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§7. The Structure of Motives
. In Gr I:– (–), Kant reviews three examples of actions done
from duty and showing full moral worth in contrast with actions that, while
according with duty, show little or no moral worth. In each case, there is
an immediate inclination to do one’s duty: the duties to preserve one’s life,
to help others in need, and to assure one’s own happiness. This immediate
inclination is so generally present that the moral worth of these actions, if
such there is, is not manifest. Kant is concerned with the cases in which
moral worth is clearly manifest, for it is in such cases that the principles
implicit in our everyday moral judgments are most easily seen.
Kant’s second example of the sympathetic friend of man has aroused
the greatest consternation. It led Schiller to pen these often quoted lines:
Gladly I serve my friends, but alas I do so with pleasure.
Hence I am plagued with doubt that I am not a virtuous person.
To this the answer is given:
Surely your only resource is to try to despise them entirely,
And then with aversion do what your duty enjoins you.
These lines are amusing but rest on the failure to see the difference
between Wolff’s account of willing as such and Kant’s doctrine of a pure
will with its idea of an elective will. They overlook the distinction between
the practical interest from which we act—an interest having regulative priority in determining what is permissible for us to do—and the other inclinations and affections that we have while we act. These affections may show
in our manner of action and in our countenance and expression: we do our
duty cheerfully and gladly. But our doing our duty is not dependent on
these affections. In persons with a good will, they are not needed as assisting
or cooperating psychic forces for them to do their duty.
. Questions of duty are to be settled solely by considerations of practical
reason, and we are to act from inclinations only when we see that the
maxims that they suggest are permissible by the CI-procedure. Only in this
case are they adopted by the elective will of persons of a fully virtuous
character. This does not mean that we are to be without feelings and affections, or that we are not to do our duty cheerfully and gladly. Nor does
it mean that the virtuous character of persons of good will is always manifest and plain for all to see. It does mean that in hard times, when like the
friend of man they are afﬂicted with a deadly insensibility, they can still do
as duty requires. Only then perhaps is their virtuous character clearly evident, but this is not at all to say that it was not there before.
It must be admitted that Kant’s exposition in I:– (–) is not
consistent. His aim is to set out an argument giving the nature of the moral
law as it can be seen in our commonsense judgments of the moral worth
of actions. This he wants to do by focusing on actions that we agree accord
with duty but are not supported by the person’s inclinations. All along the
person may have been of fully virtuous character, yet only now, for the
ﬁrst time, is this fact clear for us to see. The essential contrast is between
being virtuous all along and this virtue’s being made openly manifest in
difﬁcult and trying circumstances.
Yet Kant wavers from this presentation, especially in the second example
of the friend of man, by making the contrast that between someone moved
by natural inclination alone—who enjoys making others happy as his own
work—and who never even appears to consider the moral law at all, and
someone who under great stress does manage to act from duty alone. If,
as it seems, the friend of man is the same person throughout I: (–
), he must have undergone some kind of conversion of character. This
wavering in Kant’s exposition should not be allowed to obscure his main
doctrine of a pure will with its regulative priority of pure practical interest.
I haven’t said that Kant’s doctrine is fully defensible, but it is perfectly compatible with doing our duty cheerfully and gladly, with all the affections
that grace human life. On this, see Kant’s reply to Schiller (Rel :f., n.).
The Categorical Imperative: The Second Formulation
§. The Relation between the Formulations
. One problem in understanding the categorical imperative is to decide
how the three formulations are related. Since Kant states each formulation
in different ways, there are actually three families of formulations. Last time
I set out the categorical imperative in terms of the law of nature formula,
which we called the CI-procedure. Our question today is how the two later
formulations are related to it.
At the end of the central argument of Groundwork (II:– [–]),
Kant gives a review of the formulas and a summary of the main conclusions
(II:– [–]). He starts this review by saying that the three ways of
representing the principle of morality are actually three different formulations of precisely the same law. Each of them contains a combination of
the other two (). Moreover, when Kant introduces the ﬁrst formulation
(in ), he says that there is only a single categorical imperative.
