Actions only have moral worth if they are motivated by the belief that we have a duty to perform them.
The duty is to the moral law, not to the law of the land.
Kantian moral agent acts out of “good will”.
Only good will has moral value, therefore only actions out of good will, i.e., for the sake of duty to the moral law, are morally valuable.
The good will allows us to become moral agents. The ability for the good will is the moral aspect of human rationality. Moral agents are rational agents. Since we are rational agents, we cannot will rationally to act in the face of the moral law.
Kant’s claims may be divided into the claim of moral psychology and the claim of moral value.
The claim of moral psychology: People are capable of being motivated by their beliefs about duties (under the moral law).
The claim of moral value: Only good will has moral value. Therefore, only action out of duty [motivated by the good will] is morally worthwhile.
The argument from choice:
Example (illustration): John never chose to become a kind person; he was simply brought that way. Suzan made intentional choices, aiming to become a kind person because she believes that it is her duty to become kind.
Kant argues that the agent must make choices among alternatives to merit moral praise. John didn’t make any choices, so he doesn’t deserve praise. Suzan chose to become kind, so her actions are praiseworthy, since they were motivated by the belief that kindness is her moral duty.
The Argument from Counterfactuals:
Suppose that Mother Theresa is the sort of person who was committed to helping the poor only because she enjoyed it; rather than being motivated by her beliefs about God’s law. Her commitment is conditional.
If she stopped enjoying helping the poor, then in that contrary to fact world she would pack up and leave.
Kant would argue that would we not feel the same way about her if we believed that she would really abandon the poor whenever she ceased to enjoy helping them.
Note: Kant did not consider religious faith as morally worthy motive, because faith is heteronymous.
Kant on Autonomy of the will:
Kant appeals to a more general philosophical theory about what makes a person’s will autonomous or truly free. He claims that we can only be truly free if we resist our natural impulses (e.g. John’s natural impulse to be kind) and act on a law we have given ourselves (e.g. Suzan’s decision to become a kind person). People who act on the basis of desire, tradition, custom, faith, etc. are heteronymous.
This law on which we act must be the moral law. (So according to Kant, someone who makes it a policy to create an “immoral law” – e.g. John gets fed up with being kind, and chooses to become a pirate or a tyrant – cannot be free.)
For Kant, it is necessarily true (true in all cases) that an immoral person cannot be autonomous or free (although she may not be heteronymous or determined by mere desire, unthinking tradition, or habit). This view is based on his understanding of rational reasoning.
Kant characterizes moral agents as rational beings. Human beings are intrinsically valuable (i.e., they are ends in themselves) because they are rational beings. Notice, Kant refers to humans as rational in principle; he doesn’t measure the extent of rationality of each individual.
Maxims: a maxim is an expressed intention.
Maxims usually include whatever one intends to achieve and the way she intends to do it. Kantian maxims are autonomous.
Stop at the red light to avoid accidents.
Wash your hands to remain healthy.
Such maxims can be formulated as conditionals: “If you want to avoid accidents, stop at the red light”. “If you want to remain health, wash your hands.”
Conditionals are hypothetical imperatives – it is imperative you do A, if you want to achieve B.
Kant’s moral law is an unconditional, that is, categorical imperative. We will look at two formulas for the Categorical Imperative:
CI(#1): “I ought never