• Amalac
    489
    In Kant, the source for moral certainty is the transcendental idea of freedom, not once mentioned in the essay. Or, at least the part of the essay posted here. I couldn’t find it to see if there was more to it.Mww

    The OP's quote comes from the book Religion: If There is No God...on God, the Devil, Sin and Other Worries of the So-Called Philosophy of Religion, not sure if it's available for free.

    I read the whole book, and it seems that he never says anything about the transcendental idea of freedom.

    I'll re-read that part of the Critique of Practical Reason to see if you have a point there, and later post my thoughts about it.
  • Mww
    3k
    The OP's quote comes from the bookAmalac

    Ahhhh....that explains it. Thanks.

    he never says anything about the transcendental idea of freedom.Amalac

    It’s not in vogue so much these days.
  • kudos
    222
    Subject to correction, I think Kant's argument might run thus: if your intentions are good, then your virtue is intact, consequences notwithstanding. On the other hand, if consequences are your measure and you do not achieve them, then you got nothing.

    I might add a minor correction, though I more or less agree, that I've heard the Kantian 'method' being to choose based on the best intention, which is a tad misleading. I think it would be more clear to think about it in the reverse sense as choosing with the attempt to surpass immediate interest and consequence rather than positing intention versus consequence. What turns out to be the moral act, or in our colloquial language the intention, will not depend solely on the view of the immediate consequences, but on how well it will fulfill the universal freedom of the individual.

    The whole idea of using the Metaphysic of Morals to conduct one's behaviour and judgement in a mechanistic fashion is sort of like trying to cook using the chemical reactions in a chemistry textbook; better than nothing though I guess. It would be nice if this distinction were more clear, as for instance some take Kant's view as a sort of contradiction to Mill or other writers. Comparing them is certainly possible, but when extended too far it's like apples to oranges.
  • T Clark
    7.6k
    It is formulations 1 and 3 that I had in mind, and I think Kolakowski probably had them in mind as well.

    I think 2 is different. If, for instance, I decide not to vote, am I “using other people as a means to an end”? I don't think so. I wouldn't mind, in the case of veganism, to include sentient non-human animals as moral agents in 2 to be honest, but that doesn't change the fact that, in a sense, a single person's choice to buy meat probably won't change the future production.
    Amalac

    For what it's worth - This, from the "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy" article on Kant's Moral Philosophy:

    Kant claimed that all of these CI formulas were equivalent. Unfortunately, he does not say in what sense. What he says is that these “are basically only so many formulations of precisely the same law, each one of them by itself uniting the other two within it,” and that the differences between them are “more subjectively than objectively practical” in the sense that each aims “to bring an Idea of reason closer to intuition (by means of a certain analogy) and thus nearer to feeling”. He also says that one formula “follows from” another, and that the concept foundational to one formula “leads to a closely connected” concept at the basis of another formula. Thus, his claim that the formulations are equivalent could be interpreted in a number of ways.
  • Janus
    11.7k
    I had an argument with another poster on a different philosophy forum long ago, which I think ties in with the question here. The poster in question created a thread questioning whether it is wrong to condemn torture (of terrorists, spies, kidnappers and so on) if we think that we would, in certain circumstances, torture them ourselves.

    The scenario he created was this: the person who has kidnapped your wife or daughter or son or husband, someone you love dearly in other words, has been caught by the police but will not divulge where they are being held, If the kidnapper is not there to give them food and water they will soon die. The question is, would you torture the kidnapper to get him to reveal where they are being held? The poster in question argued that if you say you would then you are a hypocrite if you don't agree that torture is morally acceptable in certain circumstances.

