A Collection of Thoughts on Kant’s ethics

1.)Pure Practical reason gives us the moral law. What does this mean? How can reason give us anything? These questions have never stopped in my reading of Kant’s practical philosophy. Kant thinks reason is some kind of saving grace. I’m skeptical about reason giving us any kind of gift at all, let alone the right way to live. For whatever reason, these questions are glossed over by Kant. He places reason as the king of all and doesn’t tell us why he’s on the throne.

2.) God is a postulate under this system. let me say that again: God is a postulate. God is a piece of a logical puzzle. God fills in logical gaps in the system. God’s will is holy. There is no “ought” for God, because that would mean that He could do otherwise. His will is completely determined by the moral law necessarily. The Holy Will is the will completely bound to the moral law, which is given to us by reason. Reason is Lord of all.

3.) Respect is the motivating feature of the moral law. We, as humans, have within ourselves respect for the moral law. The moral law pulls at us, and it is this pulling that is respect. We have a irresistible drive toward the moral law. Kant claims that we can never be without this respect. We cannot be “morally dead”. Being morally dead would shut us off completely from the moral law (which practical reason gives us). Sounds like freedom to me.

4.) We live in two states. We are noumena and phenomena. The noumena is the immaterial unknowable part of us (though we recognize it in ourselves). We exist in the world immaterially. The phneomena is the part we’re familiar with, my body, brain, etc. The moral law is the only way that we can become fully free beings from our inclinations (emotions, desires, etc.). We represent the moral law to ourselves and become our own cause. In most causality, the phenomena interacts with other phenomena through a causal chain and so on. Here, though, the cause comes from outside the phenomena. That is, the noumena interacts with the phenomena, we become self caused causes in the world. We are like little gods when we take on reason.

5.) Autonomy is giving laws to ourselves. We become self legislating beings. Desires, feelings, emotions, they no longer tell us what to do. We are our own masters when we ground our will in reason. This is freedom.

6.) I cannot force anyone to be moral. In order for one to be moral, they must ground their will in the moral will. This is a subjective grounding, one that can only be done on one’s own. I can, however, coerce you from immorality if the act is of a certain type. This is in the Doctrine of Right in the Metaphysics of Morals.

7.) If I have sex with someone who is not my wife, they are no longer human to me. Kant claims that when we treat humans this way, we rob them of their humanity. They become our food, something to be consumed for our own ends (pleasure in this case). Any time I treat someone as an object, that’s exactly what they become. We have a special power over other humans. We have the capacity of stripping them of their humanity if we treat them in certain ways. This is a responsibility that is taken too lightly. I’m on board with Kant here.

8.) Kant’s picture is idealistic. There has been so much literature pointing out the problems in Kant’s philosophy that it becomes hard to believe. Conflicting duties according to Kant simply do not exist. This just seems absurd. There are other (famous) philosophers who think so too. Herman takes this concern so seriously she claims we must leave deontology behind, that Kant’s philosophy is actually a kind of value ethics. What was Kant thinking when he wrote that line? He surely knew he would be taken to task here. It makes me wonder what Kant was up to with this whole project. Little things that stick that make me think there is more here than what it seems. What that is I don’t think I’ll ever know.

9.) Kant wraps up his morality with the human person throughout all his practical philosophy. He wraps up humanity and universal law giving… I still don’t see it. Other authors have seen the problem too. Certain maxims seem to pass the categorical imperative but fail the law of humanity. Kant wanted so desperately to bind up the human person with reason, they just had to be connected. He was convinced this was a consistent account, but it doesn’t take long to confuse the matter. What did Kant think of reason? What did he think of the human person? What made him come to these conclusions? His arguments won’t help me with these questions as strange as that seems.

a semester of Kant, over 500 pages read and I still have so many questions.

~ by Barky on December 4, 2011.

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