Immanuel Kant’s Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals

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Matthew O’Donnell
15 September 2012
Philosophy 203, Section 010
Kant Assignment
Immanuel Kant’s Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals starts off by saying there is only one thing that is good without qualification which is a good will. Something can only be good if it is well-matched with a good will. In fact, “a good will is” according to him, “is good not because of what it effects or accomplishes, nor because of its fitness to attain some proposed end; it is good only through its willing i.e., it is good in itself” (7). He states that these specific obligations of a good will are called duties and then makes three propositions about them. Kant then says that “I should never act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law” (14). This is saying one should act in a way that everyone could act. By following Kant’s definition of duty, motives of duty, and the three propositions it proves that this argument is valid and correct, but has a major flaw. Kant assigns general duties that we must follow. He says, “we shall take up the concept of duty though with certain subjective restrictions and hindrances rather bring it out by contrast and make it shine forth more brightly” (9). He divides the word duty into perfect and imperfect duties. Perfect duties, or “pure” (2) duties, are such things as do not murder or do not steal. Imperfect duties could be something like helping another in need. He then goes on to say that perfect duties never conflict with one another. Next that if a perfect and an imperfect duty coincide then one must act from the perfect duty. An example of this would be if to help another one would have to commit murder, then one must follow the perfect duty and not kill. This also means one would not help the other too. Lastly if the conflict is between two imperfect duties then one can choose between the two according to their own discretion. The process for defining ones duty is by looking at the...
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