You are on page 1of 4

This paper is concerned with addressing the “Coldness Charge,” which we saw first articulated by Schiller.

Much of the dispute between Schiller and Kant centers on the passage of the four philanthropists, in which Kant seeks to distinguish what gives an act real moral worth. The dispute arises around his discussion of the third and fourth philanthropists. You might have noticed that the author of this paper carves up the philanthropists a bit differently than we did. He bypasses the first and treats “Adam the actuarial shopkeeper” as the first philanthropist, and carves that description up into two. This is not uncommon. Scholars dispute as to how to carve up this passage. Don’t let it concern you. (For our purposes, we are primarily interested in the third and fourth philanthropists, and those are the same in this essay as in my last lecture.) We will stick to how we first carved it up. (handout) (Rather than try to explain the divisions of the text that we are sticking with, I have divided it and am handing it out to you.) The first philanthropists acts contrary to duty. (Consider Robinhood—theft is contrary to duty, even if the riches are dispensed to the poor.) The second: Person who acts in accordance with duty, but the action is performed for reasons of self-preservation. (Shopkeeper) The third: Action in accordance with duty performed from a direct inclination to do the action. This is the person who finds an inner satisfaction and joy at spreading contentment. (Sympathetic neighbor) (No moral worth here). But, take this same person, give them hard circumstances, and make them unable to feel any joy at helping others, and yet they do so strictly out of regard for duty, then you have an act of true moral worth. The fourth: Now, take a person who is of a gloomy disposition to begin with, and is cold and indifferent to the suffering of others. He is not philanthropic from nature or inclination, but strictly in accordance with duty. Conclusion of this discussion: “If an action is to have real moral worth, it must be done from duty.” You’ve seen Schiller’s little poem. (I actually prefer the poetic version, but let’s break it down and see if we can spell out Schiller’s objection to Kant even more simply):

Schiller’s Objection to Kant 1. Moral worth depends on NOT doing something by/from inclination. 2. Thus, moral worth requires I seek to despise my friends and do my duty with repugnance. 3. That’s Crazy! Coldness Charge: For an act to have moral worth, there cannot be any inclination present to do the act. (Kant regards inclinations as inimical to duty, and holds that moral worth is to be accorded only to actions grudgingly performed.) To respond: others have appealed to Kant’s later works to soften or qualify his claims in the Groundwork. No such appeal is needed. Kant never intended to give an exhaustive treatment of the inclinations in the Groundwork. He’s trying to lay a foundation for ethics and he has a lot of contemporary debris to brush aside. Hume had attempted to account for moral propositions in terms of events or occurrences which act upon us as beings biologically constituted to feel pleasure at some things, revulsion at others. It is according to such “feelings” or “sentiments” that we formulate our notions of right and wrong. Notice then, Hume is grounding morality in psychology, which is constructed by biology. It’s a thoroughly empirical project for Hume. But, as will become clear especially next time, Kant is seeking to ground morality in human rationality. So, the author of this texts says, it is important to be aware of the historical context in which Kant composed the Groundwork to understand why he treats the inclinations as he does. Well, that’s all well and good, but that doesn’t entirely do away with Schiller’s objection.

After all, Kant does seem to say some things that would suggest that inclinations toward actions may be altogether undesirable. (Recall his rejection of the sympathetically inclined person’s action as having moral worth.) Again, Schiller is suggesting that, according to Kant, the mere presence of inclinations counts against moral worth. Does the author of this paper agree with Schiller that this is indeed what Kant is claiming? NO. The author of this paper rather argues that what Kant is concerned with is NOT showing that inclinations to an action are bad, but rather what role they play in determining the action. This paper holds that Kant’s primary goal is not to disparage the inclinations, or argue that they should be absent, but rather to point out that they are not the basis of what makes an action moral. READ p 12-13 Why not? Because morality is concerned with rationality, and with the will. Inclination has nothing to do with rationality or the will. In fact, it doesn’t even lie within the control of the will. Inclination is an inbuilt tendency to react to things in a certain way. So, some people are more capable of sympathy toward others because nature has made them so. You see, your inclinations are chemical and biological, and as such inclinations are more reactions than action. We don’t determine our biology by our will, our biology determines our inclinations. Again, inclinations are hardwired into you, and as such do not lie within the purview of the will. Kant won’t deny that it is good to have certain inclinations—e.g. sympathy, etc. What he is denying is that the inclinations are the root of moral worth. This leads to what I think is the most interesting part of our discussion for today. In the section of this paper titled, “The Too narrow objection” to illustrate that for Kant, “inclination” is being used in a very limited sense to refer to something biologically determined, the author points to Kant’s discussion of the distinction between practical love and pathological love. READ Kant’s short paragraph on 390. We’ve discussed this point before when reading Quinn’s article about Divine Command Theory.

What is Kant saying here? READ 13-14 (Starting at “Too Narrow Objection.”)