Useful Weblinks:
On Kant’s notion of a “good will”:
http://kantphilosophy.wordpress.com/kants-ethics/the-good-will/

?Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing wonder and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me?. I see them before me, and I associate them directly with the consciousness of my own existence.?[1]
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The Categorical Imperative
Moral rules for Kant are established by reason alone, according to logical consistency and universalizability.? Kant contends that one could deduce moral absolutes that fit these criteria by way of applying the Categorical Imperative which really has 2 major formulations that must be taken together to fully make sense of one another.?
1.)The first is the universalization principle: An act is immoral if the maxim (rule to follow) cannot be universalized. ?Act as if the maxim of your action were to become by your will a universal law of nature.?[2] (The ?maxim? is the principle to be derived from our choice of action.)?
2.)The second part: ?So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of any other, in every case at the same time as an end, never as a means only.?[3]?
This means that I must act so as to treat all rational being (others, as well as myself) as an end in himself and never as a means only, because people have dignity: we are rational in nature and being rational we have the ability to reason for ourselves about what is right. This leads to the ?formula of autonomy? for Kant: ?the idea of the will of every rational being as a will giving universal law.??
?Autonomy of the will is that property of it by which it is a law unto itself.?[4]
??????????? Perhaps then the key concept for Kant?s entire moral philosophy is autonomy.? Literally autonomy means self-given law (nomos is Greek for law, or rule).? So to act autonomously, is to freely give oneself the law.? Autonomy lies at the heart of Kant?s system of ethics.? Ethics is only possible because of autonomy, and our moral duties strictly concern respect for autonomy of ourselves and others.? The source of autonomy is the human capacity for reason.?
Reason, for Kant, is a universal capacity of human nature.? We are all equally endowed (barring circumstances of illness or injury) with this capacity.? It also has certain universal structures which are the same for all human beings, such that we all perceive reality in a consistent fashion.? Reason is the source of our dignity, the center of Kant?s humanism.? ?Practical reason? means the capacity to choose one?s action independent of sensible determinations such as instincts, desires, passions, and sensations of pleasure and displeasure.?[5]? It is because we can reason that we are not merely caught adrift in forces such as these, which Kant considers all of these to be inclinations which are ?heteronomous.?? To be moral, should act in accord with absolute rules of reason out of a sense of duty not inclination.? Someone who is only ?inclined? to be generous out of sentiment or feeling ?rather than generous out of duty- is not morally responsible.?
Reason is thus synonymous with our freedom, whereas other inclinations are taken by Kant to act upon us, as forces.? By way of reason alone are we free, and by way of reason we can understand the necessity of the moral law.? There is thus no conflict between freedom and the moral law, in fact they ultimately become synonymous.? Autonomy is both my freedom and the moral law.
Lara Denis describes the issue of autonomy as follows:
?Kant often describes rational agents as autonomous, meaning that they have the capacity for self-legislation, that they are subject to self-legislated moral demands.? Kant also sees the [categorical imperative] as demanding that agents act autonomously, obeying our self-given moral requirements.? One must be autonomous in the first sense to be subject to the demand to realize autonomy in the second sense.?[6]
If we freely cultivate our own character to will our acts in this way, then we have developed a ?good will.?? For Kant, the only thing good without qualification is a good will, a will which acts in accordance with duty. ?The will? is reason with respect to action.?[7]? Kant stresses that reason allows us to understand certain a priori universal truths, most important if these is the nature of moral law: the necessity of the categorical imperative.?
?Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good without qualification, except a good will?. A good will is good not because of what it accomplishes or effects, not by its aptness for the attainment of some proposed end, but simply by virtue of its volition ? that is, it is good in itself??[8]
We are each and all sovereign as givers of the moral law, independently and autonomously.? Since reason is universal in human nature, if we all do this we will act in accord and harmony with one another leading to a ?commonwealth of ends? and perhaps also a political world of ?perpetual peace.?[9]
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[1] Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Practical Reason. Trans. Lewis White Beck. (NY: Macmillan, 1993), 169.
[2] Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, ed. Lara Denis, trans. Thomas K. Abbot. (Orchard Park, NY: Broadview Press, 2005), 81.
[3] Ibid., 88.
[4] Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, 98.
[5] H?ffe, Otfried. Immanuel Kant. trans. Marshall Farrier. (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994), 139.
[6] Denis, Lara. ?Introduction? in Immanuel Kant. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. ed. Lara Denis, trans. Thomas K. Abbot. (Orchard Park, NY: Broadview Press, 2005), 30.
[7] H?ffe, 139.
[8] Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, 55-6.
[9] See the 1795 essay ?To Perpetual Peace? which draws some plans for a political league of nations, drawing on the principles of Kant?s morality for international respect for autonomy.

 

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