Assuming that we do not freely do what we unavoidably do, and that to wish for and seek something is to have it as an end of action, these two claims from the Doctrine of Virtue seem inconsistent.3 The inconsistency, if genuine, is not harmless. The first claim (hereafter, ‘E’), and equivalent statements elsewhere express the extent of Kant’s belief in free will, as well as feature in his arguments that there are ends that are duties, and that such duties (...) cannot be constrained by others but only self-constrained.4 The second claim (hereafter, ‘H’) and equivalent statements elsewhere feature in Kant’s arguments that we can have no direct duty to pursue our own happiness, that prudential rationality is distinct from mere skillfulness, and that, unlike the Categorical Imperative (CI), the problem of the ‘possibility’ of a hypothetical imperative needs no solution.5 This is, in other words, an inconsistency between basic premises of Kant’s moral philosophy. I am not confident that there is any way of squaring E and H, given the uses to which Kant puts them. I am confident that the most plausible ways that Kantians have tried to put.. (shrink)
Kantian ethics can at times appear to defend the position that there is a unique sort of value that plays a foundational role in morality. For instance, Kant’s most well known work in ethics, the Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, begins by trying to establish that a good will is good ‘without qualification’ and then ends with a first statement of the fundamental principle that divides right from wrong, the Categorical Imperative.1 This presentation can make it seems as if (...) Kant believes the authority carried by the Categorical Imperative is somehow supposed to be grounded in the value of a good will. Again, the humanity formulation of the Categorical Imperative, the formulation that tell us we must respect the humanity in ourselves and others by treating it as an end in itself, appears to allude to a special value possessed by some feature of persons, their humanity, and then explain the authority of moral obligation by way of that value.2 This extolling of the value of humanity and the dramatic refrain about the unique value of a good will both appear to portray Kant as telling us to notice the peculiar value that they possess and see that this value demands that we adjust our deliberation and actions. We appear to be told that the good will and humanity are bits of metaphysical glitter, jewels carrying their value around with them, and that this unique glitter is source of the authority of moral obligation. (shrink)
Kantian ethics can at times appear to defend the position that there is a unique sort of value that plays a foundational role in morality. For instance, Kant's most well known work in ethics, the Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals , begins by trying to establish that a good will is good without qualification' and then ends with a first statement of the fundamental principle that divides right from wrong, the Categorical Imperative.1 This presentation can make it seems as (...) if Kant believes the authority carried by the Categorical Imperative is somehow supposed to be grounded in the value of a good will. Again, the humanity formulation of the Categorical Imperative, the formulation that tell us we must respect the humanity in ourselves and others by treating it as an end in itself, appears to allude to a special value possessed by some feature of persons, their humanity, and then explain the authority of moral obligation by way of that value.2 This extolling of the value of humanity and the dramatic refrain about the unique value of a good will both appear to portray Kant as telling us to notice the peculiar value that they possess and see that this value demands that we adjust our deliberation and actions. We appear to be told that the good will and humanity are bits of metaphysical glitter, jewels carrying their.. (shrink)
A few pages into the Groundwork Kant claims that only actions from duty have moral worth.ii Even though as an aside he also says that a dutiful action from sympathy or honor, though lacking in moral worth, "deserves praise and encouragement", it is tempting not to take him very seriously. One suspects that he regards this praise as only a poor and morally insignificant cousin of the esteem reserved for actions from duty. In the end, it seems hard to avoid (...) the conclusion that, for him, only dutiful actions from duty deserve any morally significant positive evaluation.iii This conclusion in turn raises a standard objection:iv How can this be squared with the fact that we think highly of actions motivated, not by duty, but by desires to help those we love or those for whom we feel compassion? Of course, if we could ignore our suspicions and take Kant's aside seriously, the conflict would lessen. Contrary to the standard objection, Kant does indeed think that actions motivated by such desires are worthy of praise and encouragement. But the difficulties would not, for then we would then have to answer serious questions about the nature of the "praise" deserved by a dutiful action not performed from duty, what moral significance (if any) a Kantian view can attribute to it, and the relationship it has to moral worth. (shrink)
Since Plato wrote of political obligation in his dialogue Crito, obligation in general has been of ongoing interest to philosophers. In that dialogue, Socrates argues that he was under an obligation to obey the laws of Athens and comply with a sentence of death. During the course of the argument, he raises and offers solutions to many of the central issues about obligation that philosophers still puzzle over. For instance, how can obligations have the grip on us that they do—in (...) some cases, so that we are willing to die rather than not fulfill them? What is the nature and justification of moral and legal obligations? Do we have an obligation to obey the state, and if so, why? (shrink)
Although relativism is most often associated with ethics, one can find defenses of relativism in virtually any area of philosophy. In what follows, I will narrow my focus considerably. I first discuss the general structure of relativist positions and arguments. I will then examine several influential ideas concerning relativism in the late 20th century. Finally, I end by considering the rise of relativism in one area outside of ethics, epistemology.
