Just had a lecture on Kant, specifically dealing with his Formula of Universal Law (FUL).
Now, in the philosophy faculty library working on my essay on Kant’s concept of the “good will.”
What do I think of Kant?
His concept of universalizability of moral actions is indeed very appealing, yet I believe there are some problems with it. Must every action be universalizable? Are all actions even moral actions? For instance, if I decide to take a break from writing my paper, is that a moral action? I don’t think so. But this is more of an addendum to Kant rather than a refutation.
Next week, the lecture I am attending will be talking about the Formula for Humanity, which is Kant’s assertion that we should treat every human being as an end, rather than merely as a means. This, I believe, is a much stronger basis for a moral code. If we treat others as an end, we will inherently seem to abide by the proscriptive duties of the categorical imperative, and yet at the same time avoid the problems with it, such as the Problem of Beneficence (which maybe ought to be delved into in another post.)
I am currently writing my essay on whether the good will is the only thing that is good without qualification. Essentially, Kant posits that nothing else is good without qualification. Virtues such as courage, magnificence, and others are only good when tied to a good will, for otherwise they could be corrupted and turned into morally wrong characteristics. Also, material happiness is not good without qualification, for wealth and abundant health, among other things, can lead to a sense of selfishness or other wrong moral habits. Therefore, it is only the good will that is truly good.
While Kant makes some interesting points, I do not believe that he is right to assert that the virtues are “corruptible.” There seem to be problems with reducing morality to the good will, for there are some virtues, such as honesty or prudence, that even when taken in conjunction with a “bad will,” will not become corrupted without changing from the virtue. For example, let us say that person A is involved in a transaction with person B. Person A operates from a virtuous position of honesty, making sure every act she does is honest, among other virtues, if she has a good will. If she has a bad will, she will merely consider the best outcomes for herself. However, it is preposterous to say that A was operating from honesty when she had a bad will in the first place. Perhaps virtue is also good without qualification, and virtuous action is indicative of a “good will,” or as Aristotle would say, “a soul functioning in accordance with virtue.”
Kant obsessively pursues some first principle of morality, and moves ethical considerations from discussions on how to live the good life, to some sort of salvatory principle governing human life. I think that this shift is erroneous, and that virtue ought to be a fundamental ground upon which morality should be based.
Within the work I have read of Kant, he asserts a very innovative and appealing moral foundation, yet I am not satisfied. I am currently reading through Alastair McIntyre’s “After Virtue,” and I think that the moral concepts of virtue ethics within this book, and from what I have found in my studies of Aristotle, best govern my ethical enquiries.