    I argued that this is wrong, and that even if under certain circumstances we might feel morally justified in torturing someone, it does not follow that we should advocate that torture is generally morally acceptable in certain circumstances. The reason for this is that moral choices always come down to what a person can live with in conscience, and sometimes what we can live with conscience, and even what we would find it morally unacceptable not to do, may transgress the general rule.
  • tim wood
    8.4k
    I might add a minor correction, though I more or less agree, that I've heard the Kantian 'method' being to choose based on the best intention, which is a tad misleading.kudos
    Your good, my bad. "Intention" more than misleading; it's a mistake - my carelessly using the wrong word. I'll go further and observe that it has nothing to do with consequences. You do the right thing as best you can determine and that's that.
  • Amalac
    489
    I think Kant's argument might run thus: if your intentions are good, then your virtue intact consequences notwithstanding. On the other hand, if consequences are your measure and you do not achieve them, then you got nothing. And this would seem supported in the admonition to "do the right thing," and not some variation like, "be sure to get yours," or "it's ok it comes out ok..." or "the ends justifies the means." In the latter case, of course, the ends perhaps justifying some means, but not all.tim wood

    Well, I personally still find the utilitarian/consequentialist criterion more persuasive. Sure, you can't be certain about the consequences of an action, but you can very often know about its probable consequences, and guide your conduct by a probabilistic criterion, by measuring the risks involved as well as the balance of the total amount of positive and negative sensations in the various possible scenarios (though I concede that this analysis can sometimes be difficult, depending on the amount of variables involved).

    Also, I don't think utilitarianism/consequentialism (or at least some versions of it) is necessarily incompatible with good intentions, or the “universal freedom” kudos mentioned. My personal ethical system, for instance, is consequentialist, and has lead me to a position that's very similar to effective altruism.

    Kant doesn't tell us what to do. He merely provides some tests. But they're pretty good tests, and he bases them in logic. Which consequentialism/utilitarianism do not dotim wood

    If Kant really didn't mean that we ought to do as the categorical imperative says, then I have no complaints. If we accept the axioms of Kantian ethics, then his “tests” are grounded in logic, but not otherwise.

    But I don't agree with the claim that consequentialism isn't grounded in logic, in some sense at least, since once one accepts the axioms of the consequentialist criterion, what follows from that principle will be based on logic. It's just like choosing between the axioms of euclidean geometry or those of non-euclidean geometry.

    You can say that consequentialism rests on claims that can't be proven logically and are merely based on feelings, but something similar could be said about Kantian ethics, since I have yet to see a convincing, non circular proof that the categorical imperative [stated in the form: “you should act only according to a maxim that you can... (and so on)”] is true.
  • Agent Smith
    1.2k
    Kant's Categorical Imperative (CI), if adopted, implies that immoral deeds are contradictions (inconsistency): a certain value is affirmed and, at the same time, negated.

    Kolakowski claims that this is an untruth, there's no inconsistency if a person (x) acts in ways that imply that x is an exception to a rule that everyone else should follow.

    Kolakowski has to tell us how, but he doesn't; at least the excerpt in the OP doesn't contain any argument that demonstrates the consistency in a person like x's position/actions.

    In very general terms, I do see his point: There are rules that have exceptions e.g. all people must follow traffic rule except police cars hot on the trail of a criminal. However, even then there has to be some rationale behind the suspension of rules. In other words, Kolakowski has to explain why a person like x is an exception. He doesn't.
  • Amalac
    489
    Kolakowski has to tell us how, but he doesn't; at least the excerpt in the OP doesn't contain any argument that demonstrates the consistency in a person like x's position/actions.Agent Smith

    The burden of proof is in those who claim that a liar who wants others to be honest is somehow logically inconsistent with his goals by acting like that. If the answer to that is: “because if everybody lies, then no liar achieves his goal” one would also have to prove that the criteria for determining whether an action is good or bad, is whether or not it can be universalized without contradiction. And that proof must not use that criterion itself, since then it would be circular.

    And once again, why would a hypothetical world in which everybody lies, be relevant to a single individual's choice between lying or being honest in the actual world? In reality we know that many people will be honest, thus not causing any contradiction with the liar's goals, which means the problem Kant seems to worry about won't arise in reality.
  • Amalac
    489
    For what it's worth - This, from the "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy" article on Kant's Moral Philosophy:

    Kant claimed that all of these CI formulas were equivalent. Unfortunately, he does not say in what sense. What he says is that these “are basically only so many formulations of precisely the same law, each one of them by itself uniting the other two within it,” and that the differences between them are “more subjectively than objectively practical” in the sense that each aims “to bring an Idea of reason closer to intuition (by means of a certain analogy) and thus nearer to feeling”. He also says that one formula “follows from” another, and that the concept foundational to one formula “leads to a closely connected” concept at the basis of another formula. Thus, his claim that the formulations are equivalent could be interpreted in a number of ways
    T Clark

    Hmm thanks, but I'm afraid that just confused me even more.
  • Mww
    3k
    categorical imperative [stated in the form: “you should act only according to a maxim that you can... (and so on)”] is true.Amalac

    The c.i. doesn’t have a truth value; it is a “command of reason”.

