Did Kant put life above morality
6.2.2 Practical Philosophy
The practical philosophy is about the question “What should I do?” Kant's practical philosophy is particularly in the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), the basis on the metaphysics of ethics (1785) as well as the Metaphysics of Morals (1797). In the following, again, only the main features are presented.
The Kantian practical philosophy aims at an ultimate justification of morality. Kant extends his critical project of philosophy, the search for a secure foundation of thought, to the area of action. The starting point is the consideration that humans are to be understood as "citizens of two worlds": as sensory beings ("homo phenomenon") Man is subject to the laws of nature, as intellectual beings ("homo noumenon“) He belongs to an intelligible world. As an intellectual being, man asks about the principles for his actions. The question “What should I do?” Is to be understood as a question about the principles of good behavior. These principles of moral action can - this results from the epistemology outlined above - no longer be developed from a divine plan of creation, but the principles must be found in reason itself, insofar as it becomes "practical". Kant is convinced that there are moral norms a priori that are binding for all people (cf. (Schultz 2008, p. 116 f.)).
Kant's ethics is an ethics of the will. The will, not the act itself or its consequences, are the subject of good assessments:
The question then, of course, is when and under what circumstances a will is really good. Kant must therefore examine the will or the ability to will. By “will” Kant does not understand a dark human instinct, but on the contrary something rational. The will is definitely affected by desires, lusts and inclinations, but not determined by them, because as practical reason it is the ability to give one's actions a purpose and to be guided by rules.
At the same time, it is an ethics of duty (deontological ethics). Kant needs the concept of duty in order to explain the concept of good will. The will is not good if it makes the fulfillment of duty its goal. Kant calls “dutiful” action “legality”; here it depends on the correspondence between the action and the content of the duties. For example: pedestrians act according to their duties when waiting at the red light. Dutiful action, which Kant calls “legality”, is differentiated from “acting out of duty”, which he calls “morality”. Here the actor acts out of a certain motivation. This motivation is not an addiction or a feeling (such as compassion or pity). Moral actions in Kant's sense are characterized by the fact that they are carried out out of respect for the moral law, namely “out of duty”.
A deontological ethic has to do with “ought claims”. The ought, which is at stake here, is not just any ought, such as in the sentence “If you want to be a righteous person, then you have to obey the laws of your state.” It is merely an instrumental ought. Also, the ought cannot depend on the existence of a god, because this is subject to doubts. A Christian ethic of duty, which is also an ethic of ought (such as the commandment “You should not steal”), is based on assumptions that make this ethic vulnerable. The ought that Kant envisions must not in turn depend on something else (such as the existence of a god or considerations of prudence); it must be an "unconditional" and, in this sense, "ultimately founded" ought.
In addition to the “will” and the “unconditional ought”, the concept of freedom is fundamental to Kant's moral philosophy. Since human freedom is not an object of perception, it cannot be positively recognized as such, it is “incomprehensible” (KpV IV, 7). No empirical reality can therefore be ascribed to freedom. For Kant, freedom is a “postulate” (KpV IV, 122). He understands a “postulate of pure practical reason” to be “a theoretical proposition that cannot be proven as such (...), provided that it is inseparably attached to an a priori unconditionally applicable practical law” (KpV IV, 122). The existence of freedom is therefore not accessible to a syllogistic proof, but its practical necessity can be justified.
Probably the most important thought of Kant's practical philosophy concerns the following question: How can the unconditional ought-based claim and human freedom be conceived together? For this, Kant formulates the moral law: This exists in the form of the “categorical imperative” as an a priori principle of reason. As stated above, Kant relates freedom to will, not to actions. Freedom, when used negatively, means the independence of arbitrariness from empirical determinations (spontaneity); when used positively, freedom means autonomy. According to Kant, “autonomy” means the self-legislation of practical reason (KpV IV, 33). Because if reason could not itself become legislative, it would have to obey a law of nature and “such a law could only be the basis of a heteronomous imperative” (Beck 1995, p. 121). For Kant, who follows David Hume in this, moral ought cannot result from a (phenomenal) being. This is what is meant by the so-called should-be fallacy. To derive a moral ought from an empirical being would also be incompatible with the claim of an unconditional ought. Therefore, an autonomous law must be sought which takes the form of the categorical imperative: For should "his arbitrariness be necessary, that is, determined independently of the desires that are the matter of his will - such a necessary determination is given in the case of duty - it must be determined by the form of the law, not by its content ”(Beck 1995, p. 187). For Kant, laws are not just restrictions, but also “products of freedom” (of free will, not arbitrariness). This is also known as Kant's “Copernican turn in ethics” (Beck 1995, p. 172). So autonomy is freedom of will; free will gives arbitrariness the law (cf. (Beck 1995, p. 191)). Since arbitrariness does not naturally do what the law prescribes, the law is a principle of "practical coercion, i. E. i. Duty "(GMS IV, 434).
