Sunday, May 10, 2009

45d Kant on ethics

We cant discuss Kant's theory on ethics without placing it in a wider context. His theory is not just a theory, but also a reaction on other theories on ethics which were well accepted in his time.

What grounds do we have to base ethics on? After all the philosophers that we have studied up to now, I think we easily can give an answer. There are two options: ethics is based on human nature or on reason and when we take reason one step further on a devine revelation.

Kant was in the middle of this battle between human nature an reason. Which one had to prevail and why. When someone commits a murder, we can do two things. Option one is...imprisonment for life because of his deed. The other option is to put the murderer through a psychological examination, sothat we can disclose his intentions and base judgement on our findings.

When we judge a person by the results of his acts, we consider these the results of his passions, drives and inclinations, thence the result of human nature. When we judge a person by the intentions behind his acts, we focus on reason as the main cause of acting.

Kant knew Hobbes and Hume and he must have known Jeremy Bentham, who was only 24 years younger than Kant. Bentham uphold the premise that human nature was under control of two powers: pain and pleasure and that all human behavior was based on evading pain and obtaining pleasure.

It is about 1760....Skinner and his behaviorism wasnt that original at all....

Because man follows this rule by nature, this makes his acts morally justified. Acts are good when they increase pleasure or evade pain. Thence ethics becomes a kind of calculation. You balance pleasure and pain to decide whether an act is good or bad.

John Stuart Mill widens this view by stating that the act not only should be useful to the individual, but also useful to the greatest number of people. This approach of ethics is the result of the strong empiricist tradition: what we can observe is the act and the result, so we should judge these as right or wrong. Motives arent interesting in this, for not empirical.

Kant chooses a completely different approach. A questionable matter in the empiricist theory is, that we can describe what brings us pleasure, but nowhere in this description we find a logical argument that proves that we therefore ought to persue this pleasure.

To some extend Kant recognizes this is - ought problem. A statement like "If I want to experience pleasure, I ought to do this or that." Reason can make that jump. This he calls a hypothetical imperative, formulated by reason.

But he shows that the acceptable conception of the moral law cannot be merely hypothetical. Our actions cannot be moral on the ground of some conditional purpose or goal. Morality requires an unconditional statement of one's duty.

And thence he discovers the categorical imperative in reason. This imperative shows us what our unconditional duty is in life to act morally correct. And because it is formulated by reason only it has an a priori character, like the categories we apply to our sensory input.

--- Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. ---

With this formal rule Kant believes to have created an absolute and rational ground for ethics. As an example of the application of this rule he uses lying. It is obvious, that lying cant ever be a universal law, he states.

However, take the next example. A girl with a terrified expression on her face comes running around the corner and hides herself in the bushes behind me. Then a sleezy looking man holding a big knife comes running around the corner and asks me if I had seen a girl running by. I lie and say ...yes, she went that way, pointing in the wrong direction.

Or you are a doctor...your patient has a fatal disease, but a small chance to recover from it, if all conditions are well. You know that the patient would collapse immediately if he would get the message that he has little chance to survive. "Doctor, am I going to die?" What would you answer? To lie is immoral according to Kant.

This is just a glimps at the complex and elaborate philosophy on ethics by Kant. The more I read, the more difficult it became to prepare for this lecture.We could spend months on Kant, but we have to move on. Still 55 phiosophers are waiting in line...:-)

