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An Introduction to Philosophy - 1


Department of Social Sciences and Humanities. BA (Hons.) Interdisciplinary Human Studies. Mind, Reason and Reality: An Introduction to Philosophy -1 . (1) The aim of this module is to introduce the student to philosophical enquiry by considering a range of philosophical questions connected with the mind and the relations between the mind and the world.

(2) This is a philosophy course. What constraints are implied by the word 'philosophy'? Whatever fuller answer grows out of our discussions, only one constraint needs to be mentioned at this stage: our approach will be critical. In other words, although some of our interest will be historical, as we take up themes in the history of philosophy, our constant concern will be with the acceptability or otherwise of the ideas we discuss. (3) You are expected to purchase a copy of the following book: An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis By John Hospers. Routledge, 1990. You might also find it useful to consult: Simply Philosophy By Brendan Wilson. Edinburgh University Press, 2002 Guidance on how to read these books will be given during the module. Other reading will be recommended later, and the tutors will provide handouts covering aspects of the course. You will

. to thoughts and feelings? [3] Materialists maintain that there only physical facts. desire. and Reality . decide and feel is all part of what it is to have a mind. along with all other physical objects. that therefore facts about minds and properties of minds are physical facts. The cells out of which the brain and central nervous system are composed are called neurons. Reaso'riMitid.s that humans have minds. The Mind . is extended in space (along three dimensions). The capacity to believe. I can believe that Bradford is a city.Intetlf{_clttlinary Human Studies. I can decide to go for a walk. Ll. How does that lump of matter in our heads give rise to consciousness.I 2004. I can feel a pain in my left foot. [2] The Mind . But we also have bodies part of which consist of brains.Body Problem is the problem saying what the relationship is between minds and brains. The first is called Substance Dualism. [1] One important difference between humans and sticks and stones i. The substance dualist maintains that the mind is a thing or substance that does not occupy space and that those mental properties of mind such as believing that Bradford is a city are likewise non-spatial. [4] There are two dualist positions. My body including my brain. Dualists maintain that facts about minds are mental facts that are different in kind from physical facts. The atoms group together to form molecules that in turn group together to form cells. The brain is made up of tiny particles called atoms.Body Problem. I can desire to eat a banana.

i.The second form of dualism is a weaker version of the first. which is a physical substance. she finds out all there is to know about what goes on inside a human's brain when they describe what they are seeing as 'red'. white. It's normally dismissed in psychology textbooks in a couple of paragraphs. Mary is equipped with special glasses which she is unable to remove. but some can have two kinds of property. Mary and the Special Glasses. and shades of grey. In time Mary becomes fascinated with science. and eventually becomes the world's greatest expert on the structure of the brain. So whereas a particular tree. designed to show that not all facts are physical facts. my brain which is also a physical substance has non-physical properties such as the property of believing that Bradford is a city. Here is a thought experiment dreamed up by Australian philosopher Frank Jackson. This version is called Property Dualism. [5] In the lectures I shall focus on the stronger version of dualism (since I think that there are good reasons for supposing that philosophical and scientific objections to the strong version will transfer to the weaker version). She discovers all the physical facts about the brains of colour perceivers: how the neurons fire. At her birth and before she has any visual experiences. physical things or substances. Substance Dualism was articulated in its most sophisticated form by the French philosopher Rene Descartes and I will discuss his line of thought in lectures*. i. how the brain chemistry . e.e. [6] It strikes some people as inherently absurd that one should spend much time discussing dualism. According to it there is only one kind of thing or substance. that there are in addition mental facts. These glasses ensure that Mary never has any colour experience apart from black. A girl called Mary is born. has only physical properties (such as the property of being sixty feet tall). physical properties and mental properties.

is .

