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Why did Rand view Kant as evil?

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This question is like, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" So, I don't know what to say, really. Sorry?

Apples and oranges. :P

Given that a value (the Good) implies a valuer, the question remains unanswered: Good for whom?

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Apples and oranges. :)

Given that a value (the Good) implies a valuer, the question remains unanswered: Good for whom?

I don't think Kant equates the good with a value (that would be the satisfaction of inclinations), rather he equates it with rational behavior (that's duty). [edit: And for him, rational behavior means that it must be universalizable.]

In other words, does Kant answer the following question: Why act according to duty?
As I understand it, for Kant, duty is an end in itself. Therefore, no answer need be given for why one should act from duty other than because it is his duty. Edited by Bold Standard

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I don't think Kant equates the good with a value (that would be the satisfaction of inclinations), rather he equates it with rational behavior (that's duty). [edit: And for him, rational behavior means that it must be universalizable.]

As I understand it, for Kant, duty is an end in itself. Therefore, no answer need be given for why one should act from duty other than because it is his duty.

How does he define morality, if not with reference to a moral actor? As a floating abstraction? :confused:

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I know I've heard this once before, but what did that word, "universalizable," mean to him?

I think the word means that a given act can be done morally in every case regardless of context.

For example (in a case from Kant himself I believe), it is immoral to lie to a mob who has come to your house to kill your friend, because lying in general treats men as "mere means" rather than as "ends."

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How does he define morality, if not with reference to a moral actor? As a floating abstraction? :confused:
I do think he defines morality with reference to a moral actor, just not with reference to a valuer. Good and evil aren't values for him--they're catagorical imperitives, ie, objective absolutes which hold in all contexts without exceptions.

I know I've heard this once before, but what did that word, "universalizable," mean to him?
In his words, from Foundations for the Metaphysic of Morals it means, "I ought never to act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should be a universal law."

That means, never do anything unless it would be possible to act on the same principle in every concievable situation.. and, if it would be possible, then that alone qualifies the action as moral.

Take dishonesty for example.. If everything that everybody said were always false, then everyone would know that everything everybody said was always false, and therefore would know to believe the opposite. So it would turn back into the truth.. In other words, it would be impossible for everybody to lie all the time, therefore lying in any context is immoral. But it's possible for everybody to tell the truth all the time, so that's what people should do. (According to Kantian ethics).

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In his words, from Foundations for the Metaphysic of Morals it means, "I ought never to act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should be a universal law."
I think it's worth pointing out that even on this message board, I sometimes see people reverting to this principle--it is very influential in our culture. I see it come up when people ask questions about why it would be immoral to steal even if you "knew" you could get away with it.. Inevitably someone will say, "Well, if everybody stole, then the producers would all stop producing, because they wouldn't make any profit, and then nobody would have anything, so it's not in one's self interest ever to steal." That's straight Kantianism. The fact that it would not be in one's self interest for everybody to steal in all circumstances doesn't alone prove that it's immoral for one person to steal in every possible circumstance.

Of course, Objectivism also advocates principled action, but not on the basis of universalizability alone (there are several threads on Objectivism's stance on principles, I think.. and last time I checked, there was still a good lecture by Leonard Peikoff on "Why Should One Act on Principle?" for free at the registered users page at ARI's website). [edit: I just checked, and as of now, it's still there.]

Edited by Bold Standard

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Did Kant think all actions should be based on selflessness, or was that just his take on goodwill? (A direct quote would be best).

It seems like his philosophy is based on "duty", but that doesnt necessarily always mean duty to others. He says humans should act with duty to obey all universal laws, which I understand 'duty' to mean an obligation if one expects to be moral. So I assume Kant thought each motive of action should be based on duty to universal laws, but did he ever give his answer to why that should be the motive?

Edited by progressiveman1

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Did Kant think all actions should be based on selflessness, or was that just his take on goodwill? (A direct quote would be best).

It seems like his philosophy is based on "duty", but that doesnt necessarily always mean duty to others. He says humans should act with duty to obey all universal laws, which I understand 'duty' to mean an obligation if one expects to be moral. So I assume Kant thought each motive of action should be based on duty to universal laws, but did he ever give his answer to why that should be the motive?

I don't think Kant argued as strongly for self sacrifice as his followers did. Auguste Compte (1798-1857) coined the term altruism (which means literally, "otherism"). He intended it as a description of Kant's ethics. I think you can find it in Kant, but I haven't thoroughly studied Compte (reading over this thread brought to my attention how much my understanding of Kant had/has to be desired too), so I suggest if you are curious to study them both yourself to see to what extent.