The Discussion

[13:19] Herman Bergson: So far on Kant's philosophy on ethics
[13:20] Herman Bergson: If you have any questions or remakres..feel free
[13:20] Siena Masala: ok
[13:20] itsme Frederix: i found this scheme
[13:21] Siena Masala: in Kant's opinion who or what decides what is moral?
[13:21] Herman Bergson: nice schema...
[13:21] AristotleVon Doobie: I am interested if Kant felt that this a priori for morality is from god?
[13:21] Cailleach Shan: Nice one Itsme. Thnx.
[13:21] Herman Bergson: When you obey to your duty..which is to follow the categorical imperative then an act is moral
[13:22] Herman Bergson: when you do something because it brings you pleasure it isnt a moral act
[13:22] AristotleVon Doobie: ah so all pleasure should be shunned?
[13:22] itsme Frederix: if the pleasure is not categorical!
[13:23] Siena Masala: the categorical imperative is the conception in the mind of the correct things to do - but what about cultures which have a different categorical imperative - is this situation ethics?
[13:23] itsme Frederix: You mentioned Bentham one off the moral founders of US
[13:23] Herman Bergson: no....but Kant was in fundamental disagreement with utilitarian ethics
[13:23] Herman Bergson: moral good couldnt be based on physical rewards was his idea..
[13:24] Herman Bergson: man was primarily a rational being, so ethics had to be based on this special feature of man
[13:24] Siena Masala: marginal utility theory also is concerned with maximum pleaure at the margin of any act
[13:25] AristotleVon Doobie: I agree that passion and reason should be in balance but I think that pleasure is an extremly moral thing
[13:25] Herman Bergson: Well to give you my personal view on Kant's theory....
[13:26] Herman Bergson: What I find hard to accept is that he creates a theory and justifies it by pointing at the fact that we are rational beings...
[13:27] Herman Bergson: so Kant discovers in this reason/ratio an imperative....there is a You ought to....
[13:27] Herman Bergson: It is just here because Kant says it
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: and also what you ought not to do?
[13:28] itsme Frederix: well nothing wrong with that - there are lesser minds to who people listen!
[13:28] Herman Bergson: that is an argumentum ad hominem Itsme....
[13:28] Siena Masala: is his theory concerned with self-sacrifice of and opportunity cost of rewards forgone in the rational exercise of duty?
[13:28] hope63 Shepherd: he is right.. if you apply his reasoning to the cultural sitiation..
[13:28] itsme Frederix: if it works ;)
[13:28] Herman Bergson: no Itsme not with me
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: but the defiency in his thinking is that if an act harms on one the it can not be immoral
[13:29] Herman Bergson: Yes Siena...
[13:29] hope63 Shepherd: the ought to is defined by the values each human societity considers as imoportant..
[13:29] Herman Bergson: not for Kant Hope...
[13:30] Siena Masala: seems like a miserable life to me
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: of course the only duty we have towards others is to not harm them
[13:30] itsme Frederix: I still think its a preferrable imperative - notice that it does not say .. to maximize for the most people but to be a universal law
[13:30] Cailleach Shan: lol I agree Siena.
[13:30] Herman Bergson: it is defined by his categorical imperative...we have the moral duty to obey it otherwise we act irrational, which is immoral
[13:30] Siena Masala: :)
[13:30] hope63 Shepherd: may be not for him.. because he thought in coincepts of the culture he lives in.. but it would apply for any aborigin..
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: the benefit to the most people does not justify the harm to one individual
[13:31] Herman Bergson: Kant was a formalist in applying his Cat Imp....he uphold that lieing was always immoral in any situation
[13:31] Siena Masala: irrational behaviour can be creative therefore it need not be immoral
[13:31] itsme Frederix: Aristotle thats just what Kant implies
[13:32] arabella Ella: hey. everyone sorry i am late herman
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: hey Arabella come on up
[13:32] arabella Ella: it took me over 20-30 mins to log in tonite
[13:32] Herman Bergson: How sad...
[13:32] itsme Frederix: what if we all were late because we think its better arabella - would you like that?
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: I think Bentham had it right with the seeking of pleasure and avoidance of pain
[13:33] arabella Ella: yes itsme because punctuality is not one of my qualities unlike Kant
[13:33] Alarice Beaumont: oh yeah it's awful lately
[13:33] itsme Frederix: Aristotle but if you are without pain (almost) and have pleasure ... it does not fit all