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------* In the lectures I shall be discussing Meditations 1. During the semester you should read all of this chapter. so you might like to read the original for yourself. Mary discovers a new visual fact .balanced etc. Then one day the scientists place a red tomato in front of her and remove the special glasses. Think about it. Hospers' discussion of Dualism is in Chapter 6. 2. .the experience of seeing a red tomato which she has never had before. This material is not in Hospers. and 6 from his Mediations on First Philosophv Translated by John Cottingham. But Mary previously knew all the physical facts. CUP. 1986. So colour experiences are not physical facts.

mean that we know nothing (although we believe lots of things. in other words.Interdisciplinary Human Studies Mind. even if in a dream I believe that 2 + 2 = 4. requires that. This is to set the standard for knowledge very high indeed. (x knows that p entails p. [3] Descartes found his proposition p: "I think. unless I can exclude the possibility that I am dreaming. but x believes that p does not entail p. But Descartes wants knowledge (about the relationship between the mind and the body). we regard mathematical truths as certain). I cannot know that I am in a lecture theatre in the University of Bradford. [1] Descartes cast doubt on the possibility of perceptual knowledge by introducing the dream hypothesis: I believe right now that I am in a lecture theatre in the University of Bradford (P) but. for instance. a belief p must be found such that the truth of p follows from the belief: that a thinker knows that p in virtue of believing it. Descartes raises the sceptical stakes even higher by the introduction of the evil genius that spends his or her time deceiving me about the truths of mathematics. about both the external world and mathematics). I do not know that 2 + 2 = 4 (although. ordinarily. and. if I am dreaming right now that p. Descartes. This must be true whenever he asserts or thinks it. I do not know that p even though I believe it). Reason and Reality L2 Descartes and Substance Dualism - 1. therefore I am". This thought experiment is directed towards showing that. somehow. [2] It seems to follow that these thought experiments .if taken as serious possibilities . We can initially reconstruct his line of thought as follows: .

feeling (pain) etc. believing. for Descartes. (7) If I (NM) did not exist then I (NM) could not think. (5) So. but not about what is within the mind i. e. that there is a table in front of me. (4) If I (NM) believe something then I (NM) think. (6) Therefore if I (NM) mistakenly believe that I (NM) think then I think. (8) So I (NM) exist. [4] It is crucial to note that the argument is framed in the first person. about how things seem to me. So scepticism cannot be total: I know that I think.(1) I (NM) think. doubting. (2) If (1) is false then I (NM) mistakenly believe that (1) is true. although I cannot be certain e.g. I (NM) think. covers many modes such as: inferring. (A bit of jargon: Descartes takes himself to have proven that thought is his essential property (A property P is essential to a thing X if and only if X could not both exist and fail to exemplify P). . I can be mistaken about what is without the mind. Why? Thought. (3) But I (NM) believe something. Also. it must be true that it seems to me that there is a table in front of me.

but it will not do. Hence the conclusion is assumed as a premise. Consider the idea that.Even if we agree that Descartes has shown that thought is his essential property. To decide which is which. Suppose we try instead: 'There is a thought going on (so) I exist'. This suggestion eliminates the first person pronoun. if (a) and (b) are thoughts entertained by different minds then there is no inconsistency. [5] A problem for Descartes: What entitles him to use the first person pronoun? We represented Descartes as entertaining the thought 'I am thinking (so) I exist'. that thought is not a property of a body. for what if someone other than me is thinking. we might take him to be asserting the proposition: 'There is a thought (so) thinking is going on'. but I cease to exist? This inference is invalid. If (a) and (b) are (simultaneously) thoughts entertained by the same mind then that mind harbours an inconsistent pair of thoughts. since Descartes is not entitled to use first person pronouns that denote individual things or substances. Consider the pair of thoughts: (a) It is thought that grass is green. But the use of the pronoun'!' in the premise seems to presuppose his existence. However. desires and feelings are immaterial. This will not do. When I use the pronoun 'I' I am referring to my mind and not to yours. we can offer a further reconstruction of Descartes argument for the conclusion that thought is his essential property: . Nor has he shown that mental properties such as beliefs. (b) It is thought that grass is not green. he has not shown. [6] With all of this in mind. requires that we give some content to the idea of same mind or different mind. at this stage.

