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  • Last time we began trying to... we began by trying to navigate

  • our way through Kant's moral theory.

  • Now, fully to make sense of Kant moral theory in the groundwork

  • requires that we be able to answer three questions.

  • How can duty and autonomy go together?

  • What's the great dignity in answering to duty?

  • It would seem that these two ideas are opposed duty and autonomy.

  • What's Kant's answer to that?

  • Need someone here to speak up on Kant's behalf.

  • Does he have an answer?

  • Yes, go ahead, stand up.

  • Kant believes you the only act autonomously when you are pursuing

  • something only the name of duty and not because of your own circumstances

  • such as... like you're only doing something good and moral

  • if you're doing it because of duty and not because something

  • of your own personal gain.

  • Now why is that acting... what's your name?

  • My name is Matt.

  • Matt, why is that acting on a freedom? I hear what you're saying about duty?

  • Because you choose to accept those moral laws in yourself

  • and not brought on from outside upon onto you.

  • Okay, good. Because acting out of duty

  • - Yeah. - is following a moral law

  • That you impose on yourself.

  • that you impose on yourself. That's what makes duty

  • - compatible with freedom. - Yeah.

  • Okay, that's good Matt. That is Kant's answer. That's great.

  • Thank you. So, Kant's answer is it is not in so far as I am subject

  • to the law that I have dignity but rather in so far as with regard

  • to that very same law, I'm the author and I am subordinated

  • to that law on that ground that I took it as much as at I took it upon myself.

  • I willed that law. So that's why for Kant acting according

  • to duty and acting freely in the sense of autonomously are one and the same.

  • But that raises the question, how many moral laws are there?

  • Because if dignity consists and be governed by a law that I give myself,

  • what's to guarantee that my conscience will be

  • the same as your conscience? Who has Kant's answer to that? Yes?

  • Because a moral law trend is not contingent upon seductive conditions.

  • It would transcend all particular differences between people

  • and so would be a universal law and in this respect there'd only be

  • one moral law because it would be supreme.

  • Right. That's exactly right. What's your name?

  • Kelly.

  • Kelly. So Kelly, Kant believes that if we choose freely

  • out of our own consciences, the moral law we're guarantee

  • - to come up with one and the same moral law. - Yes.

  • And that's because when I choose it's not me, Michael Sandel choosing.

  • It's not you, Kelly choosing for yourself.

  • What is it exactly? Who is doing the choosing?

  • Who's the subject? Who is the agent? Who is doing the choosing?

  • - Reason? - Well reason... - Pure reason.

  • Pure reason and what you mean by pure reason is what exactly?

  • Well pure reason is like we were saying before not subject to any

  • external conditions that may be imposed on that side.

  • Good that's' great. So, the reason that does the willing,

  • the reason that governs my will when I will the moral law

  • is the same reason that operates when you choose the moral law

  • for yourself and that's why it's possible to act autonomously

  • to choose for myself, for each of us to choose for ourselves

  • as autonomous beings and for all of us to wind up willing the same moral law,

  • the categorical imperative.

  • But then there is one big and very difficult question left even

  • if you accept everything that Matt and Kelly had said so far.

  • How is a categorical imperative possible?

  • How is morality possible? To answer that question,

  • Kant said we need to make a distinction.

  • We need to make a distinction between two standpoints,

  • two standpoints from which we can make sense of our experience.

  • Let me try to explain what he means by these two standpoints.

  • As an object of experience, I belong to the sensible world.

  • There my actions are determined by the laws of nature

  • and by the regularities of cause and effect.

  • But as a subject of experience, I inhabit an intelligible world here

  • being independent of the laws of nature I am capable of autonomy,

  • capable of acting according to a law I give myself.

  • Now Kant says that, "Only from this second standpoint can I regard myself

  • as free for to be independent of determination by causes

  • in the sensible world is to be free."

