Rowan University
Ellen Miller, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Department of Philosophy & Religion
Rowan University
Glassboro, NJ 08028
Office: 117 Linden Hall

Office Phone:  856-256-4835
E-mail:  millere@rowan.edu

Dr. Ellen Miller
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Further Notes on Kant

 For Kant morality is not founded on happiness. Ethical egoists emphasize the consequences of actions that promote our own personal happiness. Utilitarians claim we should promote the general happiness (general welfare). Divine command theory stresses the authority of God & obedience to His will.

 Kant stresses consistency: “Consistency is the highest obligation of a philosopher and yet the most rarely found.” Critique of Practical Reason and Other Writings in Moral Philosophy, ed. And trans. Lewis White Beck, Chicago: (University of Chicago Press, 1949). 

Kant didn’t think we could base morality on the concept of happiness. He is not a consequentialist. He thought utilitarianism was a dangerous theory. Happiness depends at least in part on circumstances beyond your control. You can’t always will yourself to be happy. Some people are born into unhappy circumstances. Some people may die too young to ever achieve full happiness. More important, we can never know for sure how our actions will affect our own happiness or others in the long run. Consequentialist moral theories are future directed, and we can’t ever truly know the future. Happiness, though it is part of the highest good for Kant, is not good without qualification. The only thing that is good without qualification is a good will.  

Kant says that to derive any moral worth from our actions we must do them from the right motive (remember we talked about how he’s concerned about which principles we should act upon, which norms we should adopt). The proper motive for moral actions is the motive of duty: we should do what is right because it is right. (this is what we were talking about in class..if you do something out of love or passion, you may do the right thing, but for Kant no moral worth attaches to what you do).

 People who act from a motive of duty are said to have a good will. Notice he’s not centered on actions. He’s more centered on the internal constitution of the person doing the action.

More on duty: If something is right, that action should be done whether I feel like doing it or not (certain actions are demanded of us no matter what and in all circumstances, even when I don’t feel doing it.

 Kant respects our human rationality. This involves the ability to choose (we talked about this in class in connection with Andrea Yates case). It is not your background, history, culture that makes morality a duty for humans. Morality applies to all rational beings.

 

 

 

 

 
 
Copyright 2001 Dr. Ellen Miller. All rights reserved. Document last modified