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Kant2 To understand Kant’s “function argument” it is useful to understand what he means by “practical reason” (as opposed to theoretical reason.

) Practical Reason: Reason or reflective thought concerned with the issues of voluntary decision and action. Practical reason includes “everything which is possible by or through freedom.” In general, practical reason deals with problems of everyday decision making, but it entails the area of ethics specifically. Practical reason is concerned with our moral intuitions. (Kant asserted the primacy of practical reason over theoretical reason, and also asserted as practical postulates (q.v.) certain conceptions which were not hypothetically demonstrable.) Theoretical Reason: Reflective thought dealing with cognition, knowledge, and science. Contrasted with practical reason, which is concerned with moral and religious intuitions. Kant’s function argument: 1. In living beings, no organ (or faculty) will be found which is not the fittest and best adapted to its purposes. 2. Instinct would be a better guide to our happiness than practical reason is. (The use of reason may lead to more trouble, less happiness and contentment.) 3. Happiness cannot be the sole or primary purpose of practical reason. 4. There must be another and higher purpose for practical reason. 5. Reason’s proper function must be to produce a will good in itself. Comments on the argument: #1. Everything in nature is best fitted to its purpose. So, whether we’re talking about instinct, or practical reason, or theoretical reason, each one of these things is best adapted to its purpose. The world is ordered and structured so as to make this true. (Kant thinks this should be evident.) #2. Practical reason often leads us to resist the impulse of instinct, Even though the satisfaction of instinct would be more conducive to our immediate happiness and contentment. #3. This follows from 1 and 2. #4. This must be true because of 1 and 2 as well. #5. After all, what else could the proper function of practical reason be? The upshot: Nature has given us practical reason for the sake of producing a good will.

A good will is the highest good, but it is not (as we saw previously) the only good. Happiness is a secondary purpose. Its goodness is contingent on its possession by a good will. Notice that in this argument Kant has turned our attention away from “happiness” as the root of morality and toward what he calls “the good will.” Happiness is a secondary purpose, and as such it is conditional on its possession by a good will. (Possible test question up to this point: Part 1: Kant claims that there is only one unqualifiedly good thing, viz. the good will. What does he mean by “unqualifiedly good”? How does he argue to eliminate other competing goods as potential candidates for being ‘unqualifiedly good’? Part 2: After arguing for the above claim, Kant goes on to present his “function argument” to establish the claim that “Reason’s (i.e. practical reason) proper function must be to produce a good will.” Carefully present and discuss the function argument. Note: This means to give the argument and discuss the meaning of its claims.) So, what is the “will?” For now let’s define it as a “Rationally informed faculty disposing one to act in a certain way.” What is it informed by? Practical reason. And the very purpose of practical reason is to produce a will that is good. What does it mean for a will to be “good.” Kant has told us what it does not mean: We do not call a will “good” because of anything it can accomplish. Rather, it is good only because of its willing. What does the good will will? Action in accordance with duty. Today we have Kant attempting to distinguish what gives an action “real moral worth.”

There are four types of actions that Kant described in today’s reading: (Start reading at 389, see other notes.) Write out four cases of action, discussing them. Show how he uses the four types of action to argue for the following claim: “To have moral worth, an action must be done from duty.” Possible question: In an attempt to distinguish what types of action have “real moral worth” Kant discusses “four types of action.” Discuss Kant’s “four types of action” and explain how he uses them to argue for the claim that, “If an action is to have real moral worth, it must be done from duty.”