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However, how could I know whether I can trust my feelings or not? How can I be sure that even my most honest behaviour is not motivated by some interest? An action, which seems perfectly moral for an independent observer ? other people's behaviour is only apparent and external to us ? may be determined by inclinations (desire, self-love, etc.). For example giving to the poors may hide a desire for honour and distinction or even selfishness. On the other hand one cannot see a true moral action as such, for we cannot be sure of what the action was determined by. That's why Kant states that it is impossible to empirically know whether an action is moral or not and even to know whether there have been any moral actions at all

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[...] only on that maxim which you can at the same time will as a universal law’ (Kant). What does this mean? Does it succeed in making explicit our concept of a moral requirement? When facing the difficulty to determine an absolute criterion of good and evil, our most common temptation is to have recourse to our inner feeling of good and evil. That is the same as saying do what I believe is good and I avoid what I consider to be wrong’. [...]


[...] Sullivan noticed, ‘suppose an individual adopts it as his policy never to set for himself an end whose achievement appears to require the cooperation of others’[28], then in this case he could without internal contradiction will that his maxim not help others’) become a universal law. So for Hegel, the maxim not help others’ is contradictory only if one assumes that beneficence ought to exist, and we can like above imagine a society in which there would be no solidarity. Does that mean Kant’s theory is vacuous? We need to remember the expression ‘that you can will’: Kant does not say that selfishness prevents the society from existing, he even says that a purely altruistic action may have never existed and will perhaps never exist. [...]


[...] So we cannot will that maxim to be universal. This example, although interesting is quite tricky and misleading. Indeed Kant uses the verb ‘desire’: this is embarrassing, for it is an appeal to selfishness and we know that the moral action is done for duty’s sake only. This seems rather an appeal to a hypothetical imperative: If you want to be helped, you have to give assistance to others. Moreover, Kant seems to say that the immorality of the action can only be proved by empirical observations: if one is an egoist then it would be impossible for him to live in the human society. [...]


[...] p.5 could one give worse advice to morality than by wanting to derive it from examples. For, every example of it represented to me must itself first be appraised in accordance with principles of morality [ ] it can by no means authoritatively provide the concept of morality’. Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. p.18 Joistein Gaarder, Sophie’s World (London, published by Phoenix House in 1995) p.276 René Descartes, The Discourse on Method Joistein Gaarder, Sophie’s World p.277 Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. [...]


[...] For example, if someone hides a Jew in his cellar and that some Nazis come and ask him where the Jew is, then according to Kant he has to tell the truth and denounce him, whatever the consequences are. does not begin by reasoning, but by feeling’ Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Language. For Rousseau feelings and emotion are part of our nature, just as reason is. Therefore, denying our emotions the faculty to determine moral requirements (as Kant does) is, in some way, denying our own nature. [...]


[...] There is opposition because one chooses a maxim, which cannot be universalised and which goes against a law, that one wishes it were to be universal. So even if we recognise (by reason) the value of the categorical imperative law, we can decide (by inclinations) to make a maxim in opposition with the law, and we know that this maxim cannot be universalised[23]. We have come across the formula of the universal law and we now know its meaning, however it remains to determine whether or not it is a good definition of the moral obligation. [...]


[...] For him, lying is purely immoral, because it leads to an internal contradiction[35]. Benjamin Constant[36] objected that we have a right to lie in particular circumstances, for instance in order to protect someone. But Kant replies[37] that lie always harms another; if not some other particular man, still it harms mankind generally, for it vitiates the source of law itself’.[38] Hence for Kant to be truthful is an absolute duty, and no empirical and subjective end (e.g. saving one’s life) should corrupt it[39]. [...]


[...] Nevertheless it remains clear that Kant never uses empirical arguments (but his examples are truly misleading) and that is theory is still valid. We have seen the meaning of Kant’s formula, and pointed out some of its formal problems, but what we have to consider is that the Kantian theory frames the idea of the universality of moral, independently from any historical, ethical, religious or political beliefs. That is the good and positive side about Kant’s theory. But one weakness remains a moral one namely the emotional coldness. [...]


[...] p.33-34 Allen W. Wood, Hegel’s Ethical Thoughts (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990), p however we at one moment regard our action from the point of view of a will wholly conformed to reason, and then again look at the same action from the point of view of a will affected by inclination, there is not really any contradiction, but an antagonism of inclination to the precept of reason, whereby the universality of the principle is changed into a mere generality, so that the practical principle of reason shall meet the maxim half way.’ Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. [...]


[...] 123; can be found on http://www.bartleby.com/66/16/46116.html) DESCARTES René, The Discourse on Method Found on http://www.rbjones.com/rbjpub/philos/classics/descarte/med00.htm (visited the 4th of December 2005, web site created 04/12/1994) GAARDER Joistein, Sophie’s World (London, published by Phoenix House in 1995) HEGEL, Philosophy of Right NORMAN R., The Moral Philosopher an Introduction to Ethics (New York, Oxford University Press, second edition) ROUSSEAU Jean-Jacques, Essay on the Origin of Language, translated by John H. Moran; found on http://ptolemy.eecs.berkeley.edu/~johnr/quotations/language.html (visited the 4th of December 2005) SINGER Peter, Ethics (Oxford, Oxford Readers, 1994) SULLIVAN Roger J., Immanuel Kant’s Moral Theory (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989) WOOD Allen W. Hegel’s Ethical Thoughts (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990) The empirical knowledge is based on experience and on feelings. It is opposed to rationalism, which is based on reason alone. Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Section II (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997), p Ibid. p.31. [...]

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Date de publication
14/03/2006
Langue
français
Format
Word
Type
dissertation
Nombre de pages
13 pages
Niveau
grand public
Consulté
3 fois

Informations sur l'auteur Octave B. (étudiant)

Niveau
Grand public
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droit des...
Ecole, université
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