Kant's Foundations for the Metaphysic of Morals is pretty short, and his most accessible work, and his complete arguments for why one should act from duty are in there. My best attempt at a paraphrase: One should act from duty because it is one's duty to do so. Also, Kant thought that acting from duty was the only form of action consistent with reason. I don't remember which one he starts with though: whether it's one's duty to act consistently with reason or whether one should act from duty because it's consistent with reason. I'm pretty sure that's in Foundations for the Metaphysic of Morals.

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It seems like his philosophy is based on "duty", but that doesnt necessarily always mean duty to others.

That's exactly right. Here's a summary of Objectivist ethics versus Kant's ethics:

1. What is the standard of value?

Objectivism: Life

Kant: Acting "from duty," in spite of one's "inclinations"

2. Who is the proper beneficiary of one's action?

Objectivism: Oneself

Kant: Any (possibly empty) set of people that does not include oneself

3. What are the virtues / how should one act?

Objectivism: Rationality, independence, honesty, integrity, productivity, justice, pride

Kant: Do whatever you feel you can "will to become a universal law"

So Kant is not saying you have a duty to others; if you can will it to be a universal law that there be no humans, then it is moral according to his ethics to act to destroy all humans. (Which is precisely what the environmentalists are doing now.)

He is saying that you owe a duty to the Categorical Imperative, which is a command that says "Do this!" but does not say why. A principle like "do this if you want to make money" or "do this if you want to be healthy" is only a "hypothetical imperative," not a categorical one, which is not good enough for Kant. He thinks morality should be based on a command that asks you to do something without offering a reward, without appealing to any purpose. In effect, he's saying that you owe a duty to purposelessness.

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2. Who is the proper beneficiary of one's action?

Objectivism: Oneself

Kant: Any (possibly empty) set of people that does not include oneself

From what I recall of Kant, I don't think that's exactly right, and what you went on to say is closer to it. There is no inherently intended beneficiary AT ALL, but nor does Kant say there SHALL NOT be any beneficiaries. There is just duty set by alleged universal law. Whether or not anyone benefits, including oneself, is beside the point. IMMSM he said he was "willing to concede" that duty could sometimes be consistent with what men find beneficial for themselves.

In practice, of course, it is hard to separate acting from duty and acting merely in accord with duty but from the benefit one finds associated with it. That leads inevitably to people deliberately doing mostly things they do NOT want to do and avoiding those that they do want, even if the latter would be in accord with duty. I think Miss Rand or Dr Peikoff pointed that out somewhere, too.

He is saying that you HAVE a duty to OBEY the Categorical Imperative, which is a command that says "Do this!" but does not say why. A principle like "do this if you want to make money" or "do this if you want to be healthy" is only a "hypothetical imperative," not a categorical one, which is not good enough for Kant. He thinks morality should be based on a command that asks you to do something without offering a reward, without appealing to any purpose.

THAT's more like it. Nitpicking I know, but the CI isn't something that is supposed to be the recipient of duty, it's just a concept by which to discern duty.

In effect, he's saying that you owe a duty to purposelessness.

Quite.

JJM

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There is no inherently intended beneficiary AT ALL, but nor does Kant say there SHALL NOT be any beneficiaries.

Yes, that's what I was trying to express. :P ("Any ... set of people" -> he does not say there shall not be any beneficiaries; "possibly empty" -> there need not be a beneficiary at all.)

IMMSM he said he was "willing to concede" that duty could sometimes be consistent with what men find beneficial for themselves.

In practice, of course, it is hard to separate acting from duty and acting merely in accord with duty but from the benefit one finds associated with it.

Right, and this is why he held that an action that is accordance with both duty and one's inclinations cannot be classified as moral with certainty. If you want to be sure you're moral, you should defy your inclinations, i.e. perform actions you do not benefit from. ("Any set ... that does not include oneself")

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I want to get the basics down first.

Kant considered a "universal law" to be an act that every person would be able to do. His examples: "in situations in which I am thirsty and there is water available, I will drink it," or "in situations in which I need money and know I can't pay it back, I will falsely promise to pay it back." The first example could be a universal law because its harmless, but the second example could not be a universal law because the institution of promising would disappear, and eventually no promises would be made.

Why is his formulation on "universal laws" a negative thing? It seems like his intent was for everyone to benefit. However, it doesnt quite make sense to me when figuring more personal actions, like what career you would pursue. How could being a lawyer, doctor, or any job be a universal law? It wouldnt be possible for everyone to have the same job since supply would by far outweigh demand. However, it would make more sense that nobody having a job would be a universal law.

