Short notes on Kant's Groundwork / by Simmon Li

Three contrasts of Kant Morality Motives: duty vs inclination - many motives and the magnitude of each? If the agency is based on duty, then an action has moral worth. "Sake of duty, not inclination"

Freedom Determination of will: autonomous vs heteronomous - acting according to law we give ourselves. Agency? Pure reason, which is shared in common with everyone, yields the same moral law for everyone. Reason determines will

Reason Imperatives: hypothetical vs categorical - hypothetical is instrumental, categorical is independent of instrumental.

To be free autonomously requires a categorical imperative.

3 conceptions of the categorical imperative. The formula of the universal law - Act only on a maxim that you would will to be international law. Universalize the maxim and evaluate its integrity. "A world in which everyone lies would be a worse world, therefore I shouldn't lie." - Consequentialist reasoning? No, the universalization is meant to remove self-interested motivations.

The formula of humanity as the end - Categorical can't be based on individual ends, as it would be relative. Must ground the categorical imperative in something that has an end in itself. Kant says man is this very thing. Rational beings have intrinsic value, "human dignity." -> Act in such a way that you always treat humanity as not only a means but at the same time as the ends.

Murder is an act which is instrumental. I am killing someone for some end without reverence to that person as an ends in themselves. Suicide is similar because of the maxim. Kantian respect for the universal rationality of human beings, grounded in the categorical imperative.

Duty is compatible with freedom because I impose morality on myself. I author my own moral law, based on the pure reason which we all share. Everyone, due to this pure reason we hold in common as rational beings, arrives at the same moral law on their own. How is morality possible if it seems to be subjective? 2 ways to account for experience. As an object of experience, I am in the sensible world -> actions are determined by cause/effect. As a subject of experience, autonomy is possible by being in the intelligible world. There is no cause/effect. Only from the second standpoint is freedom as autonomy possible. We live in both the empirical world and an intelligible world. Thus there is always a dynamic of Is vs Ought.

Murderer at the door test? Murderer asks for your friend's location. The morally correct thing can not be the telling of the truth, is the claim. Kant says that lying is wrong. To carve an exception would be consequentalist. Sandel defends Kant's point. Is there a way to avoid lying without telling the truth? "I don't know" would strictly be true, maybe misleading. Is there a moral difference between lying and misleading truth? Yes, according to Kant. Why is this the case? Consequences are the same, but Kant is not a consequentalist so this make sense. Misleading as the motive? Doesn't that make it immoral? Well, you're telling the truth while being misleading. Even the misleading truth pays tribute to duty. Convincing?


(These notes are compiled from lectures found on by Michael Sandel)