I assume, then, that there is only one categorical imperative with three
formulations that are in some way equivalent. The problem is that those
formulations are not the same. In particular, the second formulation introduces new and quite different concepts. It reads (II: [–]):
Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your
own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means,
but always at the same time as an end.
We need an explanation, surely, of how this formulation, with its three
concepts of a person, of humanity, and of treating humanity as an end (an
end-in-itself ), can be equivalent to the ﬁrst and third formulations.
There is also the further difﬁculty that, taken by itself, the discussion
in II:– (–) preceding the second formulation is quite obscure. I
believe that it is best understood in light of what Kant says elsewhere: in
the Groundwork I:– (–) on the absolute value of a good will and the
role of reason, as well as what comes later in II:– (–); – (–
). Very important also is the Doctrine of Virtue, as we shall see.
. Let’s begin our account of the relations among the three formulations
by looking at what Kant says in his review at II:– (–). There,
besides saying that these formulations represent the same law, he makes
two signiﬁcant remarks.
First, Kant says that there is a difference between the formulations that
is subjectively rather than objectively practical. This suggests that there is
not an objective difference between them. The purpose of having several
formulations (and these formulations in particular) is to bring the idea of reason—that is, the moral law—nearer to intuition (in accordance with a certain analogy) and so nearer to feeling. At the end of this review (II: [–
]), Kant says that if we wish to gain access, or entry, for the moral law, it
is useful to bring one and the same action under all three formulations, and
in this way, so far as we can, to bring “it [the action] nearer to intuition.”
The second signiﬁcant remark Kant makes in this passage is that it is
better when making a moral judgment to proceed always in accordance
with the strict method and take as our basis the universal formula of the
categorical imperative: “Act on the maxim that can at the same time be
made a universal law.” I read this to say that the basis of the strict method
is the categorical imperative itself. Yet since we are ﬁnite beings with needs,
we cannot apply that imperative to our actions directly but can do so only
after we have interpreted it in terms of the law of nature formula by setting
out the CI-procedure. While this procedure is not the categorical imperative
itself, it does provide us with the most usable expression of the strict method
based on it.
Thus, whenever we try to check what the categorical imperative requires of us by testing maxims, we are always to apply the CI-procedure.
The other formulations cannot add to the content of that imperative ascer[ ]
tained in that way. We are not to read them so that they yield any requirements not already given by our most usable expression of the strict method:
the four-step procedure.
. The point of the other formulations, then, is to look at the CIprocedure from different points of view. My conjecture is this: in the ﬁrst
formulation (using the law of nature formula) we look at a moral situation
from the agent’s point of view. As reasonable and conscientious persons,
we are to submit our rational maxims (which are prompted, say, by our
inclinations in some actual or possible context of daily life) to the test of
the CI-procedure. Viewing ourselves as subject to moral requirements, we
want to check whether acting on our maxim is permissible.
In the second formulation, however, the categorical imperative directs
us to view ourselves and other persons as affected by our proposed action.
That is, we and others are viewed as passive; or, as Kant puts it, we are
to treat humanity, both in ourselves and others, always as an end. In the
third formulation (that of autonomy) we come back again to the agent’s
point of view, but this time not as someone subject to moral requirements,
but as someone who is, as it were, legislating universal law: here the CIprocedure is seen as that procedure the adherence to which with a full
grasp of its meaning enables us to regard ourselves as making universal law
for a possible realm of ends (not kingdom of ends).
This reading departs from Kant’s text in one respect (although I don’t
think it distorts his main point). He says that the various formulations are
equivalent in that each includes the other two. But if we take the law of
nature formulation as the most usable procedure for us to work out what
the categorical imperative asks of us, the second and third formulations are
not alternative ways of specifying the same content, nor can they add to
its content. Rather, they depend on the CI-procedure and its content—the
maxims it accepts—as already laid out. Our task today is to see whether
this suggestion is true to Kant’s account of the second formulation.
§. Statements of the Second Formulation
. There are four statements of the second formulation that it is useful to
have in front of us. We have ﬁrst the main statement (II: [–]):