[13:33] Siena Masala: lieing needs to be defined - I understand immoral lieing to be to 'bear false witness against a person' to cause them harm -
[13:34] itsme Frederix: so arabella no blame for you,
[13:34] Herman Bergson: Betham and Mill are on my we can get back to this issue while discussing them too
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: good
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: Waht aboout Kant's view on free will in this morall motives?
[13:35] Siena Masala: motivation is the key for defining a lie as immoral
[13:35] Herman Bergson: What we could keep in mind is what I said in this lecture....the two principles with which you explain ethics
[13:36] Siena Masala: reiterate them herman
[13:36] itsme Frederix: well there is not ethics in nature isn't it?
[13:36] Herman Bergson: the one is...result driven....pain/pleasure..the other is intention driven
[13:36] Herman Bergson: empiricist against rationalist
[13:37] Siena Masala: the thought is the conception of the manifested deed
[13:37] Herman Bergson: yes...but is it immoral....
[13:37] Herman Bergson: to give you an example....
[13:37] itsme Frederix: if nature is result driven (evolution) - it does not count for ethics
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: the ancient brain has no ethics Itsme
[13:38] itsme Frederix: I change my title yet
[13:38] Herman Bergson: some fellow here in the netherlands had all kinds of materials from which you could conclude he intended a terrorist attack
[13:39] Herman Bergson: first he was set free...declared innocent....then in appeal he was convicted to 8 years....because of his intentions
[13:39] Siena Masala: the opposite happened here
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: so his motives were immoral
[13:39] Siena Masala: in england
[13:39] Siena Masala: are there windows in a mans soul?
[13:40] hope63 Shepherd: Kants fact finding AND JUDGMENT?
[13:40] Herman Bergson: not according to Leinbiz..:-)
[13:40] Siena Masala: how can you know somones 'intentions' until the deed is done
[13:40] itsme Frederix: well sorry i do not like to wait for the bomb to go off, get the guy earlier - and yes guilty
[13:40] Siena Masala: hahahahha
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: but where is the morality in that assumptive motive Itsme
[13:40] Herman Bergson: is a serious problem indeed...
[13:41] Siena Masala: knee - jerk reaction
[13:41] itsme Frederix: don not laught this is the ultimate - intensions or result!
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: How you know for certian of ones motives with out the deed
[13:41] SALDOG Brezoianu: Minority Report
[13:42] Mickorod Renard: depends if u can trust his ethics
[13:42] Herman Bergson: yes...for suppose he had the intention but when it came to the ultimate moment he hadnt the guts to do he guilty still?
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: is this the greater good clause?
[13:42] itsme Frederix: well maybe by looking for act that could result in harm or what ever, if you create a bomb you probably use it!
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: good
[13:42] Cailleach Shan: On that basis you would have to get rid of all kids caught playing with guns just in case they grew up to be murderes
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: well yes a bomb would seem to be proof tho
[13:42] Siena Masala: if there is a law which forbids - bomb making equipment then yes - they are guilty of possession - but not of the intention
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: not motive
[13:43] itsme Frederix: Sierra maybe that does the trick!
[13:43] hope63 Shepherd: Cal.. you are far ahead of the crowd..
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: well if civilised they would not play with guns
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: but we must train our future soldiers
[13:44] Rasana Destiny: there is a time and place for that
[13:44] hope63 Shepherd: if civilized.. the scientifics woudln0t have played with bombs..
[13:44] Herman Bergson: I must say ..the more is studied Kant and the more I follow our discussion the more unsatisfactory it all becomes to me...
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: but I digress
[13:44] Osrum Sands: consider the 'natural state' and ones right to survive - defend self ?
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: that is supreme Os
[13:45] Herman Bergson: I have a feeling of loosing grip on the ethical question
[13:45] Osrum Sands: is it though ?
[13:45] Cailleach Shan: lol
[13:45] hope63 Shepherd: defend what..
[13:45] itsme Frederix: well we train everybody - there is a speed limit of 50km so accidents are not going on (or at least less) - thats very practical
[13:45] itsme Frederix: well Herman, we found a bypass
[13:45] hope63 Shepherd: are invaded lol
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: is it ethical to sacrifice the individual you mentioned for the greater goo?
[13:46] arabella Ella: title green i am thinking about Kant's ethics
[13:46] Siena Masala: thank you Herman for a most interesting lecture - and to all people here for their comments - I look forwards to the next lecture - but i must go now
[13:46] hope63 Shepherd: some say yes.. how about collarteral damage..
[13:46] Mickorod Renard: if life and happiness is what the goal is then we should try and aim for that goal for all society
[13:46] Cailleach Shan: Kant's ethics seem to me to come from a place of fear.
[13:46] Herman Bergson: Thnx for coming Siena
[13:46] Siena Masala: bye ciao
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: Kant believed in the motive itself being the determing factor for morallity or immorality?
[13:46] Cailleach Shan: Bye Siena
[13:46] Herman Bergson: We need more structure in this debate
[13:46] Adamante Rossini: good night everobody (buonanotte a tuttI)
[13:46] arabella Ella: bye siena
[13:47] Herman Bergson: Bye Adam
[13:47] Siena Masala: liapri adam?
[13:47] arabella Ella: buona notte adamante
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Adam
[13:47] Mickorod Renard: bye Ada
[13:47] Adamante Rossini: yes darling
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: uh oh
[13:47] hope63 Shepherd: lets forget about kants and his ethiscs.. its only some idea out of his time.. lets continue with the questions of ehtics of today..
[13:47] itsme Frederix: hope I disagree
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: surely tho Hope there is a connection
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: why?
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: the case that Herman sited
[13:48] itsme Frederix: the united nations are founded based on ideas of Kant - so its practical
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: which case..
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: no.. i don't agree..
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: United Nations has no authority over me.
[13:48] Herman Bergson: My problem is: how to approach the issue of ethics....from what angle
[13:49] hope63 Shepherd: good question herman..
[13:49] Cailleach Shan: Doesn't it come down to each individual to decide how to be ethical?
[13:49] itsme Frederix: and besides I just like the cat.imp. I think its a good ethical idea, better than the utilization or hedonist
[13:49] Herman Bergson: I myself have much difficulty with this Kantian rationalist approach
[13:49] hope63 Shepherd: if we look at the cultural varieties we have ibn tghis world..
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: I think that reason will deictate what causes others harm and therfore will provide the ethics
[13:49] Herman Bergson: But you cant apply it litereally itsme
[13:50] Mickorod Renard: if i am making a cart i don't invent the wheel all over again
[13:50] itsme Frederix: hope you mentioned aubboriginals - (i think) I can imagine they like this cat.imp.
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: ethics is a cultural issue..
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: right itsme..
[13:51] itsme Frederix: they live their life according to laws
[13:51] Osrum Sands: eg human rights as views from the 'west' as apposed to the ' eastern' view of rights
[13:51] Herman Bergson: One of my biggest problems is the postulate of the universality of is a rational being...that statement
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: cultural ethics merely places caveates on morality
[13:51] hope63 Shepherd: their understanding of what is..
[13:51] hope63 Shepherd: and rational on their terms..
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: allowing a little harm here and ther
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: bogus ethics
[13:52] itsme Frederix: bonus
[13:52] Osrum Sands: just because as culture says that female genital mutilization is ok does not make it ok !
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: absolutey not, a good example Os
[13:52] itsme Frederix: well Osrum I do not see reasons for a universal law for that
[13:52] Osrum Sands: sure
[13:53] Osrum Sands: but if ethics is based upon culture
[13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: but yuo would if you were from that culture
[13:53] hope63 Shepherd: tight.. but just because the ^old greejks thought pedipholie is ok.. makes it ok for today?
[13:53] itsme Frederix: isn't culture based on rationality?
[13:53] Osrum Sands: point hope
[13:53] Osrum Sands: its is not easy
[13:53] itsme Frederix: well some have weird ratio
[13:53] Herman Bergson: Friends..this can go on for ever....
