Rationalist until age of 50, then read
Hume, who, in his own words,
“awakened me from my dogmatic slumbers”
Critique of Pure Reason
Man is the lawgiver of nature
Philosophical “Copernican Revolution”:
Assume knowledge or morality is real, then examine presuppositions that make it possible
Phenomenal vs. Noumenal
Groundwork of the
Metaphysics of Morals
Assumes morality is possible. So free-will presupposed: we can be
Argument then is to find the basis by which we can rule ourselves: apodictic a priori synthetic truth: the concept of law itself:
The Categorical Imperative
1. person / thing
2. action / passion
3. moral-immoral / amoral
Persons and actions are characterized by the top term in each case, animals and behavior by the bottom term
Not all human beings are persons, nor viceversa.
Behavior ≠ Action.
Action is caused by agent, behavior is not.
4. reason / inclination
5. autonomy / heteronymy
Kant understands reason to influence action via the will.
Autonomy is freedom: not freedom
from natural law, but freedom to make laws for oneself.
Autonomy is necessary for morality.
6. duty / desire
7. categorical imperative / hypothetical imperative
Morality requires autonomy, self-rule by reason, which requires categorical imperative.
But what can reason command without any inclination?
[Hume: “Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions.”]
All that is left is the form of law itself.
SO: There is but one categorical imperative:
“…act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.”]
Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.
[actually 2 or 3 other formulations]
Maxim: the principle on which one acts; the command given oneself by the will. Maxims are hypothetical imperatives.
Two sorts of failures of maxims
Impossibility of maxim becoming universal law: lying, theft, …
- Perfect duties
Impossibility of willing maxim to become universal law
- Imperfect duties