  • If I were holy and empirical being as the utilitarian assume,

  • if I were a being holy and only subject to the deliverances of my senses,

  • the pain and pleasure and hunger and thirst and appetite,

  • if that's all there were to humanity, we wouldn't be capable of freedom,

  • Kant reasons because in that case every exercise of will would be

  • conditioned by the desire for some object.

  • In that case all choice would be heteronomous choice governed

  • by the pursued of some external end. "When we think of ourselves as free,"

  • Kant writes, "we transfer ourselves into the intelligible world as members

  • and recognize the autonomy of the will." That's the idea of the two standpoints.

  • So how are categorical imperatives possible? Only because the idea

  • of freedom makes me a member of an intelligible world?

  • Now Kant admits we aren't only rational beings.

  • We don't only inhabit the intelligible world, the realm of freedom.

  • If we did... if we did, then all of our actions

  • would invariably accord with the autonomy of the will.

  • But precisely because we inhabit simultaneously the two standpoints,

  • the two realms, the realm of freedom and the realm of necessity

  • precisely because we inhabit both realms there is always potentially a gap

  • between what we do and what we ought to do between is and ought.

  • Another way of putting this point and this is the point with which

  • Kant concludes the groundwork, morality is not empirical.

  • Whatever you see in the world, whatever you discover through science

  • can't decide moral questions.

  • Morality stands at a certain distance from the world,

  • from the empirical world.

  • And that's why no science could deliver moral truth.

  • Now I want to test Kant's moral theory with the hardest possible case,

  • a case that he raises, the case of the murderer at the door.

  • Kant says that lying is wrong. We all know that.

  • We've discussed why. Lying is at odds with the categorical imperative.

  • A French Philosopher, Benjamin Constant wrote an article responding

  • to the groundwork where he said, "This absolute probation online is wrong. It can't be right."

  • What if a murderer came to your door looking for your friend

  • who was hiding in your house?

  • And the murderer asked you point blank, "Is your friend in your house?"

  • Constant says, "It would be crazy to say that the moral thing to do

  • in that case is to tell the truth."

  • Constant says the murderer certainly doesn't deserve the truth

  • and Kant wrote to reply.

  • And Kant stuck by his principle that lying even to the murderer

  • at the door is wrong.

  • And the reason it's wrong, he said is once you start taking

  • consequences into account to carve out exceptions to the categorical imperative,

  • you've given up the whole moral framework.

  • You've become a consequentialist or maybe a rule utilitarian.

  • But most of you and most to our Kant's readers think there's something odd

  • and impossible about this answer.

  • I would like to try to defend Kant on this point

  • and then I want to see whether you think that my defense is plausible,

  • and I would want to defend him within the spirit of his own account of morality.

  • Imagine that someone comes to your door.

  • You were asked that question by this murder.

  • You are hiding your friend.

  • Is there a way that you could avoid telling a lie

  • without selling out your friend?

  • Does anyone have an idea of how you might be able to do that?

  • Yes? Stand up.

  • I was just going to say if I were to let my friend in my house

  • to hide in the first place, I'd probably make a plan with them

  • so I'd be like, "Hey I'll tell the murderer you're here,

  • but escape," and that's one of the options mentioned.

  • But I'm not sure that's a Kantian option. You're still lying though.

  • No because he's in the house but he won't be.

  • Oh I see. All right, good enough. One more try.

  • If you just say you don't know where he is because he might not

  • be locked in the closet.

  • He might have left the closet. You have no clue where he could be.

  • So you would say, I don't know which wouldn't actually be a lie

  • because you weren't at that very moment looking in the closet.

  • - Exactly. -So it would be strictly speaking true.

  • Yes.

  • - And yet possibly deceiving, misleading. -But still true.

  • - What's your name? -John.

  • John. All right, John has... now John may be on to something.

  • John you're really offering us the option of a clever evasion

  • that is strictly speaking true.

  • This raises the question whether there is a moral difference between

  • an outright lie and a misleading truth.

  • From Kant's point of view there actually is a world of difference between a lie

  • and a misleading truth.

  • Why is that even though both might have the same consequences?

  • But then remember Kant doesn't base morality on consequences.

