Immanuel Kant's Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals
In his publication, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Immanuel Kant supplies his readers with a thesis that claims morality can be derived from the principle of the categorical imperative. The strongest argument to support his thesis is the difference between actions in accordance with duty and actions in accordance from duty. To setup his thesis, Kant first draws a distinction between empirical and “a priori” concepts. Empirical concepts are ideas we reach from our experiences in the world. On the other hand and in contrast, “a priori” concepts are ideas we reach as an end point of reasoning prior to or apart from any experience of how things occur in the world. Kant then claims that moral actions are supposed done for the reason of morality alone. This train of thought leads to the conclusion that an understanding of morality must be based on “a priori” concepts of reason. Truly moral ideas are then universally valid if and only if they are based on “a priori” concepts.
From this idea of “a priori” concepts, Kant begins his thesis with the notion that the only thing in the world that is a qualified good is the “good will”, even if its efforts bring about a not necessarily good result. A “good will” is good because of the willing that is involved. Two main implications arise with this idea of the “good will”. The first implication is moral actions cannot have impure motivations. There are many impure motivations but Kant tends to focus mainly on the motives of the pursuit of happiness and self-preservation. Second, moral actions cannot be based on the speculations of the probable results. This action is not good in itself but good because it brought about a more desirable outcome. Thus, Kant arrives at the conclusion that for an action to be considered to have genuine moral worth its motive must be that of dutifulness to moral law.
In Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant lays out three propositions about duty. The first is the will is a morally good action if it is done in accordance from duty, as opposed to an action done in accordance with duty.
The second proposition is that actions are judged by the "maxim" or principle that was the motivation behind the action. If someone undertakes an action with the only motivation being that of a sense of duty, they are following a valid “a priori” action. On the other hand if they decide to undertake an action in order to bring about a desired result, then their motivation is one that is beyond mere duty. Kant’s third proposition then explains that is not the respect for the power of the law but rather it is the moral motivation of an individual who acknowledges that the law is an imperative of reason that trumps our other interests.
The will, as Kant describes, is of practical reason. A rational being is an individual who has the capacity to execute their behavior by the conceptions of laws. This...