(A) (2) If there is a property then there must be a substance to which it belongs. (3) & (5)). (A) (6) There is a substance to which this thought belongs. (From (1). which is known for certain). (From (1)) (3) A thought is a property. (A) ( 4) If there is a thought then there is a substance to which it belongs. To which we may add: (7) I could not exist without thought so thought is my essential attribute (But what about when I am in a dreamless sleep?) RF.(1) Everything that exists is composed of a substance and properties. designated by "I". (From (1) & (3)) (5) There is a thought (= I (NM) think. .

ii. [3]. and iv). [3] Spatial extension is my body's essential property. Reason and Reality. (From [1] via the principle: if p is conceivable then p is logically possible. then x and y have all their non psychological properties in common).Interdisciplinary Human Studies Mind. L.3 Descartes and Substance Dualism -2 The following is a brief reconstruction of an argument that may be found in Descartes' Meditations. [4] So it is not logically possible for my body to exist without spatial extension (from [3]). [2] So it is logically possible that I could exist without spatial extension. (From [2]. See notes i. [1] Thought is my essential property (See note v below). iii. . [5] Therefore I am not a body. The argument needs to be read against the comments on page 2. and [4] via the principle that if anything x is the same as anything y.

it is conceivable that I do not have one. RF. if p is logically impossible infer that p is inconceivable. This principle is plausible in some cases.(i) We say that a sentence or proposition is logically possible if it is consistent with the laws of logic. (iii) The second premise in the above argument advances a very weak claim: it does not say that it is physically possible for me to exist without a body. If I am dreaming now that I have a body. I do not know whether I am dreaming now. For instance a round square is logically impossible. Can you conceive of one? (v) The support for the first premise is provided by the dream argument. A sentence or proposition is physically possible if it is consistent with the laws of nature. it follows that I do not know I have a body: that is. (This is called begging the question). then it does not follow that I do have a body. There are other kinds of possibility as well. Since. Equivalently. If it did the argument would assume what it sets out to prove. It then follows by the principle that it is logically possible that I do not have a body. For instance we may say that a sentence is technologically possible if it is consistent with current technologies. (ii) To say that something is logically possible is to make a very weak claim since many logical possibilities are physically impossible. (iv) Why should we even accept that it is logically possible for me to exist without a body? Descartes subscribes to the principle that if p is conceivable then infer that p is logically possible. . since in general if I dream that p then it does not follow that p is true. according to Descartes.

such as being triangular and being in motion. (Evolutionary biology). THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST SUBSTANCE DUALISM. But there are other arguments for Substance Dualism described in Appendix 1. in virtue of what is. How can immaterial minds cause bodily behaviour? How can happenings to bodies cause changes in mind? (ii) The scientific objection(s). feeling pain.Studies Mind Reason and_ L4. (Equivalently the inference from 'p is logically impossible' to 'p is inconceivable' is invalid). The essential property of body is spatial extension and its geometrical modes. The theory violates the conservation laws. for instance. [2] The following are the chief objections to Descartes account of the mind . 1 presented what 1 take to be Descartes' main argument for this view. The theory fails to explain how mind could emerge from matter. (Physics). believing. a particular belief a . (iii) The problem of the unity of consciousness. dreaming. The essential property of the mind is thought which includes doubting. [1 ] We have seen (I hope) that Descartes maintains that the mind is an immaterial substance contingently lodged in a material body. it fails because the inference from: 'I can conceive that p is true'.Interdisciplinary H. However.body relation: (i) The causal objection. therefore 'p is logically possible' is invalid. Consider the truncated pyramid example. willing. If minds are immaterial. being aware of a yellow after-image in one's visual field &c.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------Appendix 1 Other arguments for Mind .property of my mind rather than the mind of another? This leads to the next objection. Descartes' account of the relation between mind and body yields an incoherent account of agency. [b] Category Arguments. An action is free only if it is caused by my mind. Thoughts and sensations belong to different categories. which cannot directly affect matter. So minds mediate. but not how heavy my thought that Bradford is in Yorkshire is. (v) The Action Problem. Again. For instance it makes sense to ask how heavy my brain is. [d] The argument from Freedom of the Will. There is. Mathematical knowledge is nonsensory and yet we can acquire it. [a] The Epistemic Argument. (A block of the course is devoted to the topic of freedom of the will) RF . How do I know that other people have minds? .body Dualism. . surgery or other life-threatening trauma. last I dreamed that I was in Paris. claimed. a continuation of conscious experience in some 40% of cases where a person's physical body is comatose after an accident. yet they can affect our thought processes. as it were. it is. Numbers are abstract entities. How far was the dream from the end of my bed? [c] The argument from Near Death Experiences (NDE). (iv) The Other Minds Problem. otherwise it is unfree. between the realm of number and the physical world in virtue of their immateriality .

