Tag Archives: Immanuel Kant

More equal than others?

Pigs graffitiWhy should we follow the principle that, when applying the Golden Rule, we should act so as to preserve, protect and promote the Golden Rule itself?

Well, if you subscribed to the Rule would you want others to preserve, protect and promote the Rule? Yes? Then you should preserve, protect and promote the Rule yourself.

This follows Publish and be damned as number 16 in a series of posts on the Golden Rule. The first was Any fool can make a rule.

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The miller, his son and the donkey

Arrested French Resistance fighters, 1944

Arrested French Resistance fighters, 1944

Last time we suggested that value pluralism1 should only pose a problem for the Golden Rule if we apply the Rule simplistically, which the Rule itself should steer us away from. We will now consider another aspect which, ironically, could imply the Golden Rule might often be impossible to obey in practice, and particularly when we need it most.

This follows Value pluralism and the Golden Rule as number 14 in a series of posts on the Golden Rule. The first was Any fool can make a rule. Next is Publish and be damned.

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Ifs and buts

Mourning angel, Florence

Mourning angel, Florence

This follows Payback time as number 11 in a series of posts on the Golden Rule. The first was Any fool can make a rule. Next one is Two big ideas.

What is ‘categorical’ about Kant‘s categorical imperative? This is to distinguish it from a hypothetical imperative, for example:

(i) If you want to (or have to) achieve y, then do x.

A categorical imperative would be simply:

(ii) Do x.

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Payback time

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant

This follows Once more without feeling as number 10 in a series of posts on the Golden Rule. The first was Any fool can make a rule. Next one is Ifs and buts.

It is now time to get to grips with Kant’s categorical imperative.

This will not be an exhaustive or comprehensive account. The focus will be on what kind of thing the categorical imperative is – its logical status, if you like.

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Once more without feeling

Rabbits

Rabbits

This follows Conflict and compassion as number 9 in a series of posts on the Golden Rule. The first was Any fool can make a rule. Next one is Payback time.

We said last time that Kant did not want his readers to think his notion of duty – formulated as the categorical imperative – was just a rewrite of the Silver Rule (the Golden Rule in its negative formulation). He saw the Silver Rule as both banal and flawed.

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Conflict and compassion

Et tu, Brute? Vincenzo Camuccini: Death of Caesar

Et tu, Brute? Vincenzo Camuccini: Death of Caesar

This follows Crime and punishment as number 8 in a series of posts on the Golden Rule. The first was Any fool can make a rule. Next one is Once more without feeling.

Last time we asked the question: what if two or more duties to different people conflict? How can the Golden Rule or the Silver Rule be used to choose between them?

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Crime and punishment

Theodor Kittelsen: Smeden og bageren

Theodor Kittelsen (1857–1914): Smeden og bageren

This follows Good Samaritan as number 7 in a series of posts on the Golden Rule. The first was Any fool can make a rule. Next one is Conflict and compassion.

Kant’s third objection to the Rules is that they exclude

duties to mete out just punishments to others (for the criminal would argue on this ground against the judge who sentences him). (1785, 2017:30)1

A thief could argue for example that the judge should not sentence him, because the judge would not want to be sentenced himself.

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Good Samaritan

Aimé Morot: The Good Samaritan

Aimé Morot (1850–1913): The Good Samaritan

This follows Self self self as number 6 in a series of posts on the Golden Rule. The first was Any fool can make a rule. Next one is Crime and punishment.

Kant’s second objection to the Rule is that it excludes benevolent duties to others. Yes it might be true that

many a man would gladly consent to not receiving benefits from others if that would let him off from showing benevolence to them. (1785, 2017:30)1

But we have already said the Rules can and should be applied in their own spirit. If I want to be treated according to my own preferences, then I should treat others according to their preferences. So I would only be let off showing benevolence to others if those others did not want benevolence. It would be a strange duty which persisted even though its intended beneficiaries wanted the opposite.

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References

1 Kant‚ Immanuel 1785, 2017. Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals. Translated and annotated by Jonathan Bennett. Available online at: http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/assets/pdfs/kant1785.pdf.

© Chris Lawrence 2018

[Adapted from thinkingmakesitso, a blog of mine from 10 years ago.]

Self self self

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant

This follows Going platinum as number 5 in a series of posts on the Golden Rule. The first was Any fool can make a rule. Next one is Good Samaritan.

Immanuel Kant was rather scathing about our Rules. He was talking about Silver rather than Gold, but he could have had both in mind:

Don’t think that the banal ‘Don’t do to anyone else what you wouldn’t want done to you’ could serve here as a guide or principle. It is only a consequence of the real principle, and a restricted and limited consequence at that. It can’t be a universal law, because it doesn’t provide a basis for duties to oneself, or benevolent duties to others (for many a man would gladly consent to not receiving benefits from others if that would let him off from showing benevolence to them!), or duties to mete out just punishments to others (for the criminal would argue on this ground against the judge who sentences him). (1785, 2017:30)1

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