phil 27

study guide

“Kant’s philosophical goal was to use logical analysis to understand reason itself. Before we go about analyzing our world, Kant argued, we must understand the mental tools we will be using. In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant set about developing a comprehensive picture of how our mind–our “reason”– receives and processes information.” (Sparknotes)

Our understanding of the world very much depends on how our minds work. Brief example would be how nothing in our perception of the world (sensory data) tells nothing about the causation. Yet, when we see a baseball breaking a window, we automatically think that the baseball caused the window to break. This is called “Copernican Revolution” in philosophy

“In the Critique of Practical Reason and the Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant applies this same technique–using reason to analyze itself–to determine what moral choices we should make.” (Sparknotes) Kant developed his moral theory on the basis of fundamental principles of reason alone.

Helpful definition: Metaphysics is the study of pure concepts as they relate to moral or physical experience. This comes after studying physics so metaphysics literally mean ‘things after physics’ implying that metaphysics is the study of things or concepts that transcend physical or natural realm.

The goal of the Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals is to develop a clearer understanding of moral principles which can be applied to any situation.

What Moral Law Should We Follow?

  • Maxim: Subjective principle of volition
    • The goal or ends or objectives we as rational beings set up
    • “I choose to do A to bring about B”
    • When _____,  Do  ___A___ for the sake of  ___B___
  • Categorical Imperative
    • Definition
      • command that applies regardless of what ends have been adopted
    • Three formulations
      • Universal Law Formulation
        • Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law
        • Test of Universal Law Formulation
          • Formulate Maxim
          • Universalize Maxim
          • Contradiction in conception
            • This is a violation of perfect duty
            • Examples
              • Lying
              • Committing a suicide
          • Contradiction in will
            • This is a violation of imperfect duty
            • Examples
              • Not being charitable
              • Being lazy in self-improvement
          • The Maxim is universlizable if it involves neither contradiction in conception and contradiction in will
      • Humanity Formulation
        • Never act in such a way that you treat Humanity as a mere means and not also as an end into itself
  • Hypothetical Imperative 
    • Definition
      • command that applies given that you have adopted certain ends
    • Examples: I have to study hard given that I want to achieve A in the class
    • Utilitarianism is all about hypothetical imperatives
    • This is about bringing about a certain state of affairs or achieving certain objective

Why Should We Follow Such Moral Law?

  • Because we want freedom!!
  • Freedom is the ability to give your own law to your will
    • Autonomy is when we follow the categorical imperative and choose maxims that could be universal laws
      • We use reason to determine our own law for ourselves, in other word, we are free
    • Heteronomy is when we follow the demands of some need, desire, and circumstances
      • Our will is determined by something outside of ourselves, in other word, we not acting freely


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