Tải bản đầy đủ - 0trang
§2. The First Three of Six Conceptions of the Good
determined will to the object which is given to it a priori (the highest
Here Kant calls this a priori object the highest good. At this point there
is a complication that, for the time being, I shall resolve somewhat arbitrarily. For our purposes here, I view this a priori object as the realm of
ends as it appears in the Groundwork, so that the conception of this realm
and that of its (partial) realization are among the conceptions of the good
to be surveyed. What Kant in the cited passage refers to as the highest good
I put aside until we come to the postulates of practical faith as these appear
in the dialectic of the second Critique (and elsewhere). I believe that the
realm of ends as the a priori object of the moral law and the highest good
are quite distinct conceptions with different roles in Kant’s view. But the
differences between them raise difﬁcult questions of interpretation; later on
I shall explain why I treat them as I do.
. The ﬁrst of the ﬁrst three conceptions of the good is given by what
we may call “unrestricted empirical practical reason.” This name indicates
the fact that there are no restrictions on the information available to sincere
and rational agents either in framing their conceptions of happiness or in
formulating their particular maxims: all the relevant particulars about their
desires, abilities, and situations, as well as the available alternatives, are
assumed to be known.
Now this ﬁrst conception of the good is a conception of happiness as
organized by the (as opposed to a particular) hypothetical imperative. This
conception may be connected with step () of the CI-procedure, since the
maxim at this step we have assumed to be the maxim of rational and sincere
agents; and we further suppose a rational agent to have at any moment a
rational conception of happiness. Thus the maxim satisﬁes the various principles of rational deliberation that characterize the hypothetical imperative.
Let’s refer to these principles as “the rational.”
I emphasize the distinction between the hypothetical imperative,
viewed as a family of principles of rational deliberation, and particular hypothetical imperatives, which are rational when they satisfy those principles
given the agent’s circumstances and interests. Among the principles of rational deliberation are: to take the most effective means to one’s ends; to adopt
the alternative most likely to achieve success; to pursue the most inclusive
end (assuming each principle to have a suitable ceteris paribus clause). This
distinction parallels the one made earlier between the categorical imperative
as including all the relevant criteria of pure practical reason and the totality
of particular categorical imperatives (generalized precepts at step ) that
pass the test of the CI-procedure.
. The second conception of the good is of the fulﬁllment of what I
have called “true human needs.” I believe (as I said in Kant II) that at the
fourth step of the CI-procedure, we require some such idea to give content
to the will of the agent viewed as reasonable and rational. Otherwise the
agent going through the procedure cannot compare the adjusted social
worlds paired with different maxims. It should be said that some other
conception than that of true human needs may serve as well, or indeed
better. The point is that some amendment to Kant’s view seems to be
At ﬁrst we might think that the comparison of adjusted social worlds can
be made on the basis of the agent’s conception of happiness. But even if the
agent knows what this conception is, there is still a serious difﬁculty, since
Kant supposes different agents to have different conceptions of their happiness. On his view, happiness is an ideal not of reason but of the imagination
(Gr II: [–]), and so our conception of happiness depends on the
contingencies of our life and on the particular modes of thought and feeling
we have developed as we come of age. Thus, if conceptions of happiness
are used in judging social worlds at step (), then whether a maxim passes
the CI-procedure would depend on the particular person who applies it.
Now, such dependence is likely to threaten Kant’s view. For if our following the CI-procedure doesn’t lead to at least a rough agreement as to
which maxims pass when we apply the procedure intelligently and conscientiously against the background of the same information, then the moral
law lacks objective content, where objective content is to be understood
as follows. Recall that a maxim that is rational for a single agent is valid
for that subject (agent), and so subjectively valid; whereas a moral precept
(at step ) that passes the CI-procedure is valid for all reasonable and rational agents, and so is objectively valid. Thus to say that the moral law has
objective content is simply to say that it has a content speciﬁed by moral
precepts that are roughly the same for all reasonable and rational (and sincere) agents, and publicly recognizable (though perhaps not now recognized) as founded on sufﬁcient reasons.
Observe that this second conception of the good based on true human
needs is a special conception designed expressly to be used at step ()
of the CI-procedure. It is formulated to meet a need of reason,1 namely,
the need for the moral law to have sufﬁcient objective content. Note that
this conception, as opposed to the ﬁrst, is restricted: that is, it is framed
in view of the restrictions on information to which agents are subject
at step ().
. The third conception of the good is the good as the fulﬁllment in
everyday life of (what Kant calls) permissible ends (MdS :), that is, ends
that respect the limits of the moral law. As we saw in Kant III, it is these
ends alone that specify the happiness of others that we are to further by
the duties of virtue. Thus we are to revise, abandon, or repress desires and
inclinations that prompt us to rational and sincere maxims at step () that
are rejected by the CI-procedure. We must not balance the strength and
importance to us of our natural desires against the strength and importance
to us of the pure practical interest we take in acting from the moral law
(for this interest, see Gr II:n. ). The priority of right excludes such
balancing entirely, as we discuss further below.
