two paragraph essay - philosophy

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Please read attached file and respond to the question (in bold) at the end of the reading. Thank you so much

Summary and Clarification of Select Passages-9 Duty and Imperative (Hypothetical and Categorical) [The first part of this lecture will wrap up material from Section 1.] To have any moral worth an act must be done out of a sense of duty (and not out of inclination or because we will benefit in some way). Because we are not concerned with how an action will benefit us or bring us pleasure, we are therefore not concerned with the consequences or results of our action. Remember that a good will (a moral will) is good in itself and not for what it brings about. And if the moral goodness of an act does not reside in its effects or results, then it must reside in the principle that directs or determines the action. This principle is called a maxim. A maxim is a rule of conduct—a rule that we act according to. The following are examples of maxims: • I will lie when I find myself in a difficult situation • I will commit adultery whenever I feel the desire • I will be generous to people I like • I will tell the truth because I want people to trust me These maxims (principles of conduct) are the principles one might act according to. They are not, however, moral maxims. A moral maxim would be the following: • I will do my duty, whatever my duty is What does it mean to do one’s duty? (p. 13) To do one’s duty is to obey a law of some sort. When we do our duty we are observing a law that is binding and obligatory to all people. That is what is meant by a duty. What kind of law do we obey when we are acting according to duty? (p. 14 ff.) If we cannot look to the consequences/results of an action to discover what we ought to do, the law that we must obey cannot be any particular or specific law. Such a law would have a specific consequence in view. Therefore the law that we must obey can only be lawfulness in general. By this is meant “universality”, “consistency”—something that applies to all people universally—no exceptions. Thus the law that I must obey is the law that I act in a way that all people (universally) ought to act. In other words, doing my duty is doing only what all people can and ought to do, and never making an exception for myself. For example, imagine that you were faced with a difficult situation, to get out of which you would need to tell a lie. To determine what your duty is in this situation (the morally correct thing to do), you must ask yourself if you could will that everyone do what you are about to do. In other words, what would happen if everyone lied when they found themselves in a difficult situation? If it would be impossible for me to will that all people do what I am proposing to do, then I have a duty not to do it. According to Kant, it would be impossible for me to want everyone to lie when they found themselves in a difficult situation. If everyone acted that way, then no one would ever be believed. We would all know that everyone lied when pressed. If this were the case, then the lie that I want to tell right now would not be believed—and I precisely want to be believed when I tell a lie. Universalizing the tendency to lie would destroy the very act of lying. To lie, one must be believed. But if everyone lied, no one would ever be believed. Universalizing my action (telling a lie when in a difficult situation) leads to a contradiction: when I tell a lie I want to be believed; but if I universalize the act, I am saying I don’t want to be believed (because no lies would be believed if everyone lied). You would then be willing (or intending) two contradictory ideas if universalized. And whatever creates a contradiction when universalized is immoral. We would then be making an exception for ourselves, which is fundamentally unjust. [Note: you may want to reread this a few times.] Acting in such a way that you would want (will) all other people to act is what Kant calls the “categorical imperative.” This is the supreme principle of morality for Kant. In this next section we will clarify what he means by a categorical imperative by juxtaposing it with a hypothetical imperative. Section 2 (pp. 24–25) Categorical vs. Hypothetical Imperatives An “imperative” is a command—a statement that tells us what we must (ought to) do. Example: Thou shalt not kill This is an imperative (a command) that states that we ought not kill another person. There are two types of imperatives: hypothetical and categorical. A hypothetical imperative is a conditional imperative (an “if…then” statement). These are commands that we obey if, and only if, we want to achieve something. We follow these commands as a means of some further goal. Examples: • I ought to watch what I eat, if I want to lose weight • I ought to study, if I want to get good grades • I ought to go to law school, if I want to be a lawyer These commands only apply (are obligatory) if one desires what is contained in the “if” part of the statement. For example, if I don’t want to lose weight, I do not need to watch what I eat. If I don’t want good grades, I do not need to study. These commands are therefore not absolute or universally binding—they are conditional, i.e., dependent upon whether one actually desires what they are a means to. As such they are not moral imperatives. Categorical imperatives, however, are absolute and universally binding. They are in no way conditional but rather apply to all people equally. One does not obey them as a means to something else (as one does with hypothetical imperatives), but obeys them because the action they dictate is good in itself (not as a means to something else). Therefore, a categorical imperative does not point to anything beyond itself (consequences or results). And as we saw above, a command that does not point to anything beyond itself commands only lawfulness in general: universal applicability. Thus a categorical imperative commands only that all my actions conform to universal application. In other words, the categorical imperative commands that I act only in ways that I could will or want all other people to act. Only this type of imperative is moral. Summary and Clarification of Select Passages-8 Printable version of Lecture The Categorical Imperative (pp. 29–37) As we saw last week, a categorical imperative demands that we act only in ways that we would want all other people to act. If such a scenario creates a contradiction, (for example, in the case of lying: a desire or will to be believed (when one tells a lie) and the desire or will not to be believed (which would be the result of all people behaving this way) then we have a duty not to lie. We cannot at the same time will/desire to be believed and will/desire not to be believed. Those would be two contradictory wills. We cannot morally make exceptions for ourselves. If we do (that is, if we do something that we would not or could not want all other people to do) then we are acting immorally. Do not, however, confuse this idea with the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you). While there is a similarity, Kant’s idea is that it would be logically inconsistent to will that all people perform certain acts such as lying or cheating, and that because all human beings have an equal share in the dignity of rationality, we cannot make exceptions for ourselves, whereby we would be elevating ourselves above others. There is then only