Read from 5-28
***This is the toughest reading, for people who aren’t used to this style of writing, we’ll do all semester. You’ll notice a couple of things about Kant’s writing style:
It’s very dense. –Part of this is a function of translation. German has many words and phrases that just don’t translate very well into English.
It’s very thorough.—Kant’s overall philosophical project begins with a critique, and subsequent reworking, of large parts of epistemology (how and if we can acquire knowledge—and then, what we can know), how this fits into a larger metaphysical framework, and several other things before he even gets to ethics. This is on purpose, though it’s unfortunately very difficult to understand Kant’s main focus because we essentially have to understand what he’s said before to understand what he’s saying now, to then understand what he’s eventually going to say.
Fortunately, Kant is aware of these things, which is why he’s writing the way he does. His approach is to move very slowly and very carefully so the reader fully understands how he’s arrived at his conclusions. The issue, though, is he’s essentially reminding us of what he’s just said before he goes into saying what he’s about to, then he’ll remind us what he’s said before he continues.
This is the part of his writing that is tough to get through: Kant is trying to show care for the reader who is encountering his argument, though the way he shows care looks very tedious to get through—and it actually is, but just push through and reread if necessary.
In the beginning of the reading, Kant makes the claim that the only thing we can call good without qualification is good will. What is this “will” thing he’s discussing in the first place?
Like Mill, Kant is going to discuss how happiness might fit into an overall moral framework, though he will go in a very different direction with it. How does happiness fit into Kant’s overall argument?
To help answer the above question, Kant is going to spend quite a lot of time discussing how “duty” fits into this conception of the will. Why? Does “duty” really mean “I have to do this, regardless of whether or not I should want to?” IF so, then how would duty affect the will?
What kinds of “duties” would we have, therefore, for Kant? What would give these duties “moral content?” (Three propositions…::hint hint::))
This will lead Kant into a discussion of a “universality” requirement for our actions. Why would this requirement need to be universal and, more importantly, how does Kant think we can show this requirement?
In the beginning of Chapter Two, Kant discusses a priori versions/claims/etc. of knowledge. What does this mean, and how is Kant applying the term for his ethical project?
Kant moves into a discussion of “imperatives,” which we can think of as moral obligations. How has he arrived at this discussion based on where he’s come from?
He’ll also distinguish between two types of imperatives. What are they, and which of the two is he going to be spending more time with?
If you’ve been reading and (somehow) understanding everything he’s discussing, how can we arrive at an a priori understanding of an imperative?
One of these imperatives is something Kant will call ”The Categorical Imperative.” Pay special attention to how this label is heavily dependent upon Kant’s earlier arguments. Based on this note here, how effective are his examples he uses to illustrate the Categorical Imperative?
As a point to press Kant on: these imperatives, and the subsequent duties that come from them, create a set of moral laws that only give obligations to rational beings. What kinds of beings would, therefore, be left out of the discussion entirely—or only considered with several additional qualifications?
A different way to ask the above question: Why does Kant center this discussion on “reason?”
Read from 5-28