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§7. Conclusion:Remarks on Groundwork II:46–49(427–429)

§7. Conclusion:Remarks on Groundwork II:46–49(427–429)

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   

which precede the formulation, have not been mentioned. But, then, how

does Kant see their point?

They are, I believe, a preliminary commentary that prepares the way

for the idea of humanity. This is borne out by their content. Thus II:

(–) gives a definition of the will of a reasonable being and reviews

various distinctions required in giving an account of actions, such as: objective ends versus subjective ends; subjective grounds of desires, or impulsions (Triebfeder) versus objective grounds of volition, or motives (Bewegungsgruănde); subjective ends based on impulsions versus objective ends based

on motives valid for all reasonable beings. After distinguishing formal and

material practical principles, Kant states the main point, namely, that material ends have only relative value and can ground only hypothetical imperatives. Whereas, II: () goes on to say, something whose existence has

in itself an absolute value can be the ground of a categorical imperative

and so of universal practical laws.

Next, II: () explains the idea that reasonable beings are persons

because their moral powers of reason and moral sensibility already mark

them out as ends in themselves—that is, as things that ought not to be

used merely as means—and consequently to that extent imposes a limit

on how they may be treated. Persons, then, do not have merely relative

value for us; they are also objective ends, that is, things the existence of

which is an end in itself. In this paragraph, Kant wants to distinguish between our moral powers on the one hand and our inclinations as sources

of needs on the other, even going so far (indeed, too far!) as to say that it

is the universal wish of a reasonable being to be without inclinations altogether. His point is that we are ends in ourselves, not as subjects of inclinations—of needs and desires—but in virtue of our moral powers of reason

and moral sensibility, and thus of our capability to have a good will. This

refers us back to I:– (–), to the special role of reason and the idea

of a good will as the only thing absolutely good in itself.

. With this in mind, how are we to understand the apparent argument

in II: (–) preceding the statement of the second formulation and

grounded on the principle that reasonable nature exists as an end-in-itself ?

The argument is tedious, but let’s persevere. It aims to establish that reasonable nature is an end-in-itself, and therefore that it is an objective principle—

valid for all reasonable beings—that reasonable nature, whether that nature

[  ]

  :   

belongs to the agent or to another, is to be regarded as an end-in-itself.

Kant’s reasoning seems to go as follows (asterisks denote Kant’s premises):

() Let A be any (arbitrarily chosen) reasonable (human) being.

*() Then A necessarily conceives of A’s reasonable nature as an


() Thus A’s reasonable nature is a subjective end for A. (Definition of subjective end, II: [–].)

() But since A is any reasonable being (from []), all reasonable

beings necessarily conceive of their own nature as an endin-itself. (Generalization of [].)

*() Furthermore, A conceives of A’s reasonable nature as an

end-in-itself for reasons equally valid for all reasonable beings likewise to conceive of A’s nature as an end-in-itself.

() Now, let B be any reasonable being different from A. Then

(from []) the reasons for which A regards A’s reasonable

nature as an end-in-itself are equally valid for B to regard

A’s nature as an end-in-itself; and vice versa.

() Therefore (from []) all reasonable beings necessarily conceive of one another’s reasonable nature as an end-in-itself.

(Generalization of [].)

() Thus reasonable nature is necessarily viewed as an end-initself by all reasonable beings, and so it is an objective principle that all reasonable beings are so to conceive of it. (Definition of objective principle, II: [–].)

. Several comments on this argument. Contained in the two premises

() and () is a basic point:

The reasons on the basis of which A conceives of, or regards, A’s reasonable nature as an end-in-itself are not facts about this nature that include

an essential reference to A. It is not that it is A’s reasonable nature rather

than B’s that makes it an end-in-itself for A, but that it is the reasonable

nature of some reasonable being. To illustrate: the fact that A is hungry

yields a reason for A to get something to eat, but not because it is A that

is hungry, but because some reasonable being is hungry, and A is in a good

position to secure food for that reasonable being, namely, A.

This point just explained may suggest an argument Kant cannot have

[  ]

   

intended. Consider the following reasoning (I shorten the presentation a


() Each reasonable being necessarily conceives its own reasonable nature as an end-in-itself in the sense that it necessarily

regards itself as a subject of inclinations and desires, the satisfaction of which is good, and so as providing reasons why it

should act in one way rather than another.

() The satisfaction of its own inclinations is good because they

are the inclinations of some reasonable being as an end-initself.

() But since this consideration holds for any reasonable being,

it holds for all; so the inclinations of all reasonable beings

specify reasons equally valid for any other reasonable being.