one categorical imperative. Kant, however, will provide five different formulations of this one principle. In this class, we will focus only on the first three. All of our moral duties are to be derived from the categorical imperative in its various formulations. First formulation (p. 30, first full paragraph) “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” Recall that a maxim is a principle of conduct—a principle that we live by or act according to. For example, 1. “Whenever I find myself in a difficult situation, I will tell a lie” 2. “I will tell the truth always” In order to determine whether our action is morally permissible we must test the maxim that guides it according to the categorical imperative above. What would happen if maxim #1 were a universal law for all people? That is, what if all people lived by that maxim? No one would ever be believed because everyone would know that everyone lies whenever they feel the need. This maxim cannot be willed universally without creating a contradiction between my two wills. I cannot both will that I am believed and will that I not be believed (if this maxim were universal, then I would not be believed at this moment—and I cannot desire this if I also desire to be believed). Maxim #2, on the other hand, can be adopted universally without creating such a contradiction. The key to this formulation is whether I can will an act universally without falling into contradiction. Second formulation (p. 30, third full paragraph and following) “Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature.” Here Kant is saying that we must imagine what would happen if our proposed maxim were to become a part of our human nature (that is, a part of our human instinct, like our natural instinct for self preservation or procreation, etc.). Therefore to determine whether a maxim is moral or not we must imagine what would happen if such a maxim were ingrained in human beings like the instincts listed above. Looking at example #1 on p. 30 we can see how this works. Imagine a person whose life is completely bleak and worthless and is considering suicide. His maxim would be something like, “whenever life presents more pain than pleasure, I will terminate it.” He must then imagine what would happen if this maxim (which is fundamentally self-destructive) were part of our human instinct. This (imagined) self-destructive instinct would directly conflict and contradict our existing instinct for self-preservation and therefore could not be rationally willed. To repeat, it would create a contradiction between two competing instincts: self-destruction and selfpreservation. Therefore we can determine that we have a duty not to commit suicide because it could not be willed as a part of our nature. The second example (p. 31) shows how we can apply the first formulation and indicates that we have a duty not to make false promises. (See example provided above for the first formution.) Third formulation (p. 36) “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means.” Here Kant is saying that all human beings have a certain dignity and that we ought never use people. When we use people (by lying to them or cheating on them, or stealing from them or murdering them) we are treating them as things—as means to our own ends. This is immoral because all human beings are persons with dignity and are not things (like a car, a home, a dog, a degree, etc.) and therefore have a right never to be treated as a thing. Such dignity and personhood comes from the fact that we are rational beings. Our rationality, which is what makes us human, is what gives us our absolute value. Human beings are not valuable for this or that purpose (like a car or a dining room set), they are valuable in of themselves, absolutely and unconditionally. From this formulation we see that we have the following duties (this is a partial list): • • • • • • • Not to lie Not to cheat Not to steal Not to murder Not to abuse Not to commit suicide Not to commit adultery Doing the contrary (lying, cheating, stealing, etc.) would be to use ourselves or others as things—to treat them as a means to an end, which would be a denial of their inherent dignity. Lesson 13 Discussion Apply Kant’s first and third formulations to the following case. What is our duty in this situation, according to Kant? Do you agree? Why or why not? The German Father You are the father of a large family living in Munich, Germany in 1938. You are a philosophy professor at the local University earning a modest income. Your wife has just given birth to your seventh child, a baby girl. Because you do not earn a large income your family is just able to survive on your salary. The German government, which is run by the Nazis, has passed a number of laws restricting the freedom of Jewish people. For some time now the German government has been deporting Jewish citizens. You are not entirely certain of what is happening to these people, but you have heard rumors, which you believe to be true, that they are being systematically murdered in concentration camps. One evening a close friend of yours from the University, who happens to be Jewish, comes to you asking for help. He and his wife are young and have just given birth to their first child, a baby boy. He informs you that the government later this evening will be coming to Munich and will be deporting all Jewish families to concentration camps. In past conversations with him you have mentioned that your house has a secret storage compartment in the basement where you store your wine and that it cannot be found by most people. Your friend asks if he and his family can hide in your wine cellar while the Germans are searching the town and you readily agree. That evening, while your friend and his family are hiding in your basement, German officials knock on your door. They immediately inform you that they have heard rumors that you may be hiding a friend in your home. The officials also tell you, however, that because you are a professor at the local University and have a good reputation and are trusted by many people, that they do not actually believe that you are hiding anyone. They ask if indeed you are hiding anyone and if you would allow them to quickly search the house so they can tell their superiors that they have followed-up on the rumor and have found nothing. You believe that if you lie and allow them to search the house they will most likely not find your friend and his family, but you know that if they do you will be arrested and loose your job, thus making it almost impossible for your family to survive. If you tell the officials now, before they search the house, you will not be arrested and you will keep your job, but your friends will be sent to a concentration camp. According to Kant, should you tell the truth or lie? Why?

Tutor Answer

School: UIUC


Surname 1
First formulation
With regards to the first formulation, Kant believes that one should tell the truth in such a
situation. To begin with, he describes that one should act accruing to that maxim whereby you
can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Remember that the situation
poses a challenge for the professor to lie so he can save his friend. However, the professor knows
that he should not lie since if he does and the officers know about that, he will lose his job and
may be arreste...

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Awesome! Exactly what I wanted.

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