HANDOUT for my lecture
MY PERSONAL PHILOSOPHICAL POSITION ON MORALITY,DUTY and LAW
I must commence by saying that my own position on morality,duty and law is heavily influenced
by Immanuel Kant although the starting frame of refererence is akin to that of Jalaluddin Rumi.
In so far as rejection of eudaimonism(the ultimate goal of all of one's actions is one's personal
happiness)is concerned I am in tandem with david Hume but my understanding goes so was
Kant!Happiness cannot be the ultimate purpose of morality.Suppose now that for a being
possessed of reason and will the real purpose of nature were his preservation,his welfare or in a
word his happiness.In that case nature would have hit on a very bad arrangement by choosing
reason in the creature to carry out this purpose.For all the actions he has to perform with this end
in view and the whole rule of this behaviour would have been mapped out for himfar more
accurately by instinct and in the end question could ahve been mantained far more surely by
instinct than by reason.
The function of reason in ethics is not to inform how best to choose means to some further
end.It is to produce a will that is good in itself.And a will is good only if it is motivated by
duty!Good will as I believe it is the only thing that is good without qualification.Fortune,
power,intelligence,courgae and all the traditional values can be used to bad ends-even happiness
itself can be corrupting!!!It is not what it achives that constitutes the goodness of a good
will-good will is good in itself alone!!!
Even if by some special disfavour of destiny or by niggardly endowment of stepmotherly nature
this will is entirely lacking in power to carry out its intentions,if by its utmost effort it still
accomplishes nothing and only good will is left....even then it would still shine like a jewel for its
own sake as something which has its full value in itself!!!
GOOD WILL IS THE HIGHEST GOOD AND THE CONDITION OF ALL OTHER GOODS INCLUDING
If a will is good only when motivated by duty,we must ask what it is to act out of duty.A first
answer¨ is to say that it is to act as the moral law prescribes.But this is not enough.There is a
distinction between acting in accordance with duty and acting from the motive of duty.A
shopkeeper who chooses honesty as the best policy or a philanthropist who takes delight in
pleasing others may do actions that are in accord with duty but they are not motivated by
reverence for it.Actions of this kind however amiable have no moral worth!!!Worth of character is
shown only when someone does good not for inclination but form duty!!!A man who is wholly
wretched and longs to die but preserves his life for the sake of duty!!!That in my view has real
It is the painfulness of well doing that is the hallmark of virtue!!!
A person who is acting out of duty is obeying not a hypothetical imperative but a categorical
imperative.An overarching imperative that discriminates between virtuous and vicious
hypothetical imperatives.As Kant says:
ACT ONLY ACCORDING TO A MAXIM WHICH YOU CAN AT THE SAME TIME WILL TO BECOME A
I believe that one should act in such a way that you always treat humanity whether in your own
person or in the erson of nay other,never simply as means but always at the same time an end.
This formulation in my assessment rules out major world evils-slavery,racism ,caste
system,suicide and of course homicide and wars!!!!
Prof.Ashok Jahnavi Prasad