Department of Social Sciences and Humanities. Members of this school hold that scientific explanations of human behaviour will not make reference to unobservable mental processes. But it is not inconsistent at all: thus one says of a table that it has four legs etc. but will confine their attention to what can be observed and measured. This seems at first sight to be inconsistent with saying that I have a body. The table just is its parts suitably related. Materialism is a very old doctrine. the materialist maintains that I am my body and nothing more. AB maintains that mental predicates actually pick out aspects of bodily behaviour. In answer to the question 'what am I?'. In the same way. (1) All of the theories we shall discuss from now on are varieties of materialism. the Skinner school. (3) AB needs to be distinguished from Methodological Behaviourism [MB]. Democritus held in the 5th Century BC that nothing exists but material atoms combining and clashing in the void. If AB were false then MB still might be plausible. q In fact AB is false and MB is highly implausible. The latter is not a philosophy of mind but a methodological selfdenying ordinance of psychologists of. (2) Analytic Behaviourism [AB] is the doctrine that mental predicates have meanings.Analytic Behaviourism. for instance. The relations between AB and MB are these: if AB were true this would make MB plausible. and in such cases no one supposes that the table is one thing and its parts or 'body' another. the materialist maintains that I just am the sum of my bodily parts functioning in the manner expressed by saying that I am a living body or material organism. but their meanings can be captured by translating them into the physical language [= language whose terms refer to nothing but physical things]. On the Cartesian picture of the mind. Reason and Reality: introduction to Philosophy I SS-IOI2M. . (Modem materialists would allow subatomic particles).Mind. mental predicates pick out non-spatial properties of an immaterial substance. For instance. Alternatives to Dualism: 1 .

(4) More precisely. AB asserts an identity of meaning between the statement e. The predicate remains true of the sugar even if it is never placed in water. The predicate x is soluble is a dispositional one: it means that if the sugar were to be placed in water then x would dissolve. or at least have a dispositional component.. . (5) Some mental predicates do appear to fit the dispositional model. All other mental predicates are to be translated in accord with the above illustration. knowledge of French. intelligence.. Consider e. Mary could be angry without giving the slightest sign to anyone that she is.. For instance. Similarly. and generosity are dispositional. AB proposes to translate mental predicates into predicates that ascribe dispositions to bodies to behave in certain ways For instance.g. There is an obvious line of objection to the proposed translation. Mary is angry And: If Mary is placed in observable circumstances C then she will shout or go red in the face.g. . Mary could still be angry at a certain time even if the observable circumstances C never came to prevail. This sugar is soluble. This is true but does not refute AB in its dispositional form. I And: This sugar is not actually dissolving.

will tell me how intelligent I am. This is because AB attributes no microstructure to anger and intelligence. this means Mary will display assent-behaviour [= say "yes"] if asked the question: "Is Pegasus in the garden?" But Mary will only display assent behaviour if she understands English and does not wish to deceive her questioner! So the dispositional analysis fails because it leans upon other mental predicates.Descartes thinks of the mind as a kind of ghostly theatre with an audience of one. as it were.body problem must at least solve the causal problem of the interaction between mind and body. Roger Fellows . or how generous I am. but no amount of looking within. According to the dispositional view. Consider the following statement: I Mary believes that Pegasus is in her garden. But mind to body causation is still a puzzle for AB. These character traits do seem to depend upon my public behaviour. I think that this single example is sufficient to show that AB is false. (8) A solution to the mind . (6) It is plausible to divide the realm of the mental into three divisions: Character traits Psychological states (Propositional attitudes] Mental events (7) AB is quite hopeless as an account of psychological states and mental events. which have not been translated. unlike the fragile disposition of glass. which is due to its underlying physical constitution. how good my French is.

