Canadian Journal of Philosophy 33 (2):183-202 (2003)

Michael Weber
Bowling Green State University
It is unclear in the Groundwork exactly what Kant takes to be necessary for an act to be morally good or worthy. Traditionally it has been thought that for Kant there are two conditions: it is 1) done in accord with duty, or the moral law, and 2) done for the sake of duty alone. The second condition is commonly thought to entail that an act is not morally good if the agent has a ‘supporting inclination’ or desire to do what is right — be it an inclination of self-interest, or one stemming from some emotion of ‘fellow feeling,’ such as sympathy, compassion, or love. Recent interpreters, however, claim that Kant is not so strict, because for him the mere presence of a supporting inclination does not necessarily impugn the moral goodness of a dutiful act. The moral goodness of an act in accord with duty is compromised, it is claimed, only if some such supporting inclination is the actual motive for the dutiful act. Moral worth, on this view, requires that duty is the actual motive, and, so long as it is, it doesn’t matter whether there is a supporting inclination or not. Be that as it may, it is clear in the Groundwork that for Kant there is something special about the motive of duty. A common suggestion for what makes it special is that it is more reliable than other motives in producing right action. Although it is debatable whether such reliability is the most important consideration for Kant and contemporary Kantians, there are clear indications that it is for them a matter of concern — perhaps a necessary but not sufficient condition for moral worth. As a result there is a considerable literature on the topic. I think, however, that the treatment in the literature is incomplete because there is a failure to examine the relevant emotions in significant detail, and in particular to consider their complexity and the conditions of their warrant. As a result, both defenses and critiques of the motive of duty in terms of reliability are inadequate as they stand.
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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Reprint years 2010
ISBN(s) 0045-5091
DOI cjphil20033329
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References found in this work BETA

Moral Saints.Susan Wolf - 1982 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (8):419-439.
The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn.Jonathan Bennett - 1974 - Philosophy 49 (188):123-134.
The Practice of Moral Judgment.Paul Guyer - 1993 - Ethics 106 (2):404-423.
Valuing Emotions.Michael Stocker & Elizabeth Hegeman - 1996 - Philosophy 73 (284):308-311.

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Kant's Moral Philosophy.Robert N. Johnson - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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