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Immanuel Kant. The Good Will and Autonomy. Context for Kant. Groundwork for Metaphysics of Morals- 1785- after American Revolution and Before French- rights Morality is about respect for persons Informs contemporary thought. Critiques Utilitarianism.

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Immanuel kant

Immanuel Kant

The Good Will and Autonomy

Context for kant
Context for Kant

  • Groundwork for Metaphysics of Morals- 1785- after American Revolution and Before French- rights

  • Morality is about respect for persons

  • Informs contemporary thought

Critiques utilitarianism
Critiques Utilitarianism

  • Utilitarianism leaves rights vulnerable-sacrifices one for whole.

  • That majority get pleasure or favor a law- not make it right.

  • No empirical interests, pleasures- not calculation, right.

Acting freely
Acting Freely

  • Acting according to pleasures and desires- acting according to a determination given outside of us.- Sprite ’Obey your thirst.”

  • Heteronomy- falling from building- governed by law of gravity- fall on someone- not morally responsible.

Look for motive
Look for Motive

  • Ask for intention- why was it done?

  • Prudent Shopkeeper

  • The Spelling Bee Hero

  • Doing what is right- not because of consequences.

Kantian ethics
Kantian Ethics

  • What is the Ultimate Good?- “Good Will”

  • What makes a person “good” is possession of a will that makes its decisions on the basis of moral law.

The good will
The Good Will

  • Would not forfeit our moral goodness in order to attain some desirable end or object.

  • The value of other qualities can be sacrificed or diminished under certain circumstances.

  • Williams- Integrity- living with self.

Good will and duty
Good Will and Duty

  • A good will is determined by moral demands- constrained to act in certain ways- according to duty.

  • The moral agent, for Kant, gives priority to the moral demand- does not mean rule-bound character devoid of the warmth of human emotion.

Respect for moral law
Respect for Moral Law

  • How different-? Respect the law or don’t- May violate moral requirements.

  • As beings of rational will- it is a law of practical reason-prescribes now any rational being should act.


  • Hypothetical- an “if then” type of command- desire some end.

  • Distinction between ends that we “might will” and those which we “must will.

  • Happiness- indeterminate- happy without; happy with.

Categorical imperative
Categorical Imperative

  • “ Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.”

  • Incorporates your reason as law.

  • Becomes a universal law governing all rational agents.

  • What world becomes by this law.

Contrasts in kant
Contrasts in Kant

  • (Morality) Duty versus Inclination

  • (Freedom) Autonomy versus Heteronomy

  • (Reason) Categorical verus Hypothetical Imperative

Different duties
Different Duties

  • Perfect duty to self-suicide no.

  • Perfect duty to others- promises as example.- self-contradictory, world. p. 63-4

  • Imperfect duty-self-talents.

  • Imperfect duty to others- helping others.

The humanity formula
The Humanity Formula

  • “Never act in a way that you treat Humanity, whether self or others, as a means only but always as an end in itself.”

  • Respect for persons’ wills.

  • Regard- not a matter of degree or standard of judgment.

Kingdom of ends
Kingdom of Ends

  • “Act in accordance with the maxims of a member giving universal laws for a merely possible kingdom of ends.”

  • Our moral obligation is to act only on principles which could earn the acceptance of a community of fully rational agents each of whom has an equal share in legislating principles for the community.


  • “The idea of the will of every rational being as a will that legislates universal law.”- laws are of our own making.

  • Autonomy- our status as free moral agents is the source of our dignity and worth- we are “moral beings above all.”

Virtue and vice
Virtue and Vice

  • Virtue is acting according to principles and have moral strength of will. It is not a matter of degree.

  • It is a disposition to give decisive priority to moral demands.


  • Priceless value of a rational agent’s autonomous will.

  • Value of good will and person independent of the objects of our rational choices.

  • You act out of universal principle exceptionless- Elements, (124f).