Whenever our maxim is rejected, then, we must reconsider our intended course of action, for in this case the claim to satisfy the desires in
question is rejected. At this point, the contrast with a teleological moral
doctrine such as utilitarianism is clear, since for Kant the conception of
permissible ends presupposes that the moral law and the principles of pure
practical reason are already in place. On the other hand, classical utilitarianism starts with a conception of the good—as pleasure, or as happiness, or
as the satisfaction of desire, preferences, or interests; and it may also impose
the condition that these desires, preferences, or interests be rational. (Desires, preferences, and interests are not the same, but I won’t go into this.)
The point is that in a teleological doctrine, a conception of the good is
given prior to and independently of the right (or the moral law); thus, for
example, utilitarianism deﬁnes the right as maximizing the good (say, as
happiness or the satisfaction of rational preferences), and moral worth of
1. Kant refers to the idea of a need of reason at KP :f., f., –, and at n. and n.
See also “Orientation in Thought,” :–, in Political Writings, trans. H. B. Nisbet (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, ), pp. –. We come back to this idea later.
character as having, say, a character that can be relied on to lead us to do
what is right.2
By contrast, in Kant’s view, unrestricted rationality, or the rational, is
framed by, and absolutely subordinated to, a procedure that incorporates
the constraints of the CI-procedure, or what I shall call “the reasonable.”
It is by this procedure that admissible conceptions of the good and their
permissible ends are speciﬁed.
§. The Second Three Conceptions of the Good
. The ﬁrst of the three remaining conceptions of the good is the conception
of the good will. This is Kant’s conception of moral worth: a fully good
will is the supreme (although not the complete) good of persons and
of their characters as reasonable and rational. This good consists in a
ﬁrm and settled highest-order desire, or to use Kant’s term, pure practical
interest, which leads us to take an interest in acting from duty (Gr II:n.
Here we can make a distinction: we have true purity of will when we
can always act as duty requires from pure practical interest, however
strongly doing our duty may be opposed by our natural desires and inclinations (KP :f., f.). In this case, pure practical interest is always strong
enough by itself to ensure that we act from (not merely in accordance with)
the demands of duty even in extreme situations—for example, when we
are threatened with death by the sovereign if we do not make false charges
against an honest man. We have a good will when we strive to the best
of our ability to become someone with a pure will, that is, someone who
can always act, whenever it is a matter of duty, from pure practical interest.
We may have a good will, so deﬁned, although we have not yet attained
a pure will.3
Kant holds, then, that other interests and inclinations, when they also
2. Here there are many possibilities, such as Sidgwick’s account (Methods of Ethics, Bk. III, Ch.
) of moral worth as speciﬁed by the marginal utility of the practice of praising and blaming certain
traits of character.
3. See also “Theory and Practice, Pt. I,” :f. (Nisbet:f.).
move us to do what duty requires, do not detract from the moral worth
of our action or from the purity of our character as long as two conditions
are met. They are:
(i) that when a question of duty is involved, we decide the case entirely
by considerations of duty, leaving aside all reasons of interest and inclination;
(ii) that our pure practical interest in acting from the considerations of
duty is strong enough by itself to ensure that we do as we ought. It is only
when our pure practical interest is not strong enough to ensure this, and
those other motives are needed for us to act properly, that our will, or
moral character, is less than fully good.
In this connection, Kant notes that we may need the support of what
he calls free sympathy in acting from moral principles (MdS :). While
having this free sympathy is of course not a defect—it is rather to be cultivated by us—our needing it to act rightly shows a lack of purity in our
character, which is a defect. One reason is that the feeling of free sympathy
cannot always be counted on to support our doing as we should; so whether
we conduct ourselves as we ought depends at least to some degree on
happenstance. This shows that we have not yet fully achieved the freedom
that is possible for us.
From Kant I:§, recall the two roles of the concept of a good will in
Kant’s doctrine: ﬁrst, as an absolute and incomparable value the realization
of which gives meaning to human life and makes humankind the ﬁnal end
of creation (KU § and the footnote); and second, as a value such that our
having the powers of reason and moral sensibility to realize a good will is
the condition of being a member of a possible realm of ends and marks
the range of application of the moral law.
. The next conception of the good is the good as the object of the
moral law, which I take to be given by the ideal of a realm of ends, as this
ideal was discussed in Kant IV. This ideal object is simply the conception of
the social world that would come about (at least under reasonably favorable
conditions) if everyone were to follow the totality of precepts that result
from the correct application of the CI-procedure.
As noted previously, Kant sometimes refers to the realm of ends as the
necessary object of a will that is determined by the moral law, or alternatively, as an object that is given a priori to a will determined by that law