On Morality

July 22nd, 2009  |  Published in Philosophy

Immanuel Kant

A perfectly good will would have no obstacles to overcome, and the concept of duty (which involves the overcoming of obstacles) would thus not apply to a perfect will.

A man is morally good, not as seeking to satisfy his own desires or to attain his own happiness (though he may do both these things), but as seeking to obey a law valid for all men and to follow an objective standard not determined by his own desires.

Men should only act in such a way that he can also will that his maxim should become a universal law (this is the supreme principle of morality). We have to examine our contemplated actions and accept or reject them according as they can or cannot be willed as universal laws – that is, as laws valid for all men, and not as special privileges of our own.

To be happy is one thing and to be good is another. We have a right to seek our own happiness so far as it is compatible with moral law.

Duty is the necessity to act out of reverence for the law.

In morals the proper worth of an absolutely good will, a worth elevated above all price, lies in that the principal of action is free from all influence by contingent grounds.

The principle of morality is a will that will never perform an action except on a maxim such as can also be universal law to all men.

To be a law-making member, absolute morality and humanity so far as it is capable of morality is needed, the freedom from dependence on interested motives.

In moral judgment always act on the maxim, which can at the same time be made universal law.

Neither fear nor inclination, but solely reverence for the law, is the motive, which can give an action moral worth.

The dignity of man consists precisely in his capacity to make universal law, although only on condition of being himself also subject to the law he makes.

Rational thought would say “I ought not to lie if I want to maintain my reputation”, while moral thought would say “I ought not to lie even if so doing were to bring me not the slightest disgrace”. 

Incitements from desires and impulses should not impair the laws that govern mans will – herein lies mans intelligence. A being who believes himself to be conscious of a will, that is a power distinct from mere appetition (a power, namely, of determining himself to act as intelligence and consequently to act in accordance with laws of reason independently of natural instincts).

(The above from Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals by Immanuel Kant)

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