You might think a simple “No” would suffice as an answer. But there are features of Kant’s ethics that appear to be strikingly similar to virtue oriented views, so striking that some Kantians themselves have argued that Kant’s ethics in fact shares these features with virtue ethics. In what follows, I will argue against this view, though along the way I will acknowledge the features of Kant’s view that make it appear more like a kind of virtue ethics than it (...) really is. (shrink)
'You ought to make something of yourself.' That certainly has the ring of truth about it. But is there really any obligation to develop yourself? Those who let abilities lie idle are shortsighted, of course. But are they guilty of anything more than imprudence? It is easy to think that there could be a moral fault in failing to help others such as your children to develop their talents and abilities. But what about not developing your own? And if this (...) is a moral failing, is the fault solely in your having let others down in some way? Or is there fault in having let yourself down as well? (shrink)
So Michael Slote argues. There is and can be no obligation to foster one's own wellbeing for Kantians, only an obligation to foster the wellbeing of others. And any distinctively Kantian position both denies that our own wellbeing is the source of our moral duties and denies that a concern for wellbeing can be a morally worthy motive. So not only is the agent's own good not foundational to morality; it is of no moral importance. Hence, Slote concludes, the devaluation (...) of the moral agent. (shrink)
Introduction -- Self-improvement as an imperfect duty -- Universalizability and self-improvement -- Duties to and regarding ourselves -- Self-respect and self-improvement -- Kantian convergence arguments and self-improvement -- On what we cannot improve in others -- What is an ability?
The first section of the Groundwork begins “It is impossible to imagine anything at all in the world, or even beyond it, that can be called good without qualification— except a good will.”1 Kant’s explanation and defense of this claim is followed by an explanation and defense of another related claim, that only actions performed out of duty have moral worth. He explains that actions performed out of duty are those done from respect for the moral law, and then culminates (...) the first section with a formulation of that law, “I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law”. Kant dubs this fundamental principle of morality “the Categorical Imperative”. (shrink)
Much recent work on Kant's argument that the Categorical Imperative is the fundamental principle of morality has focused on the gap in that argument between the conclusion that rational agents conform to laws that apply to every rational agent, and the requirement contained in the Universal Law of Nature formula.1 While it seems plausible – even trivial– that a rational agent, insofar as she is a rational agent, conforms to whatever laws there are that are valid for all rational agents, (...) there does not appear to be any obvious route from this seemingly trivial claim to the controversial and substantive principle of acting only on maxims that one can at the same time rationally will every rational agent to act on.2 In what follows, I argue that the connection between rational agency and mere conformity to universally valid laws is not as trivial as it may seem. Many readers, I suspect, assume that Kant makes the trivial claim about rational agency because rational agency is rational, and being rational requires conforming to those laws that apply to all rational beings. For instance, this assumption is implicit in Onora O'Neill claim that "the interest of a Kantian universality test is that it aims to ground an ethical theory on notions of consistency and rationality rather than upon considerations of desire and preference."3 But, as I contend in what follows, the requirement to conform to laws valid for all rational agents is based on the fact that rational agency is, not rational, but agency. Indeed, the arguments leading to the first formulation of the Categorical Imperative rely on the idea of rational willing as a kind of causation in order to show this. And, as it turns out, the claim that the concept of causation contains the idea of conformity to universally valid laws is not a trivial claim. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he dubbed the “Categorical Imperative” (CI). Immorality thus involves a violation of the CI and is thereby irrational. Other philosophers, such as Locke and Hobbes, had also argued that moral requirements are based on standards of rationality. However, these standards were either desirebased instrumental principles of rationality or based on sui generis rational intuitions. Kant agreed with many of his predecessors that an analysis of practical reason (...) will reveal only the requirement that rational agents must conform to instrumental principles. Yet he argued that conformity to the CI (a non-instrumental principle) and hence to moral requirements themselves, can nevertheless be shown to be essential to rational agency. This argument was based on his striking doctrine that a rational will must be regarded as autonomous, or free in the sense of being the author of the law that binds it. The fundamental principle of morality — the CI — is none other than the law of an autonomous will. Thus, at the heart of Kant's moral philosophy is a conception of reason whose reach in practical affairs goes well beyond that of a Humean ‘slave’ to the passions. Moreover, it is the presence of this self-governing reason in each person that Kant thought offered decisive grounds for viewing each as possessed of equal worth and deserving of equal respect. (shrink)
You might think a simple “No” would suffice as an answer. But there are features of Kant’s ethics that appear to be strikingly similar to virtue oriented views, so striking that some Kantians themselves have argued that Kant’s ethics in fact shares these features with virtue ethics. In what follows, I will argue against this view, though along the way I will acknowledge the features of Kant’s view that make it appear more like a kind of virtue ethics than it (...) really is. My plan is to first set out the distinctive features of what is nowadays called “virtue ethics”, those features that make it a genuine alternative to other normative theories. I then consider the features Kant’s view might share in common with virtue ethics and the case for saying that it is, therefore, fundamentally the same sort of theory. I follow these two sections with an argument against this position. I want to warn you at the outset, however, that my argument itself will be quite unsurprising, since it is an argument that has been central to the way in which most philosophers have understood Kant’s ethics. Any novelty I can claim here is in my account of what makes virtue ethics a genuine alternative to other normative theories, and my defense of this argument against those, in particular Barbara Herman, who have apparently found the argument unpersuasive. (shrink)
This is an examination of three main strategies used by engineering educators to integrate ethics into the engineering curriculum. They are: (1) the standalone course, (2) the ethics imperative mandating ethics content for all engineering courses, and (3) outsourcing ethics instruction to an external expert. The expectations from each approach are discussed and their main limitations described. These limitations include the insular status of the stand-alone course, the diffuse and uneven integration with the ethics imperative, and the orphaned status of (...) ethics using the outside expert. A fourth option is proposed — a special modular option. This strategy avoids the limitations of earlier approaches and harmonizes well with curricular objectives and professional values. While some help is provided by a professional ethicist, the headliner for the series of seminars is a high-profile engineer who shares an ethics dilemma encountered in professional practice. Students discuss the case and propose solutions. (shrink)
In an earlier paper I identified two desiderata of a theory of practical reasons which favour internalism, and then argued that forms of this doctrine which are currently on offer lose either one or the other in trying to avoid the conditional fallacy. Michael Brady, Mark van Roojen and Josh Gert have separately attempted to respond to my argument. I set out reasons why all fail.
