Kant’s Groundwork, First Section: Transition from common rational cognition to philosophical moral cognition
A good will
Only a good will is good without limitation. (393)
mental talents can be harmful
so can temperamental qualities and gifts of fortune
a good will is a condition of worthiness to be happy
qualities conducive to a good will can be evil
A good will is good in itself, not through its effects. (394)
Humans have reason, not to secure their own happiness, but to produce a good will. (395-396)
What duty is
Duty is a manifestation of a good will. (397)
1. An action has moral worth only if it is done from duty. (397-399)
2. An action from duty has its moral worth not in its aim but in its maxim. (400)
3. Duty is the necessity of an action from respect for the law. (400)
Acting from duty: required for moral worth
Ways of failing to act from duty
Act contrary to duty (397)
Act in conformity with duty, with no immediate inclination to do it, but as a means to a self-serving aim—e.g. the honest merchant (397)
Act in conformity with duty, but merely from an immediate inclination to do it—e.g. taking care to preserve one’s life, being beneficent from sympathy with others, securing one’s own happiness [= contentment with one’s condition] (398-399)
Cf. Marcia Baron, “Acting from Duty” (pp. 92-110)
Source of an action’s moral worth: not its aim but its maxim
1 à aims and effects of actions give them no unconditional moral worth
so the worth must lie in the principle of the will
Maxim = the principle in accordance with which the subject acts (421, Kant’s note; cf. note at 400)
Kant’s four examples:
1. “From self-love, I shorten my life when its continuation threatens more ill than it promises agreeableness.” (422)
2. “If I believe myself to need money, I will borrow money and promise to pay it back, although I know this will never happen.” (422, cf. 402)
3. “When in comfortable circumstances, I indulge myself in gratification rather than cultivate my natural talents.” (423)
4. “When things are going well for me, I do not contribute to the welfare of those struggling with great hardships or help those in distress.” (423)
What is the general structure of a Kantian maxim?
Write down a maxim that somebody might use as a guide to their behaviour.
Conclusion: what duty is
I can have an inclination but not respect for the object that my proposed action will effect.
An action’s moral worth cannot lie in a principle that needs to get its motive from an expected effect (even furthering the happiness of others).
Only respect for the law is left over as a basis for duty.
Formula of the Universal Law (FUL) and its application to an example: See Second Section .
Key concepts of Section I (review)
The good will
Action from duty
Duty = necessity of an action from respect for the law
“universalizability” (see Second Section)
Re Section I: What are your (a) questions for clarification, (b) comments, and (c) issues?