    The c.i., because it is a command, is a “shall”, not a “should”. Should, or ought, denotes a hypothetical imperative.

    If Kant really didn't mean that we ought to do as the categorical imperative says.....Amalac

    He didn’t mean we should; he means we must (in order to demonstrate the worthiness of calling ourselves good moral agents). What we are to do, is act. And to act in any situation governed by a moral feeling, in accordance with a principle you yourself will. “...Act only on that maxim.....”.
  • tim wood
    8.4k
    The burden of proof is in those who claim that a liarAmalac
    Are you a liar? If not, why not? (I suspect you are not.) Or a thief or a murderer or a rapist? Never mind law, law is merely circular. And btw, who cares for arithmetic: that's circular too. Or are you just an opportunist who would do any of these things and more if you thought you could get away with it? Or would you massacre women and children if you thought some benefit would come? Are you in favor of Guantanamo bay, and do you admire the US for its so-called black-site practices of illegal detention and torture? I think you wouldn't and don't, and the absurdity of these questions indication that all of us - most, anyway - are deontologists and just don't know it.

    As to the logic, that is a tool. Things are built with tools. If the tool and the workman and the project are good, then the product is good. If you are sophistically dismissive, or care not to dwell under the roof, the benefits, of such thinking, you are free to live outside under the sky.

    As to the liar, he depends on his lies being taken as true. If everyone were to lie, where would he be then?
  • Amalac
    489
    The c.i., because it is a command, is a “shall”, not a “should”. Should, or ought, denotes a hypothetical imperative.Mww

    Ok.

    The c.i., because it is a command, is a “shall”, not a “should”. Should, or ought, denotes a hypothetical imperative.Mww

    Then just answer me this: why, according to Kant, do we have to act as the categorical imperative says, instead of basing our actions on consequentialist/utilitarian principles? Does Kant hold that one can logically prove that it is better to act as the categorical imperative says, rather than following a consequentialist ethic?

    I ask because, if I remember correctly, Kant claims that the categorical imperative is known a priori, in which case it could be deduced through logic alone, and as Kolakowski suggests, this would imply that we can have “independent and unquestionable moral certainty”. Or is it rather like the choice between the axioms of euclidean or non euclidean geometry?

    Do you agree with tim's claim that Kant doesn't tell us what to do? If so, what exactly do you think he means?

    He didn’t mean we should; he means we must (in order to demonstrate the worthiness of calling ourselves good moral agents).Mww

    But how does Kant know that the way of being good moral agents is to follow the imperative, rather than some utilitarian principle? Is “being a good moral agent” defined as “following the categorical imperative”? If so, that's a mere tautology, isn't it? (Something like: “you must use the categorical imperative as your ethical criterion if you want to demonstrate the worthiness of saying that you follow the categorical imperative”). In that case, why should we adopt the imperative as our criterion in the first place, instead of some consequentialist criterion? Is there any proof of that?

    I haven't had the chance to read about the transcendental idea of freedom, so I'm still unsure of how it ties into all this. Maybe today I'll have the time.
  • Amalac
    489
    Are you a liar? If not, why not?tim wood

    I'm not a liar, in the sense that I don't always lie whenever I please, although I think lying can be justified in some circumstances, unlike Kant.

    Why don't I lie all the time? Because I believe acting in that way would lead to a worse balance of the positive and negative sensations of all sentient beings in a not too distant future, following a consequentialist criterion.

    But if one is in a situation in which lying is the course of action more likely to diminish the total amount of suffering, then I think one is justified in lying, even if by bad luck the consequences turn out to be bad.

    And btw, who cares for arithmetic: that's circular too.tim wood

    There is a difference in the case of arithmetic, since the axioms of arithmetic seem self-evident to me, whereas the criterion proposed by Kant does not. Arithmetic is not circular, since we eventually reach axioms or claims so obvious that they don't need justification.