although considered in themselves they are alike. (3) Numerical identity must be distinguished from qualitative identity as. (1) The Identity Theory of mind [ID] maintains that mental states and events are identical with neural states and events in the brain. Alternatives to Dualism: 2 . The Identity Theory.g. Roger Fellows . believing that the sky is blue] is identical with a state of the brain. for example. (2) In general. for instance. (a) ID solves the problems of mental-causation. the property of being in a certain mental state [e. This kind of identity is numerical identity and is familiar from mathematics. and vice versa. [Here the property chosen for illustration is the property of being divisible by two].IOI2M. what do we mean by 'x is identical with y'? Identity is that relation each thing bears to itself [which must seem a very unhelpful explanation!]. and the event of my being in pain is identical with C. The bank notes are different objects and so are not numerically identical. And.fibre firing. Reason and Reality: an introduction to Philosophy I. (b) The neural dependence of mental phenomena. 2+2 = 4 is an example of numerical identity. SS. and every property which is true of y is true of x. since it is true that 2+2/ 2 = 2. They have different spatial properties. when we say that two five-pound notes are identical. A formal explanation of the identity relation is this: x = y if and only if every property which is true of x is true ofy. Department of Social Sciences and Humanities. the unity of consciousness and the identity of persons through time. (4) Some arguments in favour of ID. Thus. ID allows that mental states and events are 'inner' and not reducible to behaviour. it must also be true that 4/2 = 2.Mind.

(c) The bat objection: no amount of physical information concerning bat brains would tell us what it is like to be a bat. Therefore my experience of a green after-image cannot be identical with a brain-event. No state of my brain is green. (b) "Mary believes that grass is green" does not have the same meaning as any statement referring to Mary's neural processes. I can doubt that any particular event is going on in my brain. By using echo-location a bat can 'see' even when it is completely dark]. (5) Some arguments against ID (a) Many rest upon the claim that the identity theory violates the principle of identity. Likewise no amount of physical knowledge . Therefore my pain is not identical with a brain-event. This non-identity of meaning entails lack of identity between mental and physical processes. (d) Dispositions are given a categorial base [unlike the dispositions of AB]. . (ii) I cannot doubt that I have a pain.(c) The origins of every type of animal appear to be exhaustively physical in nature. Two illustrations: (i) I have a green image in my visual field. Knowledge of bat brains does not reveal bat consciousness. [Bats fly around the world using echo-location to find their way about.

Thus. for any x. it does not follow that every coin is identical with matter of the same type.fibre firings.g. so that. This thought leads us to the Token Identity theory. for instance. (5) Hospers in his book does not distinguish between two different versions of the identity theory of mind. The Token Identity theory holds that when. . the property of x's belief that London is a City is identical with x's brain being in a certain state. Roger Fellows . Every 10p coin is identical with a bit of metal.about the human brain could reveal the character of our conscious lives. and the other by having been there. The model for Type Identity theory is provided by type identities in the physical sciences such as: Lightning = an electric>discharge Water = H2O Heat = Molecular motion But although it may be true that e.their brains are in the same state: one may have acquired the belief by reading it in a picture book. The Type Identity theory is really not very plausible. a set of people believe that Vienna is a lovely city. although through the years the Government may alter the metallic composition of lOp coins. These are: the Type Identity and the Token Identity versions. for instance. but the state of the brain may differ from person to person. Type identity materialism identifies mental properties with physical properties. mental events such as pain can be universally identified with C. although every 10p coin is identical with a bit of matter. it seems most unlikely that when two people both have the property of believing that Vienna is a lovely city . The analogy here is with artefact kinds like lOp coins. then for each of them their belief is identical with a state of their brain.

