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Kant “On the good will: Nothing in the world—indeed nothing even beyond the world—can possibly be conceived

which could be called good without qualification except a good will.” What does it mean to call something “unqualifiedly good?” There is good for and good in itself. Kant wishes us to be mindful of this distinction. “Good for” is context dependent. “Good in itself”—good regardless of context. According to Kant, Are there other goods in the world besides a good will? What about talents of the mind? (Intelligence) Are these good? Of course. Are they unqualifiedly good? No Why not? Because they can be misused and abused. A good many people are smart but are also wicked, and as a result they put their intelligence to the service of corrupt actions. What about qualities of temperament? (courage, or friendliness) Are these goods? Yes Are they unqualifiedly good? No Why not? These too can be abused in the person who lacks a good will. (Who wants to see a courageous bully, or a friendly person who is fundamentally dishonest, and uses their gift of friendliness to flatter and manipulate others?) What about gifts of fortune? (money, health, happiness/contentment) Are these goods? Yes Are they unqualifiedly good? No Why not? Take happiness and contentment for example. What did Mill have to say about this? Was this a good for or a good in itself according to Mill? (A good in itself, and in fact, Mill said it is the only good to be sought for its own sake) But Kant is not willing to grant this. Why? Because he thinks that for happiness to be a good, the person who holds it must first be worthy of it. He tells us “the prosperity of someone without a good will is not pleasant to an impartial spectator.” (Slightly paraphrased) What does he mean by this? (No one wants to see Hitler happy. Why? Because he is not worthy of happiness. So, imagine a cruel or wicked person flourishing and happy, perfectly content in their life. Is this an agreeable thought? No. For one to be happy they must be worthy of happiness.)

Notice: we have just covered the first paragraph of Kant. And in that single paragraph he has set aside many competing notions of the good, and in doing so he has set aside what Mill takes to be the very foundation of Morality. Let’s read. (Read first paragraph) This is why I don’t assign huge chunks. I’d rather you understand less well than more less. Kant goes on to consider qualities that can be conducive to a good will. Consider: Moderation/Self Control. Is this a good? Yes Is it intrinsically good? (This is another way of asking “is it unqualifiedly good?”) No. Why not? Because, in the wrong person (the villain) coolness of emotion and the ability to keep one’s head can only serve to make a person far worse than they otherwise would have been. So, when is Moderation or self control good? It’s good iff it resides in the person of good will. Notice that in the context of his discussion of moderation he makes the following claim: “But however unconditionally they (moderation and self control) were esteemed by the ancients, they are far from being good without qualification.” I pointed out that in rejecting happiness as unqualifiedly good, Kant was rejecting Mill’s Utilitarianism. Here he is censuring the Ancients who listed temperance or moderation among their four chief virtues. Consider the list of virtues: justice, temperance, courage, wisdom. Note that he has already said that at least a couple of these chief virtues are not intrinsically good. (temperance and courage) Further, insofar as wisdom is spoken of in terms of a talent of the mind, he has rejected this as intrinsically good as well. So, why is the good will good according to Kant? Is it because it has the potential to make other virtues good? (e.g. is it good because it can make temperance or courage good when possessed by the person of good will?) No. It is true that it is good that the good will makes the other virtues good, but it is not true that the good will is good because of this. Thus Kant states, “A good will is good in itself, not good because of what it effects or accomplishes.” So, why is it good? “It is good only because of its willing, i.e. it is good of itself.” Read the third paragraph. What does the penultimate sentence mean? (Even if the will is impotent to do anything good in the actual world, it’s still the only thing that can be properly called unqualifiedly good. Note how this is an absolute rejection of consequentialist ethics…note just how far we are from Mill after only three paragraphs.)

Now he anticipates an objection. (Read little paragraph on 387). Summarized: “What I’m saying here is supposed to be apparent to ‘ordinary reason’ but, maybe one will say that I’m just crazy or describing some “high flown fancy.” So, now he’s going to argue a bit for his claim: He presents his “function argument” in the ensuing parts. Read on… 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. 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.