    Or are you just an opportunist who would do any of these things and more if you thought you could get away with it?
    tim wood
    Or would you massacre women and children if you thought some benefit would come? Are you in favor of Guantanamo bay, and do you admire the US for its so-called black-site practices of illegal detention and torture? I think you wouldn't and don't, and the absurdity of these questions indication that all of us - most, anyway - are deontologists and just don't know it.tim wood

    Of course I wouldn't/don't do any of those things, and I think my conduct can be justified by appealing to consequentialist criterions.

    My criterion remains the same: the course of action more likely to lead to the best balance of the total sum of positive and negative sensations for all sentient beings is to be preferred. Doing what you say would most likely lead to the suffering of many people, and other people's suffering makes me suffer too, and viceversa: the thought and contemplation of a scenario in which the least amount of people suffer makes me happier. That's why I wouldn't walk around raping, murdering or stealing even if it were legal to do so.

    As to the liar, he depends on his lies being taken as true. If everyone were to lie, where would he be then?tim wood

    He'd be in trouble of course, but is it likely that everyone, or even most people, will lie in any near future? Of course not, so that liar would be more or less as concerned by the possibility of everybody lying as he would be concerned by the possibility of being struck by a meteorite when he takes two steps outside his house, or being struck by lightning. I think probability is what matters here.
  • Mww
    3k
    Do you agree with tim's claim that Kant doesn't tell us what to do?Amalac

    Yes, absolutely. No one can tell anyone else what to do, except in cases of instructions for, or in the pursuit of, a skill.

    why, according to Kant, do we have to act as the categorical imperative says, instead of basing our actions on consequentialist/utilitarian principles?Amalac

    Generally, Kant promoted a strictly deontological moral doctrine, wherein respect for law as such, makes no allowance for possible consequence. This in turn is predicated on two fundamental human conditions: good in and of itself, without regard to any object of it, and, happiness, and the worthiness of attaining it, which is morality itself.

    Kant claims that the categorical imperative is known a priori, in which case it could be deduced through logic alone, and as Kolakowski suggests, this would imply that we can have “independent and unquestionable moral certainty”Amalac

    It is known a priori, But perhaps not so much through logic alone per se, but through pure practical reason, by which is deduced on its own accord, those “commands of reason”.

    The logic that grounds the deduction, in the form of cause and effect, has been argued incessantly, insofar as the causality here can never be proved, which logic requires, even while the effect is obvious in the actions that follow from it. Kant was chastised for his inability to prove the reality of transcendental freedom as a causality with the same necessity as empirical causality naturally, but based his entire moral philosophy on the impossibility of morality itself without it, whether or not it could be proved. Hence, the ground for the birth of consequentialism proper, post-Kant.

    The independent merely indicates without empirical influences, which are wants or desires, and the unquestionable merely indicates the impossibility of disregarding that of which our own reason informs. Both of those are given, which makes Kolakowski’s implication correct.
    ———-

    But how does Kant know that the way of being good moral agents is to follow the imperativeAmalac

    There are no knowledge claims in pure speculative moral philosophy, so all this is not something Kant claims to know. Morality is based on feelings alone, from which follows that if one feels he has acted in accordance with the goodness of his own will, he can claim entitlement to being happy. There are, nonetheless, knowledge claims a priori in a subject, in that he knows either how he ought to act, or, he is acting, according to his will. He also knows when he does not, for he can feel it, in aesthetic judgements he makes on himself. The most familiar common knowledge a priori being.....”I’m sorry”.

    Is “being a good moral agent” defined as “following the categorical imperative”? If so, that's a mere tautology, isn't it?Amalac

    Technically, this is correct, but allowances must be made for the fallibility of human nature in general. In trying to clarify things, I shot myself in the foot, by qualifying moral agents as good, when, in Kantian moral philosophy, good is restricted to the will the agent has. I should have said, an agent’s morality is defined by his compliance to the goodness of his will.