a single object. These are two different perspectives on. and the machine's internal states change in such a way that it displays (outputs) the symbol '6'. F maintains the mind is the brain: it is one object with two levels of description/explanation. Consider a simple case. all that is going on in the calculator when you input '3+3=' is a series of electronic changes. . and other mental states and events. the way we shop. Mind stands to body as computer software (the programme) stands to computer hardware (the central processing unit). which views the brain (= mind) as a neural network of cells humming with electro-chemical activity. Reason and Reality SS-IIOI2M Functionalism: [The mind is a computer] [1] The digital computer is the most complex artefact ever devised by the human mind. Even a cheap calculator has a very large number of internal states.body problem. and your own) the machine is adding 3 +3 to obtain 6. [2] But the computer not only embodies an abstraction of our ways of thinking. our lives have already become so intertwined with this new creation that there is no way we could give it up. desires. for the functionalist [F]. You input a string of symbols '3 + 3 =' into your calculator. are guided by programmes encased in silicon chips. The way we work and play. it also provides.Department of Social Sciences and Humanities Interdiscipliruuy Human Studies. [3] From one point of view. the key to understanding the mind. In the space of a single generation. The second way is from the perspective of the psychologist who sees the mind (= the brain) in terms of beliefs. But from another point of view (the programmer's. F maintains that similarly the mind-brain can be looked at in two different ways. at times even our very heartbeats. Mind. The first way is from the perspective of the neurophysiologist. which enable it to calculate a vast number of arithmetical problems. as it were.

This must follow given that (a) Mind stands to brain as programme stands to computer hardware and (b) there is nothing essentially biological about the human mind . Roger Fellows .identity theory (see my notes on the Identity theory). such as your belief that the glass contains water and your belief that water quenches thirst and its relation to output (your picking up the glass and drinking from it). [6] What follows from this view is the exciting (?) prospect that computers themselves would have minds if they shared the same programmes which drive human minds. is a token . and output would have a mind. mental states are defined by their causes and effects: what makes an inner state mental is not an intrinsic property" of the state but rather its relations to sensory stimulation (input). [7] This theory is fairly widely accepted in Britain and in America. could be functionally equivalent in the sense that their minds were following the same programmes even although their brains were made of different material (green slime as opposed to neurons). to other inner states and to behaviour (output. then. an inner state such as the desire to quench your thirst can be characterised by its relation to input (you see a glass of liquid on the table). This is to say that functional states exhibit multiple realisability: for example. humans and Martians.[4] For F. For instance. what makes your calculator an adder is not some intrinsic property of some one internal state but rather the input. relations to other internal states and to the output.) In just the same way.anything with the right functional relations between input. [5] F. its relation to other internal states. different kinds of beings. internal states.

[3] Def.of Rule Utilitarianism (RU). aggregating the utility of individuals means treating a society as a kind of super . In effect. [4] What is utility? Three candidates: (a) A situation x has more utility than a situation y if people in x get more pleasure than people in y (Bentham). (Economists prefer (c) to (a) or (b). (Utility being summed over all the members of that society. (b) A situation x has more utility than a situation y if people in x are happier than people in y (Mill) (c) A situation x has more utility than a situation y if x contains greater (individual) preference satisfaction than y. For them money can be used as a linear measure of utility = preference satisfaction. . So. An action x is right if and only if x is done in accordance with some rule R. then the consequences would produce as much utility as everyone conforming to some alternative rule to R. if I am prepared to pay twice as much for a bottle of milk as I am for a bottle of mineral water then the milk has twice the utility of the mineral water for me).person). and R is such that were everyone to conform to R. A good (rightly ordered) society is one in which utility is maximised.of Act Utilitarianism (AU). An action x is right if and only if x produces at least as much utility as the doing of any alternative action y open to the agent. [2] Def. for instance.Department of Social Sciences and Humanities Interdisciplinary Human Studies Mind Reason and Reality SS -llO12M Notes on Utilitarianism [1] Def.

satisfaction seems minimally problematic. Proof: Suppose that my violating a rule R on a certain occasion produces the best consequences.or preference. (d) We disagree about religious issues but we.all agree (?) that happiness and preference satisfaction are common concepts of moral thought.Utilitarianism. [7] Why we should oppose Act . RU collapses into AU. Objections to AU are as follows: (a) The Ripple Objection. Roger Fellows . [6] In [1] above. (c) The resolution of moral issues and social issues can be resolved by empirical calculation. In fact. whatever would lead the defender of AU to break R would lead the defender of RU to modify the rule: they are extensionally equivalent. (b) Happiness. This will be clearer when we look at objections to AU.[5] Why we should like Utilitarianism (a) It provides a non-transcendent standard of morality. AU was distinguished from RU. (b) The moral Dilemma objection (c) The wrong answer objection (d) The Autonomy objection. Then this is evidence that the rule should be modified to take account of those occasions where non-conformity to the rule is better than conformity to it. That is to say.