  • He bases it on formal adherence to the moral law.

  • Now, sometimes in ordinary life we make exceptions for the general rule against

  • lying with the white lie. What is a white lie?

  • It's a lie to make... you're well to avoid hurting someone's feelings for example.

  • It's a lie that we think of as justified by the consequences.

  • Now Kant could not endorse a white lie but perhaps he could endorse

  • a misleading truth.

  • Supposed someone gives you a tie, as a gift, and you open the box

  • and it's just awful. What do you say? Thank you?

  • You could say thank you.

  • But they're waiting to see what you think of it or they ask you

  • what do you think of it?

  • You could tell a white lie and say it's beautiful.

  • But that wouldn't be permissible from Kant's point of view.

  • Could you say not a white lie but a misleading truth,

  • you open the box and you say, "I've never seen a tie like that before.

  • Thank you." You shouldn't have.

  • That's good.

  • Can you think of a contemporary political leader who engaged... you can?

  • Who are you thinking of?

  • You remember the whole carefully worded denials in the

  • Monica Lewinsky affair of Bill Clinton.

  • Now, those denials actually became the subject of very explicit debate

  • in argument during the impeachment hearings.

  • Take a look at the following excerpts from Bill Clinton.

  • Is there something do you think morally at stake in the distinction between a lie

  • and a misleading carefully couched truth?

  • I want to say one thing to the American people.

  • I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again.

  • I did not have sexual relations with that woman Miss Lewinsky.

  • I never told anybody to lie not a single time, never. These allegations are false.

  • Did he lie to the American people when he said I never had sex with that woman?

  • You know, he doesn't believe he did and because of the...

  • Well he didn't explain it.

  • He did explain that, explain congressman.

  • What he said was to the American people that he did not have sexual relations

  • and I understand you're not going to like this congressman

  • because you will see it as a hair-splitting evasive answer.

  • But in his own mind his definition was not...

  • - Okay, I understand that argument. - Okay.

  • All right, so there you have the exchange.

  • Now at the time, you may have thought this was just a

  • legalistic hair-splitting exchange between a Republican who wanted to

  • impeach Clinton and a lawyer who is trying to defend him.

  • But now in the light of Kant, do you think there is something

  • morally at stake in the distinction between a lie and an evasion,

  • a true but misleading statement? I'd like to hear from defenders of Kant.

  • People who think there is a distinction. Are you ready to defend Kant?

  • Well I think when you try to say that lying and misleading truths are the same thing;

  • you're basing it on consequentialist argument which is that they achieve the same thing.

  • But the fact to the fact to the matter is you told the truth

  • and you intended that people would believe what you are saying

  • which was the truth which means it is not morally the same

  • as telling a lie and intending that they believe it is the truth

  • even though it is not true.

  • - Good. What's your name? - Diana.

  • So Diana says that Kant has a point here and it's a point that might even come

  • to the aid of Bill Clinton and that is... well what about that?

  • There's someone over here.

  • For Kant motivation is key, so if you give to someone

  • because primarily you want to feel good about yourself

  • Kant would say that has no moral worth. Well with this, the motivation is the same.

  • It's to sort of mislead someone, it's to lie, it's to sort of throw them

  • off the track and the motivation is the same. So there should be no difference.

  • Okay, good. So here isn't the motive the same, Diana?

  • What do you say to this argument that, well, the motive is the same in both cases

  • there is the attempt or at least the hope that one's pursuer will be misled?

  • Well that, you could look it that way but I think that the fact is

  • that your immediate motive is that they should believe you.

  • The ultimate consequence of that is that they might be deceived

  • and not find out what was going on.

  • But that your immediate motive is that they should believe you

  • because you're telling the truth.

  • - May I help a little? - Sure.

  • You and Kant. Why don't you say... and what's your name, I'm sorry?

  • Wesley.

  • Why don't you say to Wesley it's not exactly the case

  • that the motive in both cases is to mislead?

  • They're hoping, they're hoping that the person will be misled

  • by the statement "I don't know where they are"