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The Christmas Conspiracy!




"'. . . that He may teach us about His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.'
For from Zion will go forth the Law
Even the Word of God from Jerusalem
Micah 4:2


Immanuel Kant represents the very opposite of utilitarianism, for he viewed ethics as deontological rather than teleological; intrinsic good, rather than instrumental good, was for Kant the only proper subject of morality. Hence certain acts have intrinsic rightness which is not determined by their consequences. Kant wanted to get completely away from an ethic of inclination; this he did by drawing a radical bifurca [287] tion between facts and values (between scientific assertions which convey information that is true or false about the phenomenal world and moral judgments relating to the noumenal dimension). Facts have no bearing on morality; only duty is to be heeded-duty determined by man’s moral consciousness apart from God. God is a noumenal object for Kant; hence God cannot enter the phenomenal world to deliver propositional, informative, true moral commandments. Yet the only area in which man has any right to be absolutistic, according to Kant, is in the area of practical morality, for god is found in our experience of ethics. God is not revealed, but is the projection of the morally autonomous man; God is postulated as the ultimate moral enforcer. It is not "true" that God will judge the lawless in a final day of judgment, but nevertheless the moral obligations given in conscience can be "considered as" commands from a God who will redress moral imbalance beyond phenomenal history. We might say that for Kant, although it is not "true" that God is genuine Law-Giver and Judge, it is helpful to think of Him as such. The absoluteness of God is found within the moral experience of man; the moral dictates of man’s self-sufficient ethical consciousness are dignified by referring them to a (superfluous) "god." Having drawn a hard and fast distinction between facts and values, Kant maintains that the only thing which is "good" without qualification is a good will; acts are morally right when joined with this good will, and agents are morally good only if they act from duty. It is not enough that the moralist acts in accord with his duty; he must act solely because it is his duty. Kant continues (with his faulty faculty psychology) to say that a good will acts in accord with reason, for man’s sole obligation is to reason. Reason shall excogitate objective maxims with which the moral agent is to align his subjective maxims. The requirements of reason must be met in the objective maxim, and Kant revealed (based on what authority?) that a maxim is in accord with reason if universalizable with consistency and reversability: [288] that is, if attuned with Kant’s categorical imperative. The categorical imperative is the necessary and sufficient criterion of right behavior. If the moralist can take his proposed behavior and imagine that everyone followed the same course of behavior, and if that universalized activity were not inconsistent, and if the moralist could allow anyone else to do as he plans to do irrespective of his position, then that behavior is right. It should be done from duty, with a good will. Even overlooking the fact that this is simply Kant’s word (and view of reason, etc.) against someone else’s, that moral judgments have been deprived of the qualities of truth and falsity, that Kant’s view is built up on an erroneous faculty psychology, that Kant cannot supply the power to effect what reason prescribes as a moral obligation, that Kant’s view of duty-motivation is somewhat artificial, still Kant’s ethic faces insurmountable problems.  
The rationalistic formalism of Kant sought to objectivize morality; yet it turned out making all value relative to the rational will. Kant’s view that man’s one and only value is loyalty to his obligation to be rational is contrived and arbitrary (Why should man have only one value? Why should that value be found in rationalism rather than its opposite?). How does Kant derive obligation from rationalization? Most everyone can see that morality is far more than logical consistency; on Kant’s basis a sternly self-sufficient person would never need to help others as long as he could consistently cling to his cherished self-sufficiency in time of need. In the categorical imperative there is a measure of ambiguity as to what will count as a contradiction when a maxim is universalized; hence ethics is deprived of clear direction. Kant made the categorical imperative the sufficient test for rightness; yet acts which everyone considers to be amoral can pass the test and come out being obligatory (e.g., wearing blue socks can be consistently universalized irrespective of a person’s position in life, hence it becomes man’s duty to wear blue socks!). Maxims which are generally agreed to as morally binding are [289] abrogated by Kant’s principle; for instance, "honesty is the best policy" does not universalize with reversibility, that is, it does not necessarily apply irrespective to circumstance. "Honesty is the best policy" is a conditional, not a categorical, imperative; under the condition that a business is running short of capital and man-power, cheating could be viewed as the best policy, especially if feeding the family is held in more esteem than a good reputation. On the other hand, if someone did not need profits at all, honesty might be indifferent to him altogether. The duty to honesty is categorical only if Kant can specify some universal, value-oriented end for man; rational consistency fails to guarantee categorical obligations. A clever person could use Kant’s categorical imperative principle to legitimize his immorality (e.g., everyone who has a certain set of fingerprints can steal; since the "moralist" is the only one who has those fingerprints, he can continue with his nefarious deeds). Qualifications can be built right into the rule which the categorical imperative legitimizes; self-interest and inclination can be reintroduced therefore. The categorical imperative permits of contrary maxims being universalized, which is ironical since Kant exulted in rational consistency as a supreme value!  
Kant never explained why it was better to be moral than economic; and although he would have repudiated it, it is hard to see how relativism could be prevented from entering Kant’s ethic given the incommensurability of different scales of values. Kant’s notion of a good will acting from duty was muddled; he held that the virtue of certain acts lies in acting in such a way because it is dutiful. Hence, being-honest is not virtuous in itself or on some other grounds; what is virtuous is being-honest-because-honesty-is-virtuous. When this concept is analyzed it is seen to be virtuous because of the duty attaching to it also; hence, what is virtuous is being-honest-because-honesty-is-virtuous because-being-thus-honest-is-virtuous. The infinite regress entailed is obvious -- and deadly. In later development of his ethic Kant came to emphasize the [290] value of free and autonomous personality. But what justifies personality as a value? A scientist might just as arbitrarily posit impersonalism as valuable. In appealing to the "noumenal self" (or transcendent personality) of man Kant inevitably ran into insuperable difficulties with explicating this notion. Furthermore, the determinism inherent in Kant’s discussion of the phenomenal realm contradicts his view of human freedom in the ethical sphere; in his useless attempt to reconcile the contradiction he ended up bifurcating man and using an ambiguous notion of "freedom." In working from a false metaphysics (view of God and man) and a false epistemology Kant could not avoid destroying the credibility of ethics.  

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Christmas Conspiracy


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