Kant’s Ethical Evaluation on Human Happiness as Motive to Determine Moral Worth

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Kant is a widely known western philosopher and influential thinker. His book on Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) argues that any act of good or bad done for the purpose of achieving self-satisfaction or happiness either for others or oneself lacks ethical value. He described goodwill as the purest and highest standard of goodness without qualification, conceived out of willingness to do good itself.it is an action not driven by any kind of inclination. He explains that other talents of the mind such as wit, intelligence, judgment etc. Are related acts of good but can easily be bad when the will is tainted.

According to Kant “duty is when goodwill has been subjected to limitations and obstacles but finds a way to overcome them”. Humans are rational beings, capable of reason and our desire is driven by feelings. The notion of Duty is a universal ethical principle that exist for all human’s to uphold. But human will is not perfect and falls short of its responsibility, especially when will and reason contradicts each other. Therefore Moral worth is any action that is done with a sense of duty, and putting aside feelings, such as self-interest, self-satisfaction, self-preservation or happiness. When the will behind action is good but does not yield the desired outcome, but is done with sense of duty, that action according to Kant has moral worth and vice versa.

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Kant determines that Happiness is an indirect duty of every human, a person who lacks contentment in their life, is likely to abstain from carrying out their moral obligation. However he does not agree with happiness as a motive to carry out moral duty. He believes that people are generally motivated to find happiness, although the pursuit of happiness is not meant to be taken for granted, it can interfere with moral responsibilities, therefore using happiness as a concept to do what is right, is a principle that is speculative and broad. People have different traits, and pleasure means different things for different people, so one man’s happiness may be another’s misery.

Furthermore happiness is speculative, in the sense that the only way to know if an outcome will bring happiness is through experience, but happiness itself is extensive, and it is absurd that any man have a precise clue of what he wills from earlier to know if an action will contribute to his bliss. In addition the feeling of Happiness is impulsive and it can often lead to pride and if goodwill is lacking to correct the mind, it can be bad. Hence happiness is good but can be qualified, so it cannot be used as a motive to determine goodwill of an action

In conclusion after examining Kant’s argument, I do agree with his claims on how actions done for purpose of happiness has no moral usefulness. Happiness is necessarily not a bad thing but it can be used for selfish reasons, depending on the intention of the person carrying out the act. Since only good that is done because it is required by duty has moral worth. The concept of happiness contradicts that principle. For example, a billionaire who donates money to charity, to feed the poor is a good, but let’s say find, we out that the charity organization was used as a means to evade taxes. That act lacks any moral worth because his reason for making others happy was linked to his own self-interest.

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Kant’s Ethical Evaluation on Human Happiness as Motive to Determine Moral Worth. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/kants-ethical-evaluation-on-human-happiness-as-motive-to-determine-moral-worth/
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Kant’s Ethical Evaluation on Human Happiness as Motive to Determine Moral Worth. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/kants-ethical-evaluation-on-human-happiness-as-motive-to-determine-moral-worth/> [Accessed 13 Apr. 2024].
Kant’s Ethical Evaluation on Human Happiness as Motive to Determine Moral Worth [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2024 Apr 13]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/kants-ethical-evaluation-on-human-happiness-as-motive-to-determine-moral-worth/

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