What is the categorical imperative? Kant distinguishes one “Categorical” from “hypothetical” imperatives. Imperatives are generally addressed to all rational beings. A hypothetical imperative is contained in the above-mentioned sentence “If you want to be a righteous person, then you must obey the laws of your state.” This sentence is generally valid; the obligation (“You have to comply with the laws of your state”) does not necessarily apply, but only under one condition (“I want to be a righteous person”). In contrast to these hypothetical imperatives, categorical imperatives apply absolutely, i.e. without exception and necessarily.
All sensible people are, according to Kant, under one categorical imperative as a binding expression of moral law. In order to understand the function of the categorical imperative, one must first understand what is meant by “maxims”. For Kant, “maxims” are subjective principles of action, that is, principles on which I orient my actions. Maxim are individual, i.e. every person follows his own maxim. In terms of content, maxims relate to one's own life plan, i.e. to the way of leading one's life (Höffe 1996, p. 186). The following example, which Kant himself discusses in the basics, should be mentioned here: "If I am in need of money, I borrow money by undertaking to repay it, although I do not have this intention." This maxim can be used by means of the categorical imperative be checked for their morality. In this context, Höffe distinguishes between "generality" and "generalization":
The categorical imperative functions as a maxim testing program. Kant gives five formulations of the categorical imperative (cf. (Paton 1962, p. 152 ff.); (Wood 1999, p. 70 ff.)). In the basic formulation the categorical imperative is:
According to the categorical imperative, it depends on whether the universalization of the maxim can be thought and willed without contradiction. The decisive question is therefore whether the maxim is legal. In this respect it is a thought experiment. Kant formulates the thought experiment using the example of borrowed money as follows:
The categorical imperative asks for the consistent generalizability of the maxim. Applied to the example of lending money, it should be examined whether the consequences of generalizing the maxim can be thought of without contradictions. What would the consequences be in this case? If, whenever I make a contract promise, I intend to break it, then they would no longer conclude contracts with me in the long term. So I can't think of the maxim - bound by contract and reservation of my own non-binding - meaningfully together. The maxim mentioned failed the test of the categorical imperative.
For the context of morally correct law, the second form of the categorical imperative is particularly important:
Since this formulation makes the categorical imperative applicable to interpersonal relationships, this version was particularly suitable for legal attempts to describe the content of the principle of human dignity.
For Kant, however, human dignity is first and foremost a topic of moral philosophy. The moral-philosophical foundation of human dignity has consequences for virtue ethics and for legal theory. At this point, however, only the moral-philosophical foundation of human dignity will be considered. The starting point for the justification of human dignity in Kant is a distinction that is fundamental to Kant's “moral anthropology”: Man is a “citizen of two worlds”, the world of the senses and the world of understanding. Man belongs as "homo noumenon"To a" realm of purposes ". In this “realm of ends” everything has either a “price” or a “dignity”:
The price, which is still differentiated according to the material “market price” and the immaterial “affectation price”, consequently denotes a relative, whereas dignity denotes an absolute, intrinsic value. Dignity is the attribute “of a rational being who obeys no law but that which is itself at the same time” (GMS IV, 434). This means the capacity of practical reason to be autonomous. The ability to legislate for oneself thus determines the purposefulness of the human being for himself and thus his dignity. This is how Kant also says: “Autonomy is the basis of the dignity of human and every rational nature” (GMS IV, 436). So it is not doing good, charity, that is the reason for dignity:
How Matthias Mahlmann has shown, Kant gives a total of four reasons for “human dignity” (Mahlmann 2012, p. 318). All four strategies of justification refer to the value or the moral consequences of autonomy. The most convincing approach - as Mahlmann explains - argues with the experience of the intrinsic value of morality (Mahlmann 2012, p. 319). The individual experiences the value of his or her autonomy immediately when he or she allows himself to be determined by practical reason and not by his inclinations. Kant describes this moment as an experience of its own, for which he chooses the term "sublimity":
With this justification, Kant reacts critically to the poet Friedrich Schiller, who dismissed the feeling of "respect" as something unpleasant (Schiller, About grace and dignity, 3 pieces). A second justification of human dignity that is worth considering, which can be based on Kant, is based on the importance of the experience of freedom. Mahlmann formulates this aptly: “Freedom opens up a human existence beyond the phenomenal experience” (Mahlmann 2012, p. 318). In moral freedom man enjoys his independence from the sensory world and its constraints:
Kant describes the experience associated with moral freedom more precisely:
The other reasons why people should be given “dignity” contain one petitio principii, i.e. what is to be justified is assumed to be true (cf. further details (Mahlmann 2012, p. 319)). Another reason is that an infinite regress can only be avoided under the precondition of an unconditional, as it were a "last word" in the field of morality.