    Of course, the goodness of a will is relative to the agent, which we witness in disagreements in moral actions across such agents in different cultures. As such, the guy beheading is acting morally from his principles, just as the guy that finds that action abominable, not ever even considering the possibility that he himself might have to become a beheader under any circumstance whatsoever. Easy to see how that could cause all kindsa problems.

    So let’s just say, to follow the c.i. epitomizes what it is to be a moral agent.
  • tim wood
    8.4k
    I'm not a liar, in the sense that I don't always lieAmalac
    A strange equivocation. I doubt you're a liar, but in fact you're telling us you are. As such I submit to you that you're not actually a "consequentialist" or a utilitarian, but an opportunist, and that not a good thing.
  • Amalac
    489
    A strange equivocation. I doubt you're a liar, but in fact you're telling us you are.tim wood

    I was referring to Kolakowski's example of someone who lies whenever he pleases, I'm not like that. Most of the time I don't lie, but I think lying can sometimes be justified.

    For example, if someone in their deathbed asked how their son was, and you knew their son is dead, would you tell them the truth? I wouldn't, yet according to Kant's criterion I'd have to tell him the truth regardless of the man's suffering.

    I admit that I expressed myself poorly, I need to work on my english.
  • Amalac
    489
    Yes, absolutely. No one can tell anyone else what to do, except in cases of instructions for, or in the pursuit of, a skill.Mww

    Ok.

    There are no knowledge claims in pure speculative moral philosophy, so all this is not something Kant claims to know. Morality is based on feelings alone, from which follows that if one feels he has acted in accordance with the goodness of his own will, he can claim entitlement to being happy. There are, nonetheless, knowledge claims a priori in a subject, in that he knows either how he ought to act, or, he is acting, according to his will. He also knows when he does not, for he can feel it, in aesthetic judgements he makes on himself. The most familiar common knowledge a priori being.....”I’m sorry”.Mww

    Ok, I'm glad that was cleared up. I was under the impression that Kant held some form of moral cognitivism.

    So far so good...

    It is known a priori, But perhaps not so much through logic alone per se, but through pure practical reason, by which is deduced on its own accord, those “commands of reason”.

    The logic that grounds the deduction, in the form of cause and effect, has been argued incessantly, insofar as the causality here can never be proved, which logic requires, even while the effect is obvious in the actions that follow from it. Kant was chastised for his inability to prove the reality of transcendental freedom as a causality with the same necessity as empirical causality naturally, but based his entire moral philosophy on the impossibility of morality itself without it, whether or not it could be proved. Hence, the ground for the birth of consequentialism proper, post-Kant.

    The independent merely indicates without empirical influences, which are wants or desires, and the unquestionable merely indicates the impossibility of disregarding that of which our own reason informs. Both of those are given, which makes Kolakowski’s implication correct.
    Mww

    ... And now you've confused me again. I'll respond to this later, at the moment I find it hard to wrap my head around what you say there, I'll have to read it more carefully, as well as re-read the Critique of Practical Reason.
  • Tobias
    430
    @AmalacMaybe, I am silly, it is late anyway, so bare with me... But is Kolakowski not reading Kant is too existentialist of a way? Kant's metaphysical project is about deducing under what conditions knowledge is possible. Does Kantian ethics not take a similar route? The question is, is there a recognizable foundation for ethics? I can of course will all kind of things. I can live by the principle: "T lie through my teeth and I hope everyone speaks the truth". However, one immediately recognizes that if everyone lived by that principle it would not turn out to be a correct description of the world for anyone. What I recognize is that I give myself a 'status aparte' that is dependent on the behavior of others to make sense. That I think Kant would consider building your kingdom on shaky foundations, because you are not acting autonomously, but you become dependent on the actions of others.

    One recognizes that such a maxim might be a way to live, but not a way to live ethically. It is the inversion of treating each other as a means to an end. If you hold this maxim you can only become an end in itself if everyone does as you hope they will do. It is also the inversion of being a legislator in the kingdom of ends, because you write a rule 'ad personam', yourself. You are therefore not legislating, i.e. providing general rules. You can do everything you want, but you will recognize it as not ethical. I think that is Kant's point. His claim is we can recognize ethical from unethical behavour, so knowledge of ethics is possible.


    This came to mind. From Joseph Heller's "Catch 22," which I loved when I read it 45 years ago but which I'm afraid to read again in case it isn't as good as I remember:

    “From now on I'm thinking only of me."

