STUDY QUESTIONS FOR KANT'S GROUNDWORK

 

Phil. 1100, Intro. to Ethics

 

1.  Kant says that only a good will is good "without limitation", and "good in itself". (4:393-4 ) Explain what he means.

 

2.  Many seeming virtues, such as courage, resolution, self-control, Kant thinks are not good in themselves. Not even pleasure is good in itself. Why? Summarize his argument against the intrinsic value of these things.

 

3.  Explain what Kant means by a "will", a "good will", and a "holy will". Why don't moral imperatives apply to a holy will? (4:397, 4:412-14)

 

4.  Summarize and critically discuss Kant's argument that the value of "practical reason" could not merely be that it produces happiness. (4:395-97)

 

5.  What is a "maxim"? (4:400n, 4:421n) Give some examples of maxims. In what way do "maxims" play a role in Kant's account of right action?

 

6.  Kant says that a person motivated solely by her sympathy to help someone in need would not have done something of true moral worth. (4:398-99)   Why? Do you agree with him that only actions motivated by duty are morally valuable? Why or why not?

 

7.   What is an imperative? (4:413) A hypothetical imperative? (4:414) How does a hypothetical imperative differ from a categorical one?

 

8.  Kant says that moral "oughts"--such as in "I ought to help others" and "I ought not to lie"-- are categorical imperatives, not hypothetical imperatives. Explain his claim. Why does he claim this? (4:416-17)

 

9.  Summarize and explain the first formulation of the categorical imperative commanding us to act only on maxims that we could at the same time will as universal laws of nature. (4:420-424)

 

10.                     Summarize and explain the second formulation of the categorical imperative commanding us to treat people (ourselves included) as "ends in themselves" and never merely as means. (4:427-31).

 

11.                     Summarize Kant's arguments that false promises (i.e., promises I have no intention of keeping) are morally wrong, based on the first and second formulations of the categorical imperative. (4:422, 430)

 

12.                     Kant uses suicide as an illustration of a morally forbidden act (4:422, 430). Summarize his arguments, according to both the first and second formulations of the categorical imperative, that committing suicide out of a desire to minimize the pain of one's life is morally forbidden.

 

13.                     Summarize Kant's arguments, according to both the first and second formulations of the categorical imperative, that never developing one's talents is morally forbidden. Explain how this obligation is different from the obligation not to commit suicide or lie.

 

14.                     Summarize Kant's arguments, according to both the first and second formulations of the categorical imperative, that refusing to give to others in need is morally forbidden.

 

15.                     Using your results in question 11-14, explain the differences between Kant and Mill on the question, What makes actions right or wrong?

 

16.                     What is autonomy of the will? Why is it so important to morality according to Kant? (4:440-445)

 

17.                     At 4:446 Kant distinguishes between freedom of the will in a "negative" and in a "positive" sense. Explain the distinction.

 

18.                     Kant argues that the concept of a will free in a negative sense contains the idea of a will free in a positive sense. (4:446) Explain.

 

19.                     Kant says that we can only act under the Idea of freedom in a negative sense, and so we are, for all practical purposes, free in a positive sense. (4:448) Explain. Is this enough freedom to show that we are bound by moral imperatives?