Edited by progressiveman1

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(cont. from last paragraph above)

That would stalemate business progress, but since Kant doesnt specify(from what I've seen) who the beneficiary should be or what consequences amount from using his formulation, then his philosophy(at best) is incomplete, in terms of why make decisions based on his formulation.

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Why is his formulation on "universal laws" a negative thing? It seems like his intent was for everyone to benefit.

It is negative in part because his intent was to totally remove any benefit to anyone from any consideration in determination. If someone benefits, so what, and if not, then again so what. Another part is that he gets the core - and entirely circular - idea straight out of his backside: "the only good thing is the good will" (Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals). He then goes on to use this to come up with some sick ideas, such as the idea that someone who is inclined to maim and murder but who does not out of deference to duty is morally superior to someone who has no such inclinations and acts in accordance with but not from duty because that person is happy to be friendly. Miss Rand even pointed this particular abomination out.

However, it doesnt quite make sense to me when figuring more personal actions, like what career you would pursue.

It doesn't make sense because he doesn't give a rodent's behind about how people actually get on in life. All he cares about is making sure you give due deference to duty. The rest is your problem. This also means, therefore, the CI isn't even a proper moral system as it does not give guidance on every single possible choice and detail about it.

JJM

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He then goes on to use this to come up with some sick ideas, such as the idea that someone who is inclined to maim and murder but who does not out of deference to duty is morally superior to someone who has no such inclinations and acts in accordance with but not from duty because that person is happy to be friendly. Miss Rand even pointed this particular abomination out.

Right. Kant regards the latter to be less moral because he isnt acting on duty to universal laws, but instead acted on his inclination. I assume he thought people couldnt think clearly if they had any emotional attachment to a choice.

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I assume he thought people couldnt think clearly if they had any emotional attachment to a choice.

That isn't quite what he had in mind. He doesn't think attachment stops people from thinking clearly, but that people cannot think clearly about 'things as they really are' at all! A personal attachment does not cloud one's judgement per se, it just gets in the way of obeying duty. Objectivism advocates thinking as clearly as possible for the very purpose of achieving one's chosen goals to one's benefit, and this is exactly what he spat chips about the most. His express purpose was to 'save morality' from the encroachment upon religion's turf by the fruits of the Enlightenment and the worldliness of rational self-interest as an actual nascent moral code.

His entire system is tied into his noumenal-phenomenal world division. IIRC, the Critique of Pure Reason was written to set the scene for FMM and the Categorical Imperative. The physical world one observes and works in is a fantasy generated by a mind somewhere. It is generated by the twelve categories working on perception of things in themselves, organising them not according to how they actually are but in the purely subjective ways that these categories make them as. The result is that the actual world (the noumenal one) is unknowable, while the world we observe (the phenomenal one) is a fantasy ("synthesis of the manifold" or some other bizarre phrase like that). That includes one's awareness of one's own mind! Thus even our own minds as we see them are fantasies and cannot EVER understand things as they actually are, only as they are perceived.

The Categorical Imperative is supposed to be an order from the noumenal mind: as this mind generates the natural laws according to which the phenomenal world acts, so does it generate moral laws according to which we in the phenomenal world are obliged to act. All that the phenomenal mind can do at best is to try to figure out the dictates of the noumenal mind in the same way it figures out the workings of the phenomenal world generally, all the while remembering that it is all a fantasy. The CI demands obedience on the grounds that the if-then's of hypothetical imperatives applicable to the phenomenal world (ie rational self-interest) are based on treating the phenomenal world (of which emotions are a part) and its system of organisation as real. It is not just emotional attachment he dislikes but any departure from holding the phenomenal world as a mere fantasy: the entirety of the mind is a distorting agent, not just emotions - the modern variant of the idea of emotions as a distorting agent but not reason is a cut-down version of this, combined with remnants of respect for reason.

The unreality of our phenomenal minds also means that we cannot ever figure out why we should obey the Categorical Imperative, just that we should. Beyond that it is a matter of faith, which he made room for by denying the knowledge of the reality of the phenomenal world. Rationality in his view is once more just a handmaiden of theology, there to iron out the bugs but not to get to thinking beyond her station. Again he was express about his attack on worldly values (preface to 2nd ed of CPR). So much for the idea of his intention being that everyone benefit.

JJM

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Whether or not anyone benefits, including oneself, is beside the point. IMMSM he said he was "willing to concede" that duty could sometimes be consistent with what men find beneficial for themselves.

But I do believe he mentions somewhere that if oneself benefits, it's impossible to know that his action was from duty rather than inclination. It's possible to benefit others, especially if one has no goodwill whatsoever, in a way in which it is clear one is not acting from inclination, according to Kantianism (I think).

