Project #97348 - Foundation of the Metaphysics of Morals

Answer the questions that follow the passages

Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals

Immanuel Kant

Considered one of the most important philosophers throughout history, German philosopher Immanuel Kant put forth many original yet philosophically rigorous ideas on numerous subjects while working as a professor of logic and metaphysics at the University of Königsberg for twenty-six years. In his monumental A Critique of Pure Reason, he introduced a new way of viewing certain knowledge claims, noting specifically that metaphysical claims (about God, the soul, etc.) were of a different sort than others (he termed them synthetic a priori propositions because they are known without experience yet also without logically relating the ideas). In this piece, you can see Kant’s focus on a priori truths—those that are attainable prior to experience in the way one attains mathematical truths (as opposed to a posteriori claims, which must be determined through experience, such as “The grass is green”). In this selection, from his Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant first argues that moral laws do exist, and then he demonstrates that, through reason, we discover the “supreme principle of morality,” what he calls the Categorical Imperative. He shows how we can apply our own subjective guidelines—maxims—and attempt to make them applicable to everyone (universalize them). Kant’s system of morals is deontological in that it is based on determining one’s duty and then adhering to that duty, regardless of one’s inclinations and whims. He does not account for the consequences of the action either, as this would not necessarily accord with duty. Throughout his writing, he establishes not only how to properly determine duty, but why we should follow it. He also determines the categorical imperative of treating people as ends in themselves (versus as means to an end, i.e., as using them for some other purpose). This is all done through pure reason, such as not to be led astray by other, less accurate methods.

 

1. Why does Kant argue that good will is the only route to true goodness and happiness?

2. Which of the two ways that one can act consistently with virtue/duty (listed below) does Kant find to be morally superior? Explain.

4. What is an imperative? What is its role in morality? What two types of imperatives are there, and how do they differ?

6. How does Kant argue that humans are ends in themselves and ought to be treated as such? How does he employ this imperative in addressing the following issues?

a. suicide

b. deceitful promises

c. duty to oneself and one’s talents

d. duty to others.

____________________________________

Utilitarianism

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill was raised in London by a father with a fervent belief that a rigorous education from a very young age could produce superior intellect. In a sense, this was true for Mill, whose isolated home schooling had him learning Latin and studying logic, Greek literature (including Plato’s dialogues), political economy, and philosophy, all by the age of 13. He is now considered to be the most prominent British philosopher of the nineteenth century. While he never held an academic position (Cambridge University admitted him, but his father prevented his attending, claiming that it had nothing more to offer him), he was very active in the political and intellectual community. He founded and edited the periodical London and Westminster Review and also served for four years as the liberal representative of the Parliament for Westminster. His writings were extensive, including the six-volume System of Logic, his well-known Principles of Political Economy, and one of the earliest feminist works, The Subjection of Women. He is most well known today for his work in ethics and social morality: for demonstrating the appeal of utilitarianism and how it can be applied to civilized states. He does the former in his work Utilitarianism (from which this selection is taken) and then later in On Liberty. Here, Mill first provides an overview of the shortcomings of other moral systems and then gives a working definition of utilitarianism, followed by a defense of the theory against potential and actual criticisms. Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory in that it focuses on the consequences of certain actions, regardless of motive or duty. While Mill was not the first to posit utilitarianism, his formulation, explanation, and defense of it have been the most highly regarded and accepted. In Chapter 1, Mill references English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, considered the first to formally discuss utilitarianism. Two types of utilitarianism are often referenced, though not here in this piece. Mill primarily discusses act utilitarianism, which aims to increase the total utility or happiness of each particular action (i.e., I should not steal this object), while rule utilitarianism examines general rules (i.e., one should not steal objects) in order to determine if the particular rule would increase total utility or happiness.

2. What critique of Kant’s system of ethics does Mill offer?

3. What is the greatest happiness principle? How is “happiness” defined? How is this principle criticized by comparing it with the life of a pig (swine)? What response does Mill provide?

7. How can a utilitarian justify sacrificing one’s own good for the sake of the good of others?

8. What does Mill say about the motive of an action as it relates to the act’s moral status? How does he use the example of rescuing a drowning person to defend his position? How does Mill’s opponent (Davies) respond?

Subject Philosophy
Due By (Pacific Time) 12/02/2015 04:30 pm
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