Theorem II, Book 1, of the Critique of Practical Reason acknowledges finite beings, as part of physical nature, and that they have desires and needs, specifically a need to be happy. But the Critique also champions this other ideal force of moral law. If we only acted on one of these drives--morality or happiness--to the exclusion of all else, we would have a problem. It seems clear that human survival requires balancing them.

What does Kant say about achieving a proper balance?

Drawn from 5:22-23 from Critique of Practical Reason.

  • Can you reference any paragraph that Kant claimed assertively they have to conflict?... Apr 9 at 4:06
  • Kant says that we have a direct duty to promote the happiness of others, and an indirect duty to promote our own happiness. This is in the Doctrine of Virtue, if I remember correctly. And he notes in the Doctrine of Right that we cannot criminalize certain acts of survival, despite their immorality (I think he talks about people trying to share a piece of floating wood during a shipwreck). Apr 9 at 5:27
  • Kant was no balancer, he despised any form of utilitarianism. So he is very clear, if needs and desires do conflict with moral law then moral law wins come what may, see murderer at the door for a striking example. If this seems harsh recall the Latin maxim fiat iustitia, et pereat mundus, "let the world die but justice prevail", so Kant had company. Of course, the moral law itself does take into account human needs and desires in a general way, so many 'conflicts' are only apparent, but not because of any "balancing".
    – Conifold
    Apr 9 at 5:57
  • I guess I think of a need for balance in this sense--if one does not take care of basic physical needs, e.g., desire stemming from hunger or thirst, then there s no room for moral behavior because then there would be no rational beings alive to act morally. Less dramatic, but nevertheless necessary, might be psychological needs. Happiness, at least a certain measure of it, may actually be necessary to carry out those maxims that are purely rational and independent of feeling.
    – Gerry
    Apr 13 at 4:13


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .