Sample Coursework Paper on Kant Reading Questions Fall 2015

  1. 7 Why is the will the only thing that can be said to be good without qualification?. The will is mostly based on assumption and not on tangible or quantified or ranked methods. The will also varies with individuals since it is individual’s views and personal judgement that counts. It is hence difficult to put bars or thresholds to determine the qualification of a will. Kant notes that talents, externals, bodily goods, and temperaments that enable efficacy in action are none of them good without qualificationWhy? This is because in situations where there is no qualifications in the said values, selfishness or self-centered attitude may arise. Lack of confinement to the set rules and ethics can lead to wrong or undesired conclusions or end results.


  1. 7-8 What makes goodwill good (without qualification), according to Kant?Kant argues that a good will is good in the sense that it is universal and cannot be swayed or changed depending on the occasion. He argues goodwill is not classified as good due to an individual’s view or judgement about it. A goodwill is also achieved in occasions where it portrays ethics, morals and best value.


  1. 8-9 Kant asserts that reason has not been appointed as “ruler of our will” for the purpose of securing our happiness.  Kant means that reason has not been put in charge of practical deliberation for the sake of securing happiness (practical is what pertains to what we should do).  What is his argument for this? His argument on this is that actions are mostly influenced by what is anticipated or targeted in the end results. He points out that mechanisms employed by many are aimed at helping and leading to make real their intended achievements. Notably, he acknowledges that individuals are advised to act within legal framework in this course. For what purpose is reason practical? The purpose for reason is the fact that it helps one to act morally upright or in an acceptable manner in their undertaking. Achieving what is anticipated will also be catalyzed and made possible by proper reasoning and applying the best mechanisms.


  1. 9 Why might reason be necessary for producing a will that is good in itself, a will that is not good merely for this or that desired result, but good in itself and without qualification?Reason should be guided by individual’s understanding and acknowledgement that they should act to fulfil or meet their obligations. One should not act simply because they have been or are coerced to act but because it is right for them to act or carry out a certain task.


  1. 9-12 The concept of a will that is good in itself is explicated through the concept of moral duty.  (When Kant peaks of duty he means moral duty.)  Read the first proposition about moral duty on p. 9: “For an action to have genuine moral worth, it must be done [willed] from [a sense of moral] duty” (my brackets).   Kant speaks of 4 cases to explicate what it means to will action from moral duty:
  • A shopkeeper
  • A person contemplating suicide
  • Charitable giving
  • Securing one’s own happiness

Considering Kant’s examples, what does it mean to will an action from moral duty or moral obligation?On shopkeeper scenario, he argues that a shopkeeper gives the correct measurement even in environments where he could lie and more so pays taxes not because he is compelled but because of inner goodwill that one should feel they have an obligation to fulfil. He argues that some actions are purely as a result of individuals’ misinterpretation and wrong conclusion, we can deduce that he basically means individuals are personally liable to the actions or behaviors the indulge themselves in.


  1. 12-13 What does the second proposition about moral duty mean? This is Kant’s statement about the source of the moral will’s willing.  If our act of willing is to have moral worth, we must be willing the action for the right reason and motivation.  What does Kant seem to think the right reason is? In this segment, Kant seems to distinguish between values that are controllable or can be regulated by the law and values that are beyond control by the law. He clearly points out that some actions call for legal action spelt out mostly by the law while others call for self-conscience where an individual have sole responsibility of determining the course of action they should take. He seems to think that the right reason should be informed by a person’s choice and not because the law or regulations call for such.
  2. Notice that Kant denies that desire can ever be a moral reason for acting. Notice that he denies that any reason drawn from experience can ever be a moral reason for acting. Why not? Acting most probably involves more aspects or factors not just desire. It involves evaluation of the whole process involved with advantages and consequences put into consideration. By one acting, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that the anticipated results will be achieved.  Why is this problematic?This may be somehow problematic since failure by individuals to learn from previous mistakes may lead to more eventualities in future. It may also sabotage an individual’s courage to act on issues with concerns that the end may not be fruitful.


  1. 13 Read the paragraph for the third proposition about moral duty. This is about why the moral will is motivated to act in accordance with the moral law.  What is respect? Respect is a value that tends to observe integrity and uphold dignity to ensure the smooth coexistence of individuals in society. What can we have respect for? Respect can help in curbing incidences of conflicts consequently reducing incidences where there is massive breaking of the law. We can have respect for that which we think is morally upright and of importance to us.  What can we not have respect for?On the other hand, that which wethink or know is there to cause a bitter ending or results that are not anticipated should not be respected.


  1. 9-12 Kant has mentioned three propositions about moral duty.  What are these three propositions?Kant mentions the first proposition as acting from duty meaning one is advised to act according to the ethics and standards. He mentions the second proposition as influenced by maxim not consequences. On the third proposition, he mentions duty should be confined within the law or set rules.


  1. 14 See first paragraph on p. 14. What is the principle that guides the moral will?The principle of conformity to the universal law as such. What might conformity to “law as such” mean? It means a person ought to act on their will only if it can be sufficient for their actions to be considered as a universal law.Is this principle that guides the moral will an a priori or a posteriori principle and why?This is a posteriori principle, because for a person to comprehend it, it is not a must that they experience it.


  1. 14-15 Observe Kant’s test with lying.  Why should the inability of making a lying promise into a universal law mean that lying is immoral?Making a lying promise a universal law would make all promises inadmissible and therefore immoral. why can’t we turn lying into a universal law?Turning lie into universal law would certainly break the hope and faith in promises since people would tend to lose faith or question future promises.


  1. 20 Kant claims that, “One couldn’t do worse by morality than drawing it from examples.”  Why?.This is because it is from past experiences or occurrences that one gets an insight of a certain occurrence. The power of judgement and reasoning increase with experience hence more informed decisions are made.


  1. 23, 35 What is the will according to Kant? A will is the ability to consider that which is sober have a sense of reason and is substantially right or correct. Reason is a major factor in will as it helps one to involve self-conscience in making or reaching a conclusion at the end.  In your answer, consider the role of reason.  Why might being in nature and working according to laws differ from acting according to thoughts that serve as laws or principles for our actions? Being nature and working according to the laws is more or less more inclusive and guides one to confine themselves in the set rules and guidelines. On the other hand acting according to the thoughts is prone to mistakes since at times the said thoughts may be inaccurate or may be parallel to that which is correct.


  1. 24 What is the definition of ‘command of reason’? (‘constrains’ = ‘necessitates’ or ‘obligates’)command of reason is an imperative which can be said to connect will to law or rule of thinking or making decisions. This can consequently lead to a conclusion that command of reason necessitates certain aspects.


  1. 24 What is the definition of an imperative? Imperatives basically show the relationship or connection between objective laws of reason to a will that is subjective.  What does Kant mean by something that necessitates (obligates) the will? He means that something or an action should be taken not because to views of many is good, but because after evaluating and considering all the factors a conclusion can be made that indeed the course of action is appropriate.


  1. 24 Why is it wrong to assert of a perfectly good will that it is constrained (obligated) to act in conformity with the moral law (‘objective laws of the good’ = moral laws, i.e., moral principles of the will)? The reason behind this is simply because the will should be applied on the grounds of reasoning and not on basis of being compelled or subjected to carry out a given task. This means that it is in itself already in confinement with the law.
  2. Why are wills that are not perfect thus obligated to act in conformity with moral laws?Unlike wills that are perfect, those that are not perfect should act as per the moral law since there is a likelihood that the will is not correctly confined to the law.


  1. 25-26 What is a hypothetical imperative?  Your answer must demonstrate an understanding of the kind of necessitation a hypothetical imperative imposes upon the will.  Don’t forget that an imperative is a command of reason.It stands for a possible are intended action that helps one in realizing an intended goal using reason as the basic principle.


  1. 27-28 What are the two kinds of hypothetical imperatives? Your answer must demonstrate an understanding of the kind of end that is unique to each of these imperatives.The two kinds of hypothetical imperatives are actual and possible. Actual means an imperative which calls for action to be of itself independent of any purpose. Possible on the other hand means a problematic applicable principle which are represented a necessary for attainingan intended purpose.


  1. 26 What is a categorical imperative? Your answer should demonstrate an understanding of the kind of necessitation a categorical imperative imposes upon the will. This imperative portrayed an action as purely important to itself without involving or considering alternative avenues hence seen as avenues or formulas for determining an action necessary according to the principle of a will.


  1. 25-26, 29-30 How does the hypothetical imperative differ from the categorical imperative?Hypothetical imperative differs from categorical imperative in the sense that hypothetical imperative advocates for practical necessity of an action as a method for promotion while imperative commands a given action without having as its condition any other objective realized by it.


  1. 29 Why can’t we know what a hypothetical imperative will contain just by thinking about what hypothetical imperatives are in general?This is because hypothetical imperative is a prior prediction and there is a possibility of not achieving that which is thought to occur or happen in future.


  1. 29-30 What does the categorical imperative require of the will regarding its maxims? It requires one to act or respond purely to the given maxim where you have a chance and possibility that a will should translate to universal law.


  1. 14, 30 Know the universal law formulation of the categorical imperative.?Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your desire or will a universal or common law of nature.


