7

In the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant begins his task by developing, through analysis of ordinary moral concepts, a theory of the 'supreme principle of morals,' the criteria for a higher faculty of desire (pure practical reason). The progression is from a good will to duty to the moral law, famously rendered as the formula of universal law, 'Act only according to the maxim...&c.' But, in the second section, Kant seems to begin this task anew, this time by beginning with practical reason and deriving from it the hypothetical and categorical imperatives (empirical and a priori practical syntheses), again discovering the moral law, this time in several different formulae.

My question is why does Kant need this repetition? Is he not simply saying the same thing twice, or rather, arriving at the same conclusion twice when just one path (ie the path of Section 2) would do the trick?

  • 1
    Is pure practical reason 'a higher faculty of desire' ? PPR is applied to our desires and inclination through the CI test. I don't feel comfortable in agreeing that PPR is itself a desire of any kind. It will be interesting to read any Comments on this point. That aside, the question is not without interest in its suggestion of 'arriving at the same conclusion twice'. – Geoffrey Thomas Jul 4 '18 at 5:49
  • I was vague in my wording there: pure practical reason legislates over a higher faculty of desire, or rather, the legislation of pure practical reason is the condition for the legitimate exercise of the higher faculty of desire (in the same way that the the legislation of the understanding is the condition of legitimate a priori synthesis in the higher faculty of knowledge). – WolandBarthes Jul 4 '18 at 13:00
0

Why does Kant use more than one approach?

Kant is struggling with the subjectivity of morality. Given certain assumptions you can justify terrible and cruel behaviour, and corrupt any moral framework. The further dilemma is what works in biological relationship terms and what works rationally are two very different things.

Nihilism has been used to destroy biological affiliations and social affiliations and make innocent people worthy of death through a morality of group guilt, or power associated bias. So pliant is the human mind normal people from any school or street can be turned into sadistic exploiters of others in a few weeks given the right stimulus and motivations.

The discussion is probably not morality, but what socially people can get away with while appearing to conform to the social rules into which one is born. To a rationalist this probably appears too pliable, except looking at human civilisations, this is exactly what takes place. Kant appears to be trying to define something simple and refined, except this is probably impossible.

Just look at our own morality. If terrorists use no rules engagement, what do we do in response? If an army hide among civilians, do we stop killing innocents? If a war starts, how well do we prosecute murders by soldiers against non-combatants? If people are fleeing war and persecution, how well do we save their lives when it is in our power to do so?

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.