Organized Being In Kant’s Groundwork For The Metaphysics Of Morals

1645 words - 7 pages

Kant's argument that good will is the supreme purpose of man's existence based on observations of the influence that reason exerts on the will is inconsistent with what may be observed in nature. It presupposes an intentional cosmos wherein an organized being's purpose, and thus its standard of value, can be extracted from an examination of its constitution and faculties. While this presupposition is logically consistent with the rest of Kant's moral theory it does not coincide with what we can actually observe in nature. The following essay will examine, one, the idea of an organized being, secondly, why Kant proposes it, then we will contrast this idea with what we observe, and finally, analyse the extent of the harm done to the overarching theory of morality presented in the Groundwork if this concept is impaired.

According to Kant, "In the physical constitution of an organized being, that is, a being adapted suitably to the purposes of life, we assume it as a fundamental principle that no organ for any purpose will be found but what is also the fittest and best adapted for that purpose." (6). In other words, we must assume that the physical construction of an entity can be attributed to the tendency of that structure to promote a certain end, life. Although the very term "organized" seems to imply an intentionality by which the arrangement of the subject was determined it is important to note that this is not merely implied, but is an explicit facet of Kant's argument. He goes on later to say, "nature generally in the distribution of her capacities has adapted the means to the end," (7). This premise is applied not only, as he mentions, to physical traits, but also to all other elements of a being's design including what he calls their "practical faculties", or those elements which prevail upon the will. Since the construction of an entity ought to be that which is best for the attainment of the "proper ends of nature" in all aspects we should be able to conclude what those functions ought to be through their examination.

Kant proposes that the distinction of purposes between reason and instinct is apparent because if man's sole purpose was his own well-being then the only factor that nature would allow to leverage his will would be instinct, the desires and inclinations thereof being entirely sufficient for that end. However, that man must have some other purpose beyond his own happiness is evident from the influence that reason exerts on the will. If man's object were his happiness alone then "should reason have been communicated to this favoured creature ...it must only have served it to contemplate the happy constitution of its nature...but not that it should subject its desires to that weak and delusive guidance and meddle bunglingly with the purpose of nature." (6) Reason, in Kant's view, could not have been intended by nature as an auxiliary for enhancing man's pursuit of happiness. He points out his observation that...

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