    Major Danby replied indulgently with a superior smile: "But, Yossarian, suppose everyone felt that way."

    "Then," said Yossarian, "I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way, wouldn't I?
    T Clark

    I just had to comment on this one. Catch 22 taught me philosophy. Here Yossarian is of course totally right and what he does is exposing a weakness in the Kantian argument, (or maybe the argument of Kantians). Yossarian's point is that ethics is social and not individual. Ethics is also practical and not 'formal'. Catch-22 shows how every attempt at rationality in an irrational situation leads to contradiction. The only character in the novel that understood it is Orr. He embraces the contradiction: Why did he risk his life crashing, because he wanted to live. Why did the Nately's whore hit him over the head? Because he paid her to do it.
  • T Clark
    7.6k
    Here Yossarian is of course totally right and what he does is exposing a weakness in the Kantian argument, (or maybe the argument of Kantians).Tobias

    I'm not familiar enough with Kant's arguments to say that Yossarian's position contradicts them. As was discussed previously, it might depend on which of the three formulations of the categorical imperative you choose to look at.
  • Tobias
    430
    According to Kant himself they are equivalent. Of course Catch-22 was not written as a refutation of Kant. I interpret it as such. I am a Hegelian and I recognise in Heller's work they same play with contradictions. But anyway, I will really read all the posts, but for now I think what is important is that the three formulations are equivalent for Kant because they allude to the same thing, the moral law within. Just like we have a transcendental unity of apperception which grants us a world, we have a moral law within which makes it possible for us to discern ethical from unethical behavior. "What can we know" remains I think a corner stone for Kant.
  • Amalac
    489
    I can of course will all kind of things. I can live by the principle: "T lie through my teeth and I hope everyone speaks the truth". However, one immediately recognizes that if everyone lived by that principle it would not turn out to be a correct description of the world for anyone. What I recognize is that I give myself a 'status aparte' that is dependent on the behavior of others to make sense. That I think Kant would consider building your kingdom on shaky foundations, because you are not acting autonomously, but you become dependent on the actions of others.Tobias

    And what's wrong with “depending on their actions” in that sense? Again, is it likely that everybody, or at least a majority of people will suddenly all start lying any time soon? No, that's probably never going to happen. So why should that hypothetical world in which everybody lies matter in the least? I'm not trying to justify liars, I just don't think lying always or very often is wrong for the reasons Kant thinks it is.

    One recognizes that such a maxim might be a way to live, but not a way to live ethically. It is the inversion of treating each other as a means to an end. If you hold this maxim you can only become an end in itself if everyone does as you hope they will do. It is also the inversion of being a legislator in the kingdom of ends, because you write a rule 'ad personam', yourself. You are therefore not legislating, i.e. providing general rules. You can do everything you want, but you will recognize it as not ethical. I think that is Kant's point. His claim is we can recognize ethical from unethical behaviour, so knowledge of ethics is possible.Tobias

    I don't think it follows that if you reject Kant's criterion for living what he considers an ethical live, then you can do anything you want. It just means you move on to some consequentialist criterion for determining how you should act.

    And why should the person provide general rules for others, why can't he just have a personal and private ethic? Even if he did provide general rules about how he thinks everybody ought to act, it's not likely that others will change the way they act by what some random person tells them, the reality is that most people simply won't give a damn about it, unless it's someone close to them, someone famous or someone influential.

    Also Kant concludes — if I'm not mistaken — that lying is wrong no matter what the circumstances are. And I think that's just wrong, as is shown in the example I gave of a man on his death bed asking if his son is ok, when the other person knows that their son is dead.

    Here's another example: suppose someone's son is terminally ill, and the doctors tell the man that his son will almost certainly die soon. A few days later he goes to visit his son in the hospital, and the boy fearfully asks him if he's going to die. Would the father be doing something wrong or unethical if he lied to his son, telling him that he is ok and that he will recover soon, so that he wasn't terrified and would suffer less? I don't think so.

