature or inclination
or circumstance
so
connected with Kant’s
demanding notions of morality and freedom
is especially demanding notion
of reason
well how can reason
determine the
will
there are two ways and this leads to the third contracts
Kant says
there are two different commands of reason
in a command of reason
Kant calls an imperative
an imperative is simply an ought
one kind of imperative, perhaps the most familiar kind, is a hypothetical imperative.
hypothetical imperatives
use instrumental reason
if you
want x then do y
it's means ends reason.
if you want a good business reputation
then
don't shortchange your customers
word may get out. that's
a hypothetical imperative.
if the action would be good
solely as a means to something else Kant writes, the imperative is hypothetical
if the action is represented as good in itself
and therefore as necessary
for a will which of itself accords with reason
then the imperative
categorical.
that's the difference
between
a categorical imperative and a hypothetical one
a categorical imperative commands
categorically
which just means without reference to or dependents on
any further purpose
and so you see the connection
among these three parallel
contrasts
to be free in the sense of autonomous
requires
that I act
not out of a hypothetical
imperative
but out of the categorical
imperative
so you see by these three contrasts Kant
reasons his way
brings us up to you
he's derivation
of the categorical imperative
well this leaves us
one big question
what is the categorical imperative?
what is the supreme principle of morality
what does it command of us?
Kant gives three versions
three formulations
of the categorical imperative.
I want to mention two
and then see what you think of them.
the first
version the first formula
he calls the formula
of the universal law
act only on that maxim
whereby you can at the same time will that it should become
a universal
law and by maxim
what does Kant mean?
he means
a rule that explains
the reason for what you're doing
a principle
for example
promise keeping
suppose I need money, I hundred dollars
desperately
and I know I can't pay it back anytime soon
I come to you
and make you a promise, a false promise, one I know I can't keep
please give me a hundred dollars today
lend me the money I will repay you next week
is that consistent
with the categorical imperative, that false promise Kant says no
and the test
the way we can
determine
that the false promise is at odds with categorical
imperative is
try to universalize it.
universalize the maxim upon which you're about to act
if everybody made false promises when they needed money
then nobody would believe those promises there would be no such thing
as a promise
and so there would be a contradiction
the maxim universalized would undermine itself
that's the test
that's how we can know
that the false promise is wrong
well what about
the formula of the universal law
you find it persuasive?
what do you think?
I have a question about the difference between categoricalism and a hypothesis
that
if you're going to act.. Between categorical in hypothetical
imperatives? right.
if you’re going to act
with a categorical imperative
so that the maxim doesn't undermine itself
it sounds like I am going to do X because I want y
I'm going to
not lie in dire need
because I want the world to function in such a way that
promises kept. I don't want to liquidate the practice of promises. Right.
it sounds like justifying
a means by an ends
it seems like an instance of consequentialist reasoning you're saying.
and what's your name? Tim.
well Tim
John Stuart Mill agreed with you
he made this criticism
of Kant
he said if
I universalize the maximum and find
that the whole practice of promise keeping would be destroyed if universalized
I must be appealing
somehow to consequences
if that's the reason
not to tell a false promise
so
John Stuart Mill agreed with that criticism against Kant
but John Stuart Mill was wrong
you're in good company though
you're in good company, Tim
Kant is often read
as Tim
just read him
as appealing to consequences
the world would be worse off
if everybody lied because then nobody could rely on anybody else's word
therefore you shouldn't lie
that's not what Kant is saying exactly
although it's easy
to interpret him as saying that
I think what he's saying
is that this is the test