But this argument presupposes that there is no infinite regress in the moral field should. Why this has to be so is not explained at this point. Another justification is based on the idea that the individual participates in the realm of ends only because of his morality, i.e. his determination by practical reason:
Again, this argument does not state why it is of unconditional value for the individual to participate in the realm of ends.
In order to be real, autonomy needs to be actualized by the individual: I myself have to behave morally by only living and acting according to maxims that I have subjected to the moral conformity check by the categorical imperative. Now the fact that a person is entitled to dignity cannot depend on whether he is active in the sense of his or her autonomy or not. The second formulation of the categorical imperative presented above therefore speaks of a “humanity” that goes beyond individuality and that is to be respected in every person. Elsewhere Kant speaks of the “idea of humanity” as an “end in itself” (cf. GMS IV, 462). With this, “humanity”, insofar as it is an idea, has dignity. Thus the individual, regardless of the use of his or her autonomy, has dignity by virtue of participating in the “idea of humanity”.
It appears that Kant's concept of human dignity initially only refers to the individual who is to be convinced of his or her dignity. However, even with Kant, human dignity is thought of in interpersonal relationships right from the start. This becomes clear, for example, in the second formulation of the categorical imperative, which - as quoted above - requires the individual never to treat the other as a mere means. In other words, the other has a moral right to respect for his or her dignity.
Question 34: What does “ultimate foundation” of moral philosophy mean in Kant?
Answer (click here)
Kant looks for a secure, i.e. unassailable, foundation of morality. He is convinced that there are moral norms that are equally binding for all people. These cannot be empirical, socially demonstrable norms (which could be the same or different everywhere), but must be moral norms a priori (independent of experience).
Kant is convinced that with his “moral law” (the categorical imperative) he provided an ultimate justification for morality.
Question 35: What do the following terms mean in the context of Kant's moral philosophy: a) ethics of will, b) ethics of duty, c) maxim, d) imperative?
Answer (click here)
a) For Kant, the will and not, for example, the consequences of action, is the point of reference for moral judgments. The will (and only this) can be found to be “good” in the moral sense. Whether this is the case depends on the maxims by which the will can be determined.
b) An ethics of duty (or deontological ethics) focuses on an “ought”. It does not judge actions according to their consequences (in contrast to consequentialist ethics).
c) Maxim are subjective (i.e. individual) principles of action. They are the subject of the review by the categorical imperative.
d) Kant distinguishes between two types of imperatives: There are hypothetical imperatives that follow an “if-then scheme”, such as “If I want to live healthy, I have to do sports”. However, hypothetical imperatives do not formulate an unconditional ought with which - according to Kant - morality has to do. An unconditional ought, that is, an ought that is always, generally and necessarily binding, contains only the categorical imperative.
Question 36: What does the “categorical imperative” mean and how does it work?
Answer (click here)
The categorical imperative contains a “maxim examination program”. In order for a maxim to meet the requirements of moral action, it must pass the test set by the categorical imperative. In the first formulation, the categorical imperative reads as follows: "Act only according to the maxim through which one can at the same time want it to become a general law (GMS IV, 421)."
The test that the categorical imperative poses for maxims is that of generalizability. In Kant's formulation, maxims are checked for their "legal suitability". The question always has to be asked whether the consequences of an imaginary universalization of the maxim can be thought without contradiction.
Question 37: What does Kant understand by human dignity and how is this justified?
Answer (click here)
Kant differentiates between “value” and “dignity”. Something has a value that is determined relative to something else: a kilo of apples has a price of 4 francs. The value of the apples allows an equivalent, namely the 4 francs. It is different with dignity, which is absolute. "Dignity" is not substitutable, i.e. it cannot be exchanged for anything else.
From the Kantian moral philosophy it follows, firstly, that humans have dignity and, secondly, that they have a right to respect for their dignity. Kant justifies the fact that people are entitled to "dignity" with autonomy, i.e. the ability to legislate morally. This is the distinguishing characteristic of man, which raises him above the world of the senses. However, according to Kant, human dignity is not just a “possession”, but a claim to respect is associated with it: the individual is required to respect humanity in his own person and in every other person.
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