[13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: harm is harm and any reasoinable person can see it
[13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: clearly
[13:53] Herman Bergson: So hold on...plz
[13:54] Herman Bergson: let's get back to philosophy and leave the debating club
[13:54] hope63 Shepherd: culture is based on society.. and societyi is not always following rational laws.. lol
[13:54] Herman Bergson: The issue of ethics needs a systematic approach...
[13:55] Herman Bergson: With Kant this is the first time we run into this subject more extensively
[13:55] Mickorod Renard: yes and we have reasonable guidlines built up over thousands of years
[13:55] Herman Bergson: Therefore I put the utilitarians against Kant...
[13:55] arabella Ella: herman i am sorry i was not here so this may be superflous but do you think Kant was the forerunner of christian ethics?
[13:56] Herman Bergson: No ..I wouldnt say that...though Kant gave God a big role in his theory
[13:57] itsme Frederix: Herman I think thats because he needs some founding and ratio alone didn't seem enough
[13:57] Herman Bergson: Christian morality already was there with St. Augustine
[13:57] Mickorod Renard: is that christian or/ and catholic?
[13:57] Herman Bergson: Kant wasnt a catholic
[13:58] Herman Bergson: as far as I know
[13:58] arabella Ella: and st thomas aquinas too i suppose
[13:58] Herman Bergson: yes sure has a long tradition
[13:58] itsme Frederix: reformation has gone thru Germany alread
[13:58] Mickorod Renard: kant was perhaps luther
[13:58] Herman Bergson: Could be true Mickorod
[13:58] arabella Ella: yes herman but i get the feeling that Kant gave it all a more philosophical basis
[13:58] hope63 Shepherd: in those days.. one needed a starting point..and as there was no big bang theory they had to stay wth god.. or gods..
[13:59] AristotleVon Doobie: either way he was attempting to keep god in the equation
[13:59] itsme Frederix: do not think this leads us from a debate?
[13:59] arabella Ella: philosophical as opposed to theological
[13:59] arabella Ella: but in those days Aristotle you had no choice but to keep God in the equation otherewise he would risk being burnt at the stake
[14:00] itsme Frederix: Well speaking personaly - I would not know a better judgement as that of Kant's cat.imp.
[14:00] Herman Bergson: In kant's days it could have cost him his job, like happened to Hume
[14:00] hope63 Shepherd: arabella. this was the time of enlightment lol
[14:00] itsme Frederix: Herman I think the guy was really religous
[14:01] Herman Bergson: Kant was indeed
[14:01] AristotleVon Doobie: I know the presure they were under because of the church, and it exitsts even today Arabella
[14:01] itsme Frederix: forget about enlightment in Germany with reformation (Luther)
[14:01] arabella Ella: hope, enlightment was in France and France alone not in Germany
[14:01] itsme Frederix: well they got Goethe
14:02] arabella Ella: yes Aristotle it exists even where i come from ... where for eg we do not have divorce even for non velievers
[14:02] arabella Ella: believers
[14:03] itsme Frederix: well a good reason for divorce if you do not believe in it anymore
[14:03] AristotleVon Doobie: hmmmm and I return tio my question as to ethics in regards to making the no believers submit
[14:03] hope63 Shepherd: arbella.. now .... evade seeing me alone on a dark street a night or i wll ask you prove of what you say..
[14:03] Osrum Sands: law surly is different to ethics - the two 'ought' to cross but they dont always in practics
[14:03] Herman Bergson: I would suggest to dismiss class...:-)
[14:03] Cailleach Shan: I am sure, (Just like Kant) we all feel that If everyone in the world had ethics like our own there wouldn't be any problems. :)
[14:03] Herman Bergson: at least formally...
[14:04] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you Professor
[14:04] arabella Ella: hey Hope u may ask me for proof of whatever u wish so please go ahead even tho it is not a dark stret
[14:04] Herman Bergson: I think we may conclude that we need a lot of more structure inthe debate to tackle the isssue of ethics
[14:04] AristotleVon Doobie: LOL
[14:04] AristotleVon Doobie: yes
[14:04] Rasana Destiny: :)
[14:04] hope63 Shepherd: who want to stay after class...
[14:04] arabella Ella: ethics is a very difficult issue in philosophy to this day
[14:04] itsme Frederix: well maybe we should be ethical when talking about ethics
[14:04] Herman Bergson: That will be my plan after the 100...
[14:05] Herman Bergson: yes Arabela quit right...
[14:05] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes Arabella but it seems so simple to me
[14:05] arabella Ella: we look forward to that herman

Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-03-04 15:53:26

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