Kant famously argued in the Groundwork that our fundamental moral obligation is simply to respect the humanity in persons. However, his fuller view, found in the Metaphysic of Morals, is that the humanity in persons not only demands our respect, but also our love. Neither of these demands, of course, requires that we feel anything for others, and Kant is much more specific here about what constitutes respect between persons. But in elaborating this position he also claims that these (...) demands are somehow opposed, as though love were a sort of moral gravity and respect a sort of moral centrifugal force, which together create a cohesive moral/social bond, but alone would allow “nothingness (immorality)... [to] drink up the whole kingdom of (moral) beings” (MdS 6:449). Marcia Baron, in her illuminating paper, argues that this and related remarks are surely an exaggeration. After all, respect sometimes requires that we come closer and love sometimes imposes limits. And not only does Kant ground all duties in respect, but this is the same philosopher who, early on in the Groundwork, claimed that the Christian command to “love our neighbor” must be understood as commanding, not a feeling, but “beneficence from duty” (G 4:399). Since acting from duty is acting out of respect, “practical” love itself requires respect. So why does he think that they are opposing forces? (shrink)
Kant held that “an incentive can determine the will [Willkür] to action only so far as the individual has incorporated it into his maxim”,2 a view dubbed the “Incorporation Thesis” by Henry Allison (hereafter, “IT”).3 Although many see IT as basic to Kant’s views on agency, it also seems irreconcilable with the possibility of a kind of weakness, the kind exhibited by a person who acts on incentives that run contrary to principles she holds dear.4 The problem is this: According (...) to IT, if an incentive determines the will of the weak person when she acts contrary to her principles, then it must be the case that she incorporated that incentive into her maxim. But that in turn means that she has made it her principle to act on the wayward incentive, and so is not, after all, exhibiting weakness in failing to follow her own principles, but at best simply dropping one principle in favor of another.5 So either the weak person does not incorporate the wayward incentive into her maxim and IT is false, or she does incorporate it and weakness is impossible. (shrink)
This paper defends a model of the internalism requirement against Michael Smith's recent criticisms of it. On this "example model", what we have reason to do is what we would be motivated to do were we rational. After criticizing the example model, Smith argues that his "advice model", that what we have reason to do is what we would advise ourselves to do were we rational, is obviously preferable. The author argues that Smith's criticisms can quite easily be accommodated by (...) the example model. Moreover, to the extent that his model connects reasons to advice, it is not a model of the internalism requirement at all. Yet, to the extent that it connects reasons to motivation, his model collapses into the example model. The author ends by arguing that Smith's view simply proposes an unambitious conception of practical rationality, not an alternative construal of the internalism requirement. (shrink)
Prior stock repurchase studies have found evidence that the announcement of a repurchase program sends a positive signal to the market. Firms engaging in open-market repurchase programs do not have to report how, when, and if they actually repurchased any shares. Evidence following the stock market crash of 1987 indicates that many firms announcing repurchase plans did not actually repurchase any share and, by their own admission, had no intention of repurchasing shares. Companies announcing plans and not following through are (...) apparently within the letter of the law. However, we argue that companies announcing plans with no intention of repurchasing shares are guilty of either lying or sending false signals. These companies create distrust in the investment community and intentionally mislead the public in violation of the SEC's antifraud provisions. Changes in the reporting procedures concerning repurchase plans are ethically and legally warranted. (shrink)
If any action is to be morally good it is not enough that it should conform to the moral law-it must also be done for the sake of the moral law: where this is not so, the conformity is only too contingent and precarious, since the nonmoral ground at work will now and then produce actions which accord with the law, but very often actions which transgress it.