Immanuel Kant is said by many to be one of the most influential “thinkers” in the history of Western philosophy (McCormick, n.d.), this being said, most of his theories continue to be taught and are highly respected by society. Kant was a firm believer that the morality of any action can be assessed by the motivation behind it (McCormick, n.d.). In other words, if an action is good but the intention behind the action is not good, the action itself would be considered immoral. Those who follow the utilitarian view would disagree, arguing that an action which benefits the most number of people would be considered moral regardless of the intentions behind it. Kant argues that the intention behind an action matters more than the number of people benefited. This theory of morality falls hand in hand with Kant 's concept of good will, and through examples I hope to explain to readers, in a simple way, what Kant was trying to convey.
The subject of good will for Kant is controversial. Kant believes that good will is not based on a reaction to the consequences, either negative or positive, merely by the intention of which the act was made. When an action is done in good will, the reasoning is not emotional (Johnson, 2008). It does not done out of sympathy or empathy for the individual, rather by a sense of duty. This is the controversial part because many believe that while good will is based on positive intentions, the act is performed through a feeling of love for the fellow man. Kant believes that good will focuses on all human beings regardless of feelings of love, friendship, bond, hatred, or lack of caring. This is why the best way to describe it is duty. However, Kant was not implying that no other motivating factor fuels good will. He was simply stating that when there is a dilemma that has the individual questioning the good will or morality of a decision that it is best to look at it from an unbiased view (Johnson, 2008). Removing emotional attachment from the situation has already proven to be helpful in making rational decisions in an otherwise difficult moment.
The good will calls for certain obligations known as duties. Kant suggests that duty ought to be done out of acknowledgement of the importance of moral law. The first proposition of duty that Kant puts forward states that actions are good only when they are committed out of a sense of duty. Moral actions are not done in the desire of a particular result, and the importance is instead found in the purpose behind the action. Kant argues that moral worth is never found in what is hoped to be attained by a certain choice, but in the maxim according to which the action was done. Duty should always be done out of recognition of significance of abiding by the moral law.
Morrison (2011) writes Immanuel Kant founded duty-based ethics, also known as deontology. Kant believed that everything can be used for good, but could also be used for evil. Kant also believed good will is the only good that can exist without clarification. Good will does not give benefit to the person choosing it. Morrison (2011) explains one cannot be ethical if using people to get what they want based on the Kantian view. Additionally, the consequences of the action or the end-result of the action should not be part of the process of decision-making. Kant theorizes what is good and right for one person should be good and right for everyone. Kant’s theory deals in absolutes and does not consider complex issues (Morrison, 2011).
We can be doing the right thing according to what we believe is morally right but at the same time it doesn’t have to be good will. For example, I could think that I’m doing the right thing of tearing down homes to better a community but that’s not actually my “duty,” so therefore it’s not a good will. On another hand
According to Kant, an action can only be morally right when it is motivated by duty alone, as opposed to being motivated by duty and emotion combined or just pure emotion (Kant, Groundwork, 397). In order to defend this statement, I will begin with explaining Kant’s view of morality and what kind of judgments we make in order to discover what morality is and how it relates to the moral law. I will then proceed to explain how Kant defines duty and how it relates to having a good will. Finally, I will explain what exactly the moral law commands and tie it back in to why morally correct actions are purely motivated by duty.
