Kant — more thoughts…

Kant in thread


Yes, I have philosopher finger puppets… No, I haven’t made videos explaining philosophy using my finger puppets, filmed in my kitchen — but, I’ve thought about it a lot — since the finger puppets have magnets in their heads, so they live on my fridge…

Yes, that’s green thread wrapped around Kant.  My cats did that when I was out of town and I thought it was perfect, (or purrrfect), so I kept it that way.  

It’s perfect because, in some ways, Kant ties himself up in knots — 

Kant’s ethical theory starts out pretty simple, the only good actions are the actions for which you (the actor) have good motives.  Sounds simple enough, right?  But — it gets complicated pretty quickly… 

What if you have several reasons for doing things — like most folks do — can you do the things that you ONLY have good motives for (and not other motives like selfishness?) — Most of us do things for a variety of reasons.  I may spend time with my grandmother because it’s my duty to do so (good motive), but also because I like hearing her stories (selfish).  I do so because it makes ME feel good to take care of a woman who worked hard all of her life, raised 4 fantastic kids (including my mom) and is generally a very kind and sweet woman.  She doesn’t have a huge will or anything, but if she did and I was going to get money when she dies, would my actions still be good ones?

Kant’s answer is pretty much — no, your action wouldn’t be good, because you have many motives and you don’t know which ones you’re REALLY acting on.. 

I think this is kind of messed up.  The thing is, Kant wasn’t exactly a great observer of human behavior, in the particular sense.  His general roll was to live by himself, writing stuff and teaching students.  He never married (although there is speculation that he had an affair with a married woman), he never had kids and didn’t live a “normal” life connected to friends and family.  So, while he may only act on pure motives, he didn’t see that the rest of us are more complicated than that.  

Kant would probably say that visiting my grandmother isn’t a BAD thing to do — it’s just not a good thing.  It’s morally neutral, like choosing which sweatshirt to wear as I write this, or whether to grade first or write blog posts first — there are lots of choices we make that don’t have moral significance… 

thus, Kant ties himself up in knots — 


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