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Kant Duty And Universalizability Notes

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Kant - Universalizability Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals - Kant
? "There is nothing it is possible to think of anywhere in the world, or indeed anything at all outside it, that can be held to be good without limitation, excepting only a good will." o "Utility or fruitlessness can neither add nor subtract anything from this worth."
? "To secure one's own happiness is a duty (at least indirectly), for the lack of contentment with one's condition, in a crowd of many sorrows and amid unsatisfied needs, can easily become a great temptation to the violation of duties."
? "Duty is the necessity of an action from respect for the law."
? "I ought never to conduct myself except so that I could also will that my maxim become a universal law." - categorical imperative. 'Kantian Normative Ethics' - T. Hill
? Kant insists that "it is categorically imperative for us to make it our maxim to promote the happiness of others."
? "An imperative, in Kant's technical terminology, expresses an objective principle as a constraint on imperfectly rational persons. An objective principle is one that any fully rational person would follow - but human beings (who are imperfectly rational) might not."
? "We can understand his view as consistent if we take the Categorical Imperative, expressed in various formulas, as the only imperative that is categorical in a strict sense but then add that more specific moral principles can be called "categorical imperatives" in an extended sense if they are derived from the Categorical Imperative and hold without exception."
? Two kinds of maxim that fail the universalizability test: o Those which cannot be conceived as a universal law without contradiction o Those which cannot be consistently willed as universal law
? "A standard of logical consistency and coherence among one's intentions is unlikely to be sufficient by itself to generate appropriate results from the universal law tests." o But within a Kantian theory, "these standards should not be intuitive moral norms that have no basis at all in Kant's moral theory, at least if we accept the common view that all other moral norms are derivative, in some sense, from Kant's basic moral principles."
? "The most persistent worry about Kant's universal law formulas is that they often seem to lead to intuitively unacceptable conclusions."
? What about the fact that two maxims may each be universalizable when taken in isolation but may entail prescriptions which contradict one another?
? "Even if we can always find some apt maxim description that allows us to reach common-sense conclusions, we are not really being guided by the formulas if we need to rely on our understanding of the right conclusion in order to find the best statement of the maxim."


"As many Kantians now admit, even if the universal law formulas can flag certain maxims as morally wrong, or at least suspect, they do not adequately explain why acting on those maxims is wrong." o "[I]nconsistency seems at best only part of the story why such acts are wrong." 'Kantian Ethics' - O'Neill
? "Although he begins his identifying a good will as the only unconditional good, he denies that the principles of good willing can be fixed by reference to an objective good or telos at which they aim."
? "Perfect duties are complete, in the sense that they hold for all agents in all their actions with all possible others."
? "Kant derives principles of imperfect obligation by introducing one further assumption: he takes it that we not only have to deal with a plurality of rational agents who share a world, but that these agents are not self-sufficient, hence are mutually vulnerable." o Imperfect principles of obligation are so because "we cannot help all others in all needed ways, nor can we develop all possible talents in ourselves."
? "His account of human knowledge leads to a conception of human beings as parts of nature, whose desires, inclinations and actions are susceptible of ordinary causal explanation. Yet his account of human freedom demands that we view human agents as capable of self-determination, and specifically of determination in accordance with the principles of duty. Kant is apparently driven to a dual view of man: we are both phenomenal (natural, causally determined) beings and noumenal (non-natural, self-determining) beings. Many of Kant's critics have held that this dual aspect view of human beings is ultimately incoherent."
? Formalism: "The commonest charge against Kant's ethics is the allegation that the Categorical Imperative is empty, trivial or purely formal and identifies no principles of duty."
? Rigorism: "This is the claim that Kant's ethics, far from being empty and formalistic, leads to rigidly insensitive rules, and so cannot take account of differences between cases." o Analogy between laws in the social sciences and universalizability of moral principles [my idea]: the more specificity you build into such laws the more contrived and vacuous they are, but the more universal they are, the less correct they seem. o Plausibility and universality are inversely related.
? Abstraction: "Kant identifies ethical principles, but that these principles are 'too abstract' to guide action, hence his theory is not action-guiding...There is no moral algorithm."
? Conflicting Grounds of Obligation: obvious.
? "Kant requires that we act 'out of the motive of duty', hence not out of inclination, and so is driven to the claim that action which we
[only?] enjoy cannot be morally worthy." 'Universalization' in Ethics - Mackie
? "It has been argued (by Hare) that it is because moral terms like 'good' have both prescriptive and descriptive meaning that moral judgements are universalisable...but...the descriptions that one can

????'The?'Theinfer from some application of the term 'good'...are no part of the meaning of 'good'." "[I]s the thesis of universalisability itself a logical thesis (as Hare also maintains) or a substantive moral principle?" 1st stage of universalisation: irrelevance of numerical differences. 2nd stage: putting oneself in the other person's place but still with one's own present tastes, preferences, ideals and values (i.e. removing special abilities, social position, and related interests). 3rd stage: also taking on the other person's desires, tastes, preferences, ideals and values; other qualities & abilities and external situation. o "But then it hardly makes sense to talk of putting oneself in his place; hardly any of oneself is retained." It is doubtful that any moral principle will pass the test of the 3 rd stage: "there are radically divergent preferences and values, and it is from these that obstinate moral disagreements arise." "We must lower our sights a little, and look not for principles which can be wholeheartedly endorsed from every point of view, but for ones which represent an acceptable compromise between the different actual points of view." o "If we press this to the point of trying to take not just some account but equal account of all actual interests, we shall be adopting the equivalent of some kind of utilitarian view." "It is at most the first stage...that is built into the meaning of moral language: the corresponding logical thesis about the second stage is more controversial, while that about the third stage would be plainly false." "The universalizability of moral judgements...does not impose any rational constraint on choices of action or defensible patterns of behaviour." Three Stages of Universalization' in Persons and Values - Mackie "An ethical objectivist would say that there are some objectively valid or authoritative practical theses, whereas a subjectivist would hold that a practical thesis can express only a substantive decision to act in certain ways." He takes the latter interpretation. "[I]t can be argued that the three stages are not even logically distinct, and again that even if they are logically distinct there is some other kind of connection between them, that there is some general spirit of universalization which leads us inexorably from one stage to the next." "The only strong argument for the logical theses of first and second stage universalization rests on the view that moral concepts incorporate a claim to objectivity, while the only strong argument for the logical thesis of third stage universalization rests on the view that any such claim is incoherent." Universalizability of Moral Judgments' - Peter Winch Talking about morality is like talking about pain: "The grammar of my attributions of intentions or of pains to other people is quite different from that of my own expressions of intention or paincomplaint; but I have to understand the grammar of first-person expressions of intention or pain-complaints, if I am to be able to

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