This is a short note from my Roam Research second brain. Here’s a free guide where I introduce you to Roam & Building A Second Brain. 

Metadata of Note

Type:🍃 Leaf (Nomenclature present here)

Source (Video): Justice with Michael Sandel: Mind Your Motive

Tags: #morality #philosophy #humanity


Immanuel Kant’s View of Morality

[[Immanuel Kant]]’s proposal for categorical morality,
  • He does agree that pain and pleasure are important but does not agree that are all there is. We are also driven by freedom and reason.

“When we’re only chasing pleasure or avoiding pain, we are slaves of these emotions. We’re just acting acc to necessity. This is not freedom. Freedom is the opposite of necessity.”

  • Categorical morality = To act freely ( #Autonomy ) = to act according to a law I set for myself.
  • The opposite is Heteronomy = to act according to ways I didn’t choose. To focus on choosing the best means to an end, rather than focus on the end in itself.


What gives an action a “moral worth”?

  • It has to do with the motive, the intention, quality of will. It does not have to do with the result or consequences.
    • The right thing for the right reason.
    • The motive of duty > motives of inclination.
    • To rise above self-interest/circumstance.
  • The opposite is doing something out of inclinations — wants, preferences, impulses.
    • E.g. A shopkeeper who does not shortchange a new customer out of fear of word getting out/reputation is still wrong since they are doing it for the wrong reason.
    • For E.g. “Honesty is the best policy. It’s also the most profitable.” –> this lacks moral worth.
    • E.g. “Misspeller is the hero of a spelling bee.” –> If the 13-year-old boy who gave back the award gave it out of both a sense of duty + not wanting to “feel like a slime”, it still has moral worth and one does not cancel the other.


If acting morally means acting autonomously + acting according to the moral law, how can it be objective? How can it be uniform amongst people? What is the categorical imperative?

Immanuel Kant’s response is two-fold:

  • First: The Formula of the Universal Law E.g. I should not make a false promise because if everybody made a false promise, then a “promise” would not hold meaning, and hence I should not.
    • This is a test of whether the maxim corresponds with the categorical imperative. It is not the reason. The reason to test this maxim is to understand if you’re counting your needs & desires > over everyone else’s.
  • Second: The Formula of Humanity As An End. In Kant’s mind, the one thing that has inherent absolute value is man, and humanity as a whole, since we are all rational beings.
    • So “act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time, as an end.”

Kant’s respect for humanity and man is unlike love/altruism/care. Because the latter has to do with who they are as people. Respect is respect for #humanity which is universal.