In the excerpt Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Kant presents a profound argument that how right an action is, is determined by intention of the principle that is being acted on. He believes that the outcome of an action is irrelevant because it is out of our control, it doesn’t matter if what we genuinely intended is accomplished. But, we can control the will behind the action. He explains, “The good will is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes or because of its adequacy to achieve some proposed end; it is good only because of its willing, i.e. it is good of itself” (124). Kant uses an example of two shopkeepers that treat their customers in the same way, but are in fact motivated very differently. The first shopkeeper gives the correct change to the customer, but for selfish purposes. He is scared of getting caught for trying to cheat an inexperienced customer like a child. Plus, obtaining a good reputation of being an honest shopkeeper improves his business. The second shopkeeper gives honest change to the customer simply because he is an honest man, and it is morally right. Even though both shopkeepers did the
It isn’t moral if someone is expecting something out of the goodness they have done, because by expecting an award for your actions, it defeats the purpose of the good deed and makes it bad. I also agree with concept of doing something with a moral foundation rather than doing something for the possible benefits from the outcome. By doing something with good intentions, it allows a good outcome for the person doing the good deed since they would feel content with whatever the outcome is since it was done with a good heart. Something that I don’t agree on is Kant’s view on goodwill and happiness. According to Kant, having a good will is the necessity for deserving happiness. However, possessing a good will does not guarantee happiness. According to Kant, possessing a goodwill requires one to act in accordance with the moral law and also to be motivated to perform actions with a sense of moral duty. His theory also frequently requires one to perform actions that conflict with one's own happiness. One of the paradoxes of Kant's moral theory is that he believes that only those who possess a perfectly good will deserve to be happy, but in turn possessing a good will makes individuals less likely to achieve
Again, the reading from Kant proves difficult to read. However, the part discussing examples of duties I found to be quite interesting. In relation to the last example when it mentions that all human beings should help others in need, I came to question if people actually carry out this duty throughout all aspects of their life? I also questioned when people do assist others in need, if they actively think and register their actions as a duty since as human beings we have a moral responsibility to help others.
For Kant, he starts out by saying, “Nothing in the world—or out of it!—can possibly be conceived that could be called ‘good’ without qualification except a GOOD WILL” (Kant, 2008). Kant further explains this statement through the first and second chapter. He initially says that many things can be considered good such as; judgments, resoluteness, and perseverance can be undoubtedly good but can become bad if the person’s character isn’t good or if their will in using them isn’t good. He further says that a will is not good because of what it leads to but because it’s good in itself.
Thus, the ends or consequences of an action never justify the means or motive of the action. So, if someone were to act morally right the end result of their action would not matter, whether it be positive or negative. Furthermore, Kant believes there is only one good thing in the world, good will. “A good will is an intention of a rational being which acts in accordance with universal moral laws that the human automatically and freely give themselves.” The good will is the only true good there is and goodness only comes when we act a certain way. Thus, people must contemplate their actions before they pursue them. Kant believed in a principle of morality called, The Categorical Imperative, which determines whether a moral duty is good or bad. In the Kantian ethics it is stated that, “a right act has a maxim that is universalizable” (Pence 11). Kant uses the word maxim which is a rule or principle you act on. So, this means our maxims should be something everyone is able to do, not making any exceptions for yourself. For example, keeping promises; if you want others to keep their promises you should be obligated to keep yours also. Additionally, Kant argues that “people are free only when they act rationally.” It is said that people act based on their emotions but Kant theory argues otherwise. Deontological theory states that we do not act morally because it is what we’re accustomed to but rather when we understand the rules and
To conclude, I believed a good will is built naturally, inborn but there are factors from the growing environment like family background, peer pressure that affects the good will. These may makes people become evil. On the other hand, I believed no matter there is no purpose or positive purpose behind can be considered as duty. The Kant’s idea of duty is no purpose behind because he thinks duty should not benefit to ourselves but others. Sometimes positive purposes also benefit to others instead of benefit to
Kant’s states that the good will is “the ability to reliably know what your duty is, and a steady commitment to doing your duty for its own sake” ( 180). In other words, good will is really understanding what our moral duties are and doing what is right whether it leads to happiness or not. Is it possible for someone to do the right thing and still lack good will. This is possible because people who do the right thing just because it benefits them is not really having good will. For example, in class we have being talking about the shopkeeper who did not overcharge his customers because it was going to bring consequences to his business. His action would not be considered morally worthy or an act of good will because he did
Good will comes from doing actions out of duty. The definition of duty here is similar to the sense of pledge. This is very specific in that the action must be done because of duty, not simply in accordance with duty (Kant 10). Performing actions in this way gives the action itself moral worth. Both duty and moral worth
All humans have some type of understanding of what good will is, as it is a reason or a determination of the proper thing to do at the right time or period. Rather than the human reaction to try and satisfy or make oneself happy, humans would be and should be more naturally inclined to make possible good will and being good which this will bring about unintentional happiness or satisfaction. Then Kant going on to explain that by using reason in a situation, humans would not be able to attain good will as reason cannot be used on a unconditional basis and that would cloud judgement.