Morality as a system of hypothetical imperatives
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Morality as a system of hypothetical imperatives . Morality may not be categorical, as Kant hoped. . What is Kant’s View?.

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Morality as a system of hypothetical imperatives

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Morality as a system of hypothetical imperatives

Morality as a system of hypothetical imperatives

Morality may not be categorical, as Kant hoped.


What is kant s view

What is Kant’s View?

  • Kant: “All imperatives command either hypothetically or categorically. The former present the practical necessity of a possible action as a means to achieving something else which one desires (or which one may possibly desire). The categorical imperative would be one which presented an action as of itself objectively necessary, without regard to any other end.” (306, pdf)


Hypothetical imperatives

Hypothetical imperatives

  • A hypothetical imperative shows only that “the action is good to some purpose” which is “possible or actual.” E.g., rules of prudence to ensure our happiness.

  • This classes together things you want to do and the things that someone says you ought to do for self-interested reasons.

  • Kant’s right that we assume that morality does not apply to people only based on their inclinations but that duties apply whether you want to do them or not.


Hypothetical imperatives are not just inclinations

Hypothetical imperatives are not ‘just inclinations’

  • Hypothetical imperatives are not just inclinations. E.g., if you want to be a good philosopher you have to get out of bed and do philosophy whether you happen to want to right that minute. There are hypothetical imperatives that belong to groups rather than just to individuals.


Should and ought statements

‘should’ and ‘ought’ statements

  • For hypothetical imperatives the idea is that our ‘should’ or ‘ought’ only applies hypothetically.

  • IF you want to go to Sharon, then you SHOULD take the purple line.

  • If you don’t want X then we’ll withdraw our claim that you should do Y.


What s at stake

What’s at Stake?

  • For Kant morality must be

  • A priori rather than a posteriori

  • Necessary rather than contingent

  • Apply to every rational being regardless of inclinations.

  • The categorical nature of the imperative seems to have a special normative force that a hypothetical imperative does not have.

  • Moral judgments are supposed to have “a special dignity and necessity.” They are “unconditional requirements” and “inescapable.” [308, pdf]

  • Categorical imperatives have ‘automatic reason-giving force.’


Structure of moral statements is not what makes them normative

structure of moral statements is not what makes them normative

  • If it were, should statements based on rules of etiquette or rules of a club, are categorical imperatives.

    In what sense is ‘you should put your napkin on your lap’ a hypothetical imperative?

    Rules of etiquette are normative but they don’t for that reason automatically give us a reason to act. You could be right if you broke a rule of etiquette.


The issue of rationality

The issue of rationality

  • One aspect of the CI is that it is commanded by rationality. To be immoral then, could be seen as being irrational.

  • But Foot denies this. She says this has rested on “some illegitimate assumption, as for instance, of thinking that the amoral man…is inconsistently disregarding a rule of conduct that he is accepted…or again of thinking it inconsistent that others will not do to one what one proposes to do to them.” (310)

  • “Irrational actions are those in which a man in some way defeats his own purposes, doing what is calculated to be disadvantageous or to frustrate his ends. Immorality does not necessarily involve any such thing.


What is the binding force of morality

What is the ‘binding force’ of morality?

  • Morality is not thought to be optional.

  • “People talk, for instance, about the ‘binding force’ of morality, but it is not clear what this means if not that we feel ourselves unable to escape.

    The should of etiquette is inescapable in a similar way—it is not thought to depend on what you happen to want, it incurs disapproval when we violate them.

    Perhaps the sense that morality is inescapable is dependent on the way morality is taught.

    The necessity of moral judgments: They tell us ‘we have to do’ such and such thing but is this like “I had a bad cold and had to stay in bed?”


Perhaps the key to the binding nature of moral normativity lies in our feelings

Perhaps the key to the binding nature of moral normativity lies in our feelings.

  • “There is no difficulty abouthte idea that we feel we have to behave morally, and given the psychological conditions of the learning of moral behavior it is natural that we should have such feelings. What we cannot do is quote them in support of the doctrine of the categorical imperative.” (312)

  • Is this “totally destructive of morality”? (312)

  • Moral actions are not supposed to be done because of an agent’s further purpose but “for their own sake” or “because they are right.” (312) [E.g., if you did everything moral to get praise, it would not be really moral.]


Kant was a psychological hedonist according to foot

Kant was a psychological hedonist, according to Foot

  • “…in respect of all actions except those done for the sake of the moral law, and this faulty theory of human nature was one of the things preventing him from seeing that moral virtue might be compatible with the rejection of the categorical imperative…”

    [This doesn’t seem accurate but Kant’s view of motivation is complex.]


What other moral motives might be sufficient

What other moral motives might be sufficient?

  • Person acting from charity: “…a man may care about the suffering of others, having a sense of identification with them, and wanting to help if he can. Of course he must want not the reputation of charity, nor even a gratifying role helping others, but quite simply, their good.” (312)

  • She says it won’t be contingent because charity does further the good of others.


Other groundings for morality

Other groundings for morality

  • If morality were a hypothetical imperative could a person be just or honest? Maybe the just person loves “truth and liberty, and wanted every man to be treated with a certain minimum respect?”

  • “Could there be a truly moral [person] who accepted moral principles as hypothetical rules of conduct, as many people accept rules of etiquette as hypothetical rules of conduct”? (314)


A problem

A problem

  • Don’t we need a DUTY so that people HAVE to be moral?

  • What if a person didn’t care about morality or stopped caring? “It is not the case that he ought to care?” (315)

  • Foot says: If he is moral, he cares but “not ‘because he ought’.” An amoral person is not going to be brought to care by an ought.

  • People want the ‘ought’ to be “a magic force.” (315)

  • Foot: We don’t really have to fear defection from the moral cause.


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