[3] The Opening sentence of Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals is the following: Nothing in the world . [1] Kant offers us an agent-centred account of morality which contrasts with the Utilitarian outcome-centred conception. have a range of experiences not open to us Gust as. Kant would say that the beings in such a world.the same procedures for determining the rightness or wrongness of classes of actions (which Kant terms 'Practical Reasoning'). in this world. bats form a conception of the world using echo-location which is not available to humans). (She may be unlucky or a blundering idiot. because they are rational. they would share the same system of morality .indeed nothing even beyond the world . Any rational being would be expected to share the same structures of logico-mathematical beliefs (which Kant terms 'Theoretical Reasoning') and.can possibly be conceived which could be called ‘good‘ without qualification except a good will. Moral behaviour depends upon internal facts about agents and not upon the consequences of behaviour. likewise. would have a shared morality with ourselves. nor does it follow that. because moral behaviour is grounded in reason and not in contingent facts about tastes. she is a bad person. it does not follow that she is a good person. but these are not moral failings). . if all her projects turn out badly. [2] We can imagine a possible world that contains non-human rational agents who. If all of Mary's projects end happily. inclinations and desires.Department of Social Sciences and Humanities Interdisciplinary Human Studies Mind Reason and Reality SS -llO12M Notes on Kant's Ethics. because of their different constitutions. Morality is as universal as mathematics.

To imagine the maxim don't lie turned into a universal law is just to imagine a possible world in which nobody lies is a true description of human behaviour. and hence his conduct is in accordance with duty but not done from duty. Consider the case of telling lies. intelligence for instance. [5] Why is the maxim don't lie a moral maxim which it is your duty to follow? The test is to imagine the maxim turned into a universal law. The former maxim is one of prudence. Kant draws a sharp distinction between acting according to duty and acting from duty. Duty is defined as "the necessity of an action executed from respect for law". no matter how her projects turn out. Kant points out that other qualities. On a given occasion. to that extent. What of the maxim lie when you can get away with it? We cannot imagine a world in which this maxim is a true description of human behaviour since no one would believe promises: the practice of promising would collapse. are often considered good but are not good regardless of the context. The good will is not defined in terms of what effects it accomplishes: Mary is a good person if she has a good will. both persons may tell the truth. This statement is the key to understanding Kant's ethical theory. The other person who never lies is acting from duty. intelligence is a bad thing. Suppose one person acts upon the maxim: only lie if you can get away with it. Another person acts upon the maxim: don't lie. as we noted above. A is worse than B: in this context.To be good without qualification is to be good regardless of the context. . If murderer A is intelligent and murderer B is stupid then. but the person acting on the prudential maxim is telling the truth only because he cannot get away with lying. [4] The good will is the will to do your duty because it is your duty.

Only we human beings are both rational agents and also (like the beasts) creatures who possess tastes. I would have kept it anyway because promise keeping is my duty". in accordance with the Categorical Imperative)? Kant regards this as an open question! Consider the following case. Such a will always wills rightly. The idea of law as such is just the conception of universality. So when a maxim of action conforms to the idea of law as such the maxim must not admit of exceptions. inclinations and desires. inclinations and desires. knowing nothing of morality. How do we know that this person is not merely rationalising their behaviour after the event? Roger Fellows . or exceptionlessness. In this situation. Both the ideal agent with the perfectly good will and non-human animals do not experience duty as a constraint on conduct. [8] Does anyone ever act morally (that is. reason commands or constrains the will to act in a principled manner. that is.[6] What does it mean to behave rationally? We start by forming the conception of a perfectly good will. The form of this command is called a Categorical Imperative. and we often have to fight an internal battle between what we want to do. [7] The (first form) of the Categorical Imperative states: Act only according to that Maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Non-human animals are not rational agents so they act according to their inclinations. but even if I had not wanted to. which are independent of the agent's tastes. Suppose someone says: "I kept my promise because I wanted to. and what as rational beings we ought to do. So we experience morality on occasions as a constraint on our conduct. according to moral maxims.

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