    Bertrand Russell gave yet another example:

    Once, walking in the field, I saw a weary fox, on the verge of total exhaustion, but still struggling to keep running. A few minutes later I saw the hunters. They asked me if I had seen the fox and I said yes. They asked me where it had gone and I lied to them. I don't think I would have been a better person if I had told them the truth.
  • tim wood
    8.4k
    I wouldn't, yet according to Kant's criterion I'd have to tell him the truth regardless of the man's suffering. I admit that I expressed myself poorly, I need to work on my english.Amalac
    Your English is fine, is better than most. I think the point Kant makes about such "white" lies is that they co-opt, reduce, or even destroy the freedom of the one you lie to and his or her right to the truth. Thus, it seems to me, it's not about their felling better, or you feeling good, but about preserving both of yours participation in a moral world. As corollary, he adds that the lie places on the liar a responsibility that the truth does not impose.
  • Amalac
    489
    Thus, it seems to me, it's not about their felling better, or you feeling good, but about preserving both of yours participation in a moral world.tim wood

    I think we will never agree on this point.

    As corollary, he adds that the lie places on the liar a responsibility that the truth does not impose.tim wood

    What's the responsibility in the example I gave? The man will die soon, and I just want him to have some peace of mind rather than to make him more sad and miserable in his last moments, so I lie to him. How could my lying conceivably lead to worse consequences? (I mean besides fantastic and invisibly improbable scenarios) I don't see how.
  • tim wood
    8.4k
    What's the responsibility in the example I gave? The man will die soon, and I just want him to have some peace of mind rather than to make him more sad and miserable in his last moments, so I lie to him.Amalac
    Yeah, but who said you were a) correct, or b) had a right to make that decision? In effect, you're giving me permission to decide what you can know, what is best for you to know. And, if it is my decision and it's acceptable to lie, then I have no responsibility for any consequence of the lie.
  • Agent Smith
    1.2k
    The burden of proof is in those who claim that a liar who wants others to be honest is somehow logically inconsistent with his goals by acting like that.Amalac

    It won't take you too long or too much to get your hands on an online resource that discusses the inconsistency of (an) exception(s) with respect to an ethical rule (& Kant's CI). This is ground already covered.

    Kolakowski denies there's any such inconsistency. Ok, but what's his argument? The OP is silent in that regard.
  • Raymond
    649
    Yeah, but who said you were a) correct, or b) had a right to make that decision? In effect, you're giving me permission to decide what you can know, what is best for you to knowtim wood

    Is that bad?


    As corollary, he adds that the lie places on the liar a responsibility that the truth does not imposetim wood

    The truth places the same responsibility on the truther: tell me!
  • Amalac
    489
    Yeah, but who said you were a) correct, or b) had a right to make that decision?tim wood

    I think I'd be acting correctly based on my consequentialist criterion.

    As for whether I or not I “had a right” to make that decision, that doesn't seem relevant to me. What I care about is what will most likely lead to the least amount of suffering to that man in his last moments. The rest (in this particular case) doesn't matter.

    In effect, you're giving me permission to decide what you can know, what is best for you to know.tim wood

    I think it's best for that man not to know about the fact that his son is dead. And I think the man would likely do the same if our roles were reversed, so he probably would think my action is justified.

    But supposing the man happened to be a thoroughgoing Kantian, well... I'd just think what he wanted me to do is wrong, and that his ethical position is wrong (though I admit I can't prove those claims, just as Kantians can't prove that consequentialism is wrong). Unless I become convinced that Kantian ethics are better than consequentialist ethics, I don't see any reason to believe that it is wrong — in all circumstances — to decide what a person can know, this being what I think is best for him to know.

    That doesn't mean one should always decide what is best for someone to know when considering whether lying is justified or not, as I said before that depends on the particular circumstances surrounding each situation, and one has to go through this analysis:

    “I think the courses of action (as well as choices of not doing anything) which are more likely to lead to a state of affairs which has the better balance of the total positive mental states (pleasure, joy, peace of mind,...) and total negative mental states (pain, psychological suffering, boredom) are to be preferred.”


    And, if it is my decision and it's acceptable to lie, then I have no responsibility for any consequence of the lie.tim wood

    Once again I ask: in what conceivable way could lying to the man about his son lead to worse consequences than telling him the truth?

