Topics Worth Investigating

  1. Compare and contrast Kant's view of the good will with the Socratic Paradox expressed in Plato's Protagoras. Kant writes, "…reason is not competent to guide the will with certainty in regard to its objects and the satisfaction of all our wants…" How would Socrates react to this assessment?

  2. Kant writes:

    And, in fact, we find that the more a cultivated reason applies itself with deliberate purpose to the enjoyment of life and happiness, so much the more does the man fail of true satisfaction. And from this circumstance there arises in many, if they are candid enough to confess it, a certain degree of misology, that is, hatred of reason, especially in the case of those who are most experienced in the use of it, because after calculating all the advantages they derive, I do not say from the invention of all the arts of common luxury, but even from the sciences (which seem to them to be after all only a luxury of the understanding), they find that they have, in fact, only brought more trouble on their shoulders. rather than gained in happiness; and they end by envying, rather than despising, the more common stamp of men who keep closer to the guidance of mere instinct and do not allow their reason much influence on their conduct.

    Compare Kant's reasoning with Jeremy Bentham's hedonistic calculus. How would Bentham respond to Kant's point that the pain of calculation out factors the actions itself. Would the validity of this argument depend on the personality type of the person who is evaluating the action?

  3. Can you construct counterexamples to Kant's view that actions done for the sake of duty have more moral worth in every case that actions done in accordance with duty? Would this doctrine imply that the development of good character is morally neutral? Does a good person who acts rightly have less moral worth than a deceiver who is honest only upon occasion?

  4. In the reading, Kant argues that an act of self-preservation, if done from inclination has no moral worth, but an act of self-preservation if done for the sake of duty has moral worth. At the same time he states, "calm deliberation" makes a villain far more dangerous. Would the foregoing statements, if taken as premises, imply that for Kant, the action of a soldier who, against his natural inclination, leaves his post in order to preserve his life is an action of moral worth, whereas the action of a soldier who is inclined to stay at his post in accordance with his duty, in spite of great personal hazard, has no moral worth?

  5. Kant contrasts practical and pathological love. Distinguish between these two, apparently essentially different, kinds of love. Is the crucial point of difference the distinction between affection and will?