• moralpanic
    I am to write a five-page paper on a moral situation of my choosing in which I will argue for or against, using either Kant or Mill's philosophy. I would like to use Kant. In my brainstorming of potential moral situations through the Kantian lens, I'm running into a wall. I was hoping to get some feedback as to if this is an actual wall or if I'm missing something.

    I initially wanted to focus on some sort of public policy issue i.e. the government deciding for individuals what they can and cannot put in their bodies (criminalizing drug use) or the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. Speaking of the former in the way of Kant, it's clear to me that when the government decides what a person can and cannot put in his or her own body, that person is being deprived of his or her rationality - so here I have the beginning of an argument against such a policy (this would be a violation of the second formulation, would it not?) The wall I hit is when I attempt to universalize the maxim via the first formulation. Government policies are already universalized to all people of the nation.

    So is it safe to say that government policies should be avoided and I should choose individual situations that can logically be applied to Kant's CI? Or am I missing something?

    Thank you for your help.
  • S
    There are a few people who are particularly knowledgeable about Kant on this forum, such as Janus and Moliere. No one else in particular comes to mind at present.
  • Mww

    For government, see “The Science of Right”, 1790, trans: A. Hastie, Berlin
    For individual situations, see “Fundamental Principles for the Metaphysics of Morals”, 1785, trans: Thomas Kingsmill Abbott, Cambridge
  • Fooloso4
    Speaking of the former in the way of Kant, it's clear to me that when the government decides what a person can and cannot put in his or her own body, that person is being deprived of his or her rationalitymoralpanic

    Not necessarily. If the argument can be made that rational thing to do is not put harmful substances into your body, and that is the argument Kant would make, then one would not be deprived of his or her rationality by not being allowed to make an irrational choice.

    In terms of the CI: consider a maxim by which self-harm were to become a universal law. For more, see his arguments against suicide. See also his arguments on obedience to legal authority and freedom. To act on the basis of desire, in this case the desire to put certain things in your body that would be irrational to do, is not, according to Kant, to be free. To be free is to act in accordance with reason.
  • tim wood
    Investigate his categorical imperatives - there are three forms. Try to understand what they are, how they work. That's a page or two right there. Then pick any-old problem you feel like and run it critically and analytically through the imperatives and lay out what results you get. Search this site: caveat: not everything you read here is correct.
  • moralpanic
    I have chosen to ditch government policy for this paper and stick with something I can more easily process through the CI. I am currently brainstorming ideas. Maybe this maxim: Not returning your shopping cart to the parking lot shopping cart corral.

    Keep it simple for now, to get practice and then tackle the bigger stuff when I'm ready.

    The input you all have provided is universal and very helpful. Thank you! -Ryan
  • moralpanic

    Thanks. I see your point. I also see another way to look at this.

    Kant's moral philosophy is rooted in the idea that we are rational beings and this individual rationality is what makes the CI possible. Therefore, any impedance I may create that stands in the way of someone's ability to use his or her rationality in the application of the CI is in itself a violation of the CI. If I want to borrow money from a friend and in my explanation of the situation to my friend, I leave out certain details that obfuscate the appearance of the situation in hope to receive the loan, I am denying my friend of his or her full rationality - he or she can only think rationality within the obfuscated framework that I have provided. This violates the CI.

    Not all drug use is harmful. Just because there is risk of harm, does not make harm an absolute. Recreational drug use, both in responsible and irresponsible forms are commonplace in society just as alcohol consumption is. I would think Kant would say the decision to take part, including the decision to negotiate the harms that one might encounter, should be left up to one's own individual rationality to decide, and furthermore, any interference in allowing one's own rationality to decide would be a violation of the CI.

    It seems to me Kant's CI supports libertarianism. I could be wrong. :)
  • Fooloso4
    It seems to me Kant's CI supports libertarianism. I could be wrong.moralpanic

    We have to look at Kant's concept of freedom. For Kant, to be free is to act in accordance with reason. For the Libertarian, we should be free to do any irrational thing we want provided we do not infringing on the rights of others. For Kant to be free to act in accordance with reason does not mean we are free to make the choice whether or not to act in accordance with reason. To put it differently we are not free to not be free.
  • Valentinus
    It seems to me Kant's CI supports libertarianism.moralpanic

    It may be worth considering that Kant did not argue that reason is self sufficient regarding the source of the energy needed to bring about good outcomes in the relationships between rational individuals. In his Critique of Judgement, he says:

    "Every rational being would have to continue to recognize himself as firmly bound by the precept of morals, for their laws are formal and command unconditionally , paying no regard to ends (as the subject-matter of volition). But the one requirement of the final end, as prescribed by practical reason to the beings of the world, is an irresistible end planted in them by their nature as finite beings. Reason refuses to countenance this end except as subject to the moral as inviolable condition, and would only have it made universal in accordance with this condition. Thus it makes the furtherance of happiness in agreement with morality the final end. To promote this end - so far, in respect of happiness, as lies in our power- is commanded us by the moral law, whatever the outcome of his endeavour may be. The fulfillment of duty consists in the form of the earnest will, not in the intervening causes that contribute to success."

    Kant goes on to say that the earnest will involves belief in God. To emphasize the need for enthusiasm in this regard. he misrepresents Spinoza a few paragraphs later:

    "Let us then, as we may, take the case of the righteous man, such, say, as Spinoza, who considers himself firmly persuaded that there is no God and - since in respect of the Object of morality a similar result ensues -no future life either. How will he estimate his individual intrinsic finality that is derived from the moral law which he reveres in practice? He does not require that its pursuit should bring him any personal benefit in this or any other world. On the contrary, his will is disinterestedly to establish only that good to which the holy law directs all his energies. But he is circumscribed in his endeavor. He may, it is true, expect to find a chance concurrence now and again, but he can never expect to find in nature a uniform agreement - a consistent agreement according to fixed rules, answering to what his maxims are and must be subjectively, with that end which yet he feels obliged and urged to realize."
    452 (both passages are from the translation made by James Creed Meredith)

    To hear Spinoza's side of this topic, one can read chapter 14 of A Theologico-Political Treatise.

    Getting back to the nature of the "rational" individual, Kant depicts the element of personal interest as critical to what makes values "cosmopolitan."
  • moralpanic

    Yikes. Thank you for this. It's going to require time and caffeine for me to have a shot at understanding it. I appreciate it.
  • moralpanic

    Thanks. I think I follow what you are saying.
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