Rationality, Sensibility And Ethics

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Rationality, Sensibility and Ethics Immanuel Kant begins this excerpt from Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals with the claim that nothing can be qualified as good except a good will. He supports this claim by giving examples of things we consider good, such as talents of the mind and qualities of temperament, which are not in and of themselves good because someone of bad will can utilize these qualities for bad things. There are qualities and traits which can be esteemed for their ability to service and facilitate a good will, but this does not allow us to label them as good in themselves. Kant states that, “a good will is good not because of what it performs or effects…but simply by virtue of the volition” (P.1). The conscious decision is good in itself because the decision was not inclined by any desire but the duty to do what is intrinsically good. The volition will always have an intrinsic good, no matter what the inclination is. Kant claims that an inclination for an action cannot be respected as good, because it is not connected to the principle of good will, only the effect of the action. The notion of duty, “the necessity of acting from respect for law” (P.2), plays an important role in Kant’s moral philosophy. The action of duty must exclude the influence of inclination so it may only be influenced by the objectivity of the law and therefore subjectively respected by us as good. Kant then goes on to confront the claim that moral worth is linked to agreeable condition and the promotion of happiness by stating that the moral worth of an action lies in the principle and not the effect of the action. Kant claimed that agreeable conditions and happiness can be brought about by too many other causes that do not require human rationality, and that human rationality is the only place where the “supreme and unconditional good” (P.2) can

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