  1. 30What is the Law of Nature formulation of the categorical imperative.It states that you act only according to the maxim where by you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.What does it command of our will?Ourwill should be in line with the la of nature and should be oriented to achieving or realizing the best.How does it test for moral worth, exactly?It tests moral worth by examining how one is best in making the correct informed decision by involving their self-conscience.


  1. 30-32 Be prepared to explain any of the four (4) examples Kant uses to show how the Law of Nature expression of the categorical imperative tests whether our maxim for acting is moral or not. He gives an example of testing whether one can make informed decisions in situations where one in dilemma to commit suicide or not. He also quotes an example where a person is tested on self-love where he decides to borrow money with consent that he will not be able to pay(Kant, 1990). A third example is when a talented man decides not to use his talent but live comfortably with pleasure. He contemplates whether ignoring a natural gift is the best and letting his talent rust and resolve to devote his life to idleness.


  1. 35 What is Kant’s definition of the will?he defines a will as a faculty of determining or establishing itself to mechanisms in accordance with representation of given rules or laws and such a faculty can be only found in rational beings.


  1. 35 Why can desired ends (called material ends bottom of p. 28, left) only have a ‘relative value’?. This is because mostly there is no difficulties regarding the possibility of imperative or prejudice.Why can desired ends only furnish hypothetical imperatives?this is because the purpose necessity which it stands for cannot be based on any given preposition


  1. 35 Explain why 1) objects of desire (preference), 2) desires (preferences) themselves, and 3) the actions performed for the sake of desires (preferences) possess only conditional value (i.e., are only good conditionally).This is because they are only effective when reasoning is involved in their consideration. This means that incentive and motive are subjective and objective nature of desire. This ascertains that the value or nature of any object obtainable by our action is always set or conditioned.


  1. 35-36 What is Kant’s definition of a thing? These are rational beings with relative value and depends on our nature as opposed to our will.


  1. 36 What is Kant’s definition of a person? Persons are rational beings that exists as end themselves implying that they are objective ends opposed to subjective end(Kant, Ellington & Kant, 1993).How are things and persons distinguished?Persons are subjective end while things depend on nature and persons can influence the activity of things. Things are just means while a person is an end himself.


  1. 36 What is the one end that has absolute value and which is a universally valid and objective principle for all human wills that unconditional necessitates the will to act in certain ways AND THUS SERVES AS THE GROUND for the categorical imperative? A supreme practical example


  1. 36 What is the humanity formulation of the categorical imperative?It is a conception of what is importantly a conclusion simply because this conclusion itself has objective principle of the will and can consequently act as a practical law.


  1. 36-37 Be prepared to explain any of the four examples that Kant uses to illustrate how the Humanity as an End In Itself expression of the categorical imperative tests the moral worth of maxims. He first quotes a situation where a person wishes to commit suicide but contemplates whether indeed this as per the ethics of human being. The second case is to strict duty to others where a man lies to another fellow man or makes false promise to use him but sees he want to use him as a means to an end which is not his will. The third suggests that action must rhyme with the end putting contingent into perspective. The last observation is a scenario where no individual contributes happiness or joy to others which can be viewed to harmonize negative and not positive with humanity as an end.


  1. 38Know the ‘Autonomy’ expression of the categorical imperative. Explain what the expression conveys.Categorical imperative helps us examine or evaluate moral actions and to make a moral judgement or decision making.Why do you think it is necessary to introduce this formulation of the categorical imperative? The importance of introducing this imperative is to help individuals in making informed and correct decisions involving influenced by reasoning. How does it differ from the previous formulations we have looked at? This imperative is basically formal and it simply examines an action before actualizing it. What does it emphasize that the others do not? It emphasizes on freedom or space and doesn’t dictate or direct on what to be done but it is empty. How does it ensure that all private interest and desire is excluded when willing in accordance with this expression of the categorical imperative?it ensures private interest is excluded since it advocates for reasoning based on self-conscience and consideration of end results.
  2. 39, 44-45 What is the principle of the autonomy of the will? The principle of autonomy is a guideline that advocates for one to choose at all times in a way that the same volition the maxims of the choice are the same time available as common law(Kant, Ellington & Kant, 1993).How does it relate to morality?It is related to morality since the principle of morals is found to be necessarily a categorical imperative that commands autonomy.
  3. 39, 45 What is heteronomy of the will?This is an outcome in situations where the will seeks the law that is to influence its outcome anywhere but in the fitness of its legislative universal law and seeks this aw outside itself.

Kant, I., Ellington, J., & Kant, I. (1993). Grounding for the metaphysics of morals; with, On a supposed right to lie because of philanthropic concerns. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co.

Kant, I. (1990). The categorical imperative the grounding for the metaphysics of morals. Houston, Tex.: Communican.