Kant’s Groundwork, Second Section: Transition from popular moral philosophy to the metaphysics of morals
Why base morality on pure reason?
One cannot tell from experience if an action is from duty. (406-407)
Basing it on experience fosters ridicule of morality. (407-408)
Morality is valid for all rational beings, not just humans. (408)
Examples must be judged by a principle of morality. (408-409)
“Popular practical philosophy” is a mish-mash. (409-410)
Basing it on reason provides a powerful motivation that cannot lead us astray. (410-411)
What objections can be raised to these arguments?
have a will (= ability to act from representations of laws)
Hence the will is practical reason. (412)
will also subject to subjective conditions à determination by objective laws is necessitation (413)
The representation of a necessitating objective law is a command.
Its formula is an imperative. (413)
Types of imperatives (414-416)
(means to a willed end) (no reference to a further end)
rules of skill counsels of prudence
(possible end) (actual end: one’s own happiness)
How are imperatives possible?
possible in virtue of the analytic proposition that he who wills the end also wills the necessary means to it in his control. (417)
for Kant: a proposition whose predicate is contained in its subject
more generally: a proposition whose truth-value depends solely on its syntax and the meaning of its terms
Contrast term: synthetic proposition
Their possibility must be settled a priori (since we cannot be sure in any example that the will is determined merely by laws).
Only categorical imperatives can be stated as laws (since we can give up a hypothetical imperative by giving up its conditioning end)
Their possibility is hard to establish (since a categorical imperative is synthetic).
Note: The possibility is not established until the Third Section.
Formula of a categorical imperative
no material end
content: maxim must accord with the law (420-421, cf. 400)
Formula of Universal Law (FUL): Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law. (421)
Formula of the Law of Nature (FLN): So act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature. (421)
Classification of duties
For each of Kant’s four examples:
What is the maxim?
How would people behave if this maxim were a universal law of nature?
Why exactly does Kant think that it would be impossible for someone with this maxim to will that it be a universal law of nature?
In particular, what kind of impossibility is involved?
Has Kant applied his test fairly?
The four examples
Kant’s reflections on the 4 examples (424)
Some maxims (e.g. 1 and 2) cannot even be thought without contradiction as universal laws of nature
These conflict with narrow (unremitting) duty.
With other maxims (e.g. 3 and 4) a will that they should be elevated to a natural law would contradict itself.
These conflict with wide (meritorious) duty.
In transgressing a duty, we make an exception for ourselves of a rule that we expect others to follow.
Allowing ourselves only a few exceptions implicitly recognizes the validity of the categorical imperative.
Our reflections on the 4 examples
What general points would you make about what is involved in applying FLN/FUL?
FLN/FUL tests maxims, not actions.
Test is negative, not positive.
Maxim passes test à morally OK to act on it. But not necessarily morally required.
Maxim fails test à morally wrong to act on it. But the same act might be morally OK with another maxim.
Hence the first formulation is not a positive basis for a metaphysics of morals. (cf. n. 52, p. 41)
Universalizing does involve thinking about consequences.
It also involves appealing to general principles about nature.
Testing the FLN/FUL
a general policy for acting in a specified way
in a specified type of situation
with a specified end in view
Review of second section, part 1
Reasons for basing morality on reason rather than experience
Concept of a rational being
Commands and imperatives: types
How imperatives are possible
First formula of the moral law (FUL, FLN)
Application to 4 examples corresponding to 4 types of duties
2 ways a maxim can fail the test of FLN
Second section, part 2 (Ak 4:425-445)
Reflection due by midnight Sunday, Sep. 27
2nd formula of the moral law: humanity as end in itself (FH) [important]
Application to the same 4 examples
3rd formula of the moral law: autonomy (FA) or the realm of ends (FRE) [not as important as the 2nd]
Dignity vs. price
Autonomy vs. heteronomy