() Therefore, the fulfillment of inclinations and desires is, in

general, good; and to treat reasonable nature as an end-initself is to consider everyone’s inclinations and desires, one’s

own included, as defining pro tanto reasons equally valid for


Now, utilitarians maintain that the principle of utility, by taking everyone’s desires and inclinations into account on an impartial basis, treats everyone as ends-in-themselves and never as means only. To treat persons

as means only, they say, is to disregard their desires and inclinations, or

not to give them an appropriate weight. I mention this misreading of Kant’s

argument to indicate what we must avoid. For by viewing people as subjects

of desires and inclinations and assigning value to their satisfaction as such,

(classical) utilitarianism is at odds with Kant’s doctrine at a fundamental

level. He cannot have meant the argument of II: (–) in this way;

for him, only permissible desires and inclinations—ones that suggest to us

maxims acceptable to the CI-procedure—can specify good reasons.

I add as an addendum: the footnote to II: (–) deserves notice. Here

Kant repudiates the suggestion that the second formulation comes to the

same thing as the precept “Quod tibi non vis fieri” (don’t do unto others

what you do not want done to yourself ). That he thinks of the negative

statement of the Golden Rule in this connection is perhaps significant. More

[  ]

  :   

relevant is his protest that this precept is not acceptable as it stands, as

shown by his last remark: it seems he imagines the convicted criminal to

say to the judge, “If you were me you would not want to be sentenced,

therefore etc.”

What Kant must mean is that, to be reasonable, the criminal must assess

the judge’s action by reasoning in accordance with the CI-procedure and

not in terms of the criminal’s own situation and desire not to be punished.

What is wrong with the Golden Rule (in both its positive and negative

versions) is that as stated it allows our natural inclinations and the special

circumstances to play an improper role in our deliberations. But in saying

this Kant implies that the CI-procedure specifies their proper role.

[  ]

K 

The Categorical Imperative: The Third Formulation

§. Gaining Entry for the Moral Law

. Recall our conjecture about how the three formulations of the categorical

imperative are related. The first formulation specifies the CI-procedure in

terms of the law of nature formula. This procedure is neither the moral

law nor the categorical imperative, but it is, I have suggested, the most

usable way for us, beginning from the universal formula of the categorical

imperative as the strict method, to work out what the categorical imperative requires of us. The second and third formulations do not add to the

content of the moral requirements specified by the CI-procedure; rather,

they lay out two further points of view that complement it.

Thus, in the first formulation, we look at the moral situation from the

agent’s point of view, and regard ourselves as subject to the moral law. In

the second, we are directed to view ourselves and other persons as affected

by our action, and so as passive. The question is how we are treating humanity both in ourselves and in others. In the third formulation, that of

autonomy, which we discuss today, we come back again to the agent’s

point of view, this time regarding the agent not as someone subject to the

categorical imperative, but as someone who is, as it were, legislating moral

requirements. Here the CI-procedure is seen as that procedure 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.

. Recall also that Kant says in his review (at II:– [–]) that

[  ]

  :   

there is a difference between the formulations that is subjectively rather

than objectively practical. The reason for having several formulations is to

bring an idea of reason nearer to intuition (in accordance with a certain

analogy) and so nearer to feeling. At the end of the review, 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, as

far as we can, to bring “it [the action] nearer to intuition.”

Here Kant’s text may not convey his full meaning. For while there is

no doubt that the pronoun sie would normally be taken to refer to the

action, earlier in II: () he says that the moral law is an idea of reason

which it is the purpose of the different formulations to bring nearer to

intuition. So “an idea of reason” may be the best reference for the pronoun

(Paton’s “universal formula” is incorrect). In any case, since the moral law

is an idea of reason (II: [–];  []), Kant’s point is that the three

formulations of the categorical imperative are more effective than any one

in bringing that law as an idea of reason nearer to intuition, thus gaining

access, or entry, for it.

. Let’s consider what Kant may mean by gaining entry for the moral

law. Last time, we saw that it is a feature of our humanity that we have

certain moral dispositions, such as moral feeling and conscience, love of

neighbors, and self-respect. It is basic to Kant’s moral psychology that the

more clearly the moral law is presented to us as an idea of reason, and the

more clearly we understand its origins in our person as free, the more

forcefully it arouses our moral sensibility (lacking which we are morally

dead [MdS :]).

Further, Kant thinks that the moral law can move us so strongly as to

outweigh all of our natural inclinations, even the love of life itself (KP :

). So his thought is that the three formulations, when viewed in tandem,

present the moral law more clearly and disclose to us its origins in our

person, all in such a way that we may be strongly moved to act from it.

Somehow they work together to bring an idea of reason nearer to intuition

by a certain analogy. Our task is to look at the third formulation in this

light, to try to understand how an idea of reason (here the moral law) is

brought nearer to intuition, and to identify the analogy Kant has in mind.

. I mention two passages relevant to the preceding. In II: (–),

Kant says that a metaphysics of morals (an account of the laws of freedom

[  ]

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§7. Conclusion:Remarks on Groundwork II:46–49(427–429)

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