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Onora O'Neill: Kantian Approaches to Some Famine Problems

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PART FIVE: MORALITY AND ITS CRITICS

Kantian Approaches to Some Famine Problems
ON ORA O'NEILL

Onora O'Neill is a Principal ofNewnham ing on Principle and Faces of Hunger.

College, Cambridge. Her works include

tions and maxims, is of litde importance, for given any intention, we can formulate the corresponding maxim by deleting references to particular times, places, and persons. In what follows I shall take the terms "maxim" and "intention" as equivalent. 'Whenever we act intentionally, we have at least one maxim and can, if we reflect, state what it is. (There is of course room for self-deception here"I'm only keeping the wolf from the door" we may claim as we wolf down enough to keep ourselves overweight, or, more to the point, enough to feed someone else who hasn't enough food.) 'When we want to work out whether an act we propose to do is right or wrong, according to Kant, we should look at our maxims and not,at how much misery or happiness the act is likely to produce, and whether it does betrer at increasing happiness than other available acts. We just hkve to check that the act we have in mind will not use anyone as a mere means, and, if possible, that it will treat other persons as ends in themselves.

A SIMPLIFIED ACCOUNT OF KANT'S ETHICS KANT'S MORAL THEORY has acquired the reputation of being forbiddingly difficult to understand and, once understood, excessively demanding in its requirements. I don't believe that this reputation has been wholly earned, and I am going to try to undermine it. I shall try to reduce some of the' difficulties, and try to show the implications of a Kantian moral theory for action toward those who do or may suffer famine. Finally, I shall compare I
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