    As for whether or not people should be responsible for their lies in general, one has to take into account the likelihood of their lie having bad consequences, as well as how bad the consequences are likely to be, and comparing them with the likely bad consequences of choosing to tell the truth. If it's not clear which choice is more likely to be better, because the situation is too complicated, then the person can choose what their heart tells them to. I don't think they should be responsible for acting in the way more likely to lead to a better balance of good and bad consequences, even if lying be that way, if their analysis is correct.

    Also, why shouldn't people take responsibility for telling the truth as well? If you told the man that his son is dead, and he broke down crying and cursing you for telling him the truth just to have him suffer even in his last moments, I'd say you are to blame for what the man is feeling, which was caused by you telling him the truth.
  • Amalac
    489
    Kolakowski denies there's any such inconsistency. Ok, but what's his argument? The OP is silent in that regard.Agent Smith

    Those who claim that it is inconsistent either offer a circular argument (assuming Kant's criterion is the correct one for determining whether an action is good or bad, without first proving that this is the case) or mean merely that if you are a Kantian in ethical matters, you'd be inconsistent if you didn't follow the imperative. Which is a truism, and won't convince those who don't already believe Kant's criterion is the true criterion for determining the goodness of an action, rather than adopting some consequentialist criterion.

    So they still haven't met the burden of proof, or have met it in a trivial and uncontroversial way.

    Kolakowski's argument was thus the following:

    This (Kant's) argument is not convincing and may be circular. Even on the assumption that some principles — it doesn't matter whether they are explicitly admitted or not — necessarily ground my behavior, that is, whatever I do, I always believe, however vaguely it may be, that there is a normative "principle" that justifies my behavior (and the assumption is far from obvious), there is no reason why those principles must necessarily have universal validity or why I have, as it were, to impose my rules on all humanity (not only Kant had this opinion; Sartre had it too, for reasons he did not explain). I am not at all inconsistent if I prefer other people to follow rules that I do not want to follow. If, to continue with the example given above, I lie whenever I feel like it but I want everyone else to be invariably frank, I am perfectly consistent. I can always, without contradicting myself, reject the arguments of those who try to convert me or push me to change my way of acting by telling me: "What if everyone did the same?" Since I can coherently maintain that other people's actions do not concern me, or that I positively want them to obey the rules that I refuse to follow.

    In other words, an imperative that demands that I be guided by norms that I wish were universal has, in itself, no logical or psychological foundation; I can reject it without falling into contradictions, and I can admit it as a supreme guideline only by virtue of an arbitrary decision.

    How, exactly, is that “silent”? I can give a couple of examples of people who are actually inconsistent:

    1. If someone wanted to lose weight, and ate junk food all the time, then they obviously would be inconsistent, since they won't achieve their goal of losing weight that way.

    2. If a student wanted to pass a hard test, he'd be inconsistent if he only studied half an hour before the test.

    On the other hand, the liar's goal is to deceive, in order to benefit either himself or others. If everybody lied, he could not achieve this goal, and hence he would be inconsistent. But in reality, many people are honest, so in the actual world he would not at all be inconsistent with his goal since he could actually achieve it by lying, whether or not we think his goals are morally questionable.
  • Mww
    3k
    I was under the impression that Kant held some form of moral cognitivism.......Amalac

    “....we may especially remark that all in our cognition that belongs to intuition contains nothing more than mere relations. (The feelings of pain and pleasure, and the will, which are not cognitions, are excepted.)...”
    (CPR A49/B67)

    To think is to cognize, therefore if one thinks he is a cognitivist. To be a moral agent, one must act in a certain way, but he acts in accordance to what he feels, not what he thinks, therefore no moral agent is a moral cognitivist.

    The argument is, then, a moral agent must think the principles from which his moral actions ensue. On the other hand, the conception of a moral constitution, or a moral predisposition, implies principles are innate, and that which is innate does not need to be thought.

    Pick your own poison?
    ————

    re-read the Critique of Practical Reason.Amalac

    Bear in mind....you don’t need the transcendental proof for the validity of freedom as a sufficient causality, if you do not grant the absolute necessity of the will in a human being as his only moral authority. CpR is a waste of time for those who do not hold with a deontological moral doctrine.
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