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The physical world one observes and works in is a fantasy generated by a mind somewhere. It is generated by the twelve categories working on perception of things in themselves, organising them not according to how they actually are but in the purely subjective ways that these categories make them as.

Can you explain that more in-depth? Why does Kant think there is a noumenal world?

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The physical world one observes and works in is a fantasy generated by a mind somewhere. It is generated by the twelve categories working on perception of things in themselves, organising them not according to how they actually are but in the purely subjective ways that these categories make them as. The result is that the actual world (the noumenal one) is unknowable, while the world we observe (the phenomenal one) is a fantasy ("synthesis of the manifold" or some other bizarre phrase like that).

Can you explain that more in-depth?

It has been a while since I last read CPR and I can only remember the gist, so I will do my best.

For Kant, the idea of consciousness possessing nature means that all awareness is necessarily subjective. Our perceptions are generated by the perceptual system (in Miss Rand's words, "man is deaf because he can hear, blind because he can see") and our understanding generated by the cognitive faculty ("deluded, because he has a mind.")

The sense organs invent the basic perceptual material according to its own modes of operation. This includes things like space and time, as well as all other perceptual characteristics like colour and weight. With that material generated, one supposedly thinks 'through' concepts; the subjective sense data are further mangled and organised into a coherent pattern dictated by the system of those concepts - that's the synthesis of the manifold (generation of what is perceivable and cognisable). Overall, his idea is like there being an arbitrary smelting of a freshly-invented metal element to form a bar of subjective characteristics and that is then forced through a set of twelve extrusion and stamping dies, with the components thus made then computer-assembled into objects of cognition. The result has nothing whatever to do with reality but entirely the product of the invention and smelting methods, the shapes of the dies, and the assembly program.

Yes, it is contradictory. I remember pointing out to the lecturer in a philosophy class one time that the existence of causality meant that all sense data had to be a fully valid connection to reality. I understand now that it's not the proper argument for the validity of the senses, but it is true nonetheless. The lecturer just glared at me and moved on.

Why does Kant think there is a noumenal world?

I think his intent was that this be conserved as part of religion's turf, that in his view belief in that world is a matter of faith. Perhaps he was sincere, perhaps he just thought he couldn't get away with denying its existence. I can't remember which, but the end result is the same. Later thinkers using his inherent-subjectivism idea did think they could get away with denying it and so dropped the noumenal world entirely, and thus modern nihilism was born out of Kant's creation. That's getting into what I never cared to investigate too much, so I can't give you examples of those people off the top of my head.

JJM

Edited by John McVey

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in Miss Rand's words, "man is deaf because he can hear, blind because he can see") and our understanding generated by the cognitive faculty ("deluded, because he has a mind.")

Here's the quote:

Even apart from the fact that Kant’s theory of the “categories” as the source of man’s concepts was a preposterous invention, his argument amounted to a negation, not only of man’s con- sciousness, but of any consciousness, of consciousness as such. His argument, in essence, ran as follows: man is limited to a consciousness of a specific nature, which perceives by specific means and no others, therefore, his consciousness is not valid; man is blind, because he has eyes – deaf, because he has ears – deluded, because he has a mind – and the things he perceives do not exist, because he perceives them.

I remember pointing out to the lecturer in a philosophy class one time that the existence of causality meant that all sense data had to be a fully valid connection to reality.

Unfortunately, this wouldn't convince a Kantian: according to Kant, causality is just one of the "categories."

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Unfortunately, this wouldn't convince a Kantian: according to Kant, causality is just one of the "categories."

Agreed. It wasn't a heavy mainline theory class but an introductory one filled by students taking it as an elective. I don't think he was miffed that I pointed out a problem so much as that I shattered the illusion he was giving to class that there were no valid counterarguments at all. At least I still got an A for it.

JJM

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All he cares about is making sure you give due deference to duty. The rest is your problem. This also means, therefore, the CI isn't even a proper moral system as it does not give guidance on every single possible choice and detail about it.

That's not really a helpful standard. A moral system doesn't need to be able to give you guidance on every choice - there may be morally neutral choices. Heck, Rand loses out on this standard too, as she doesn't think any "...exact, objective morality can be prescribed for an issue where a man's life is endangered." Moral systems need to have a certain degree of generality to be convincing, but failure to give guidance on every conceivable choice isn't that big a deal.

Edited by cmdownes

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That's not really a helpful standard.

It's poorly worded, I'll give you that. It was meant to refer to principles, and I didn't mean to imply a host of concrete rules.

A moral system doesn't need to be able to give you guidance on every choice - there may be morally neutral choices.

Yes it does, via principles. Every is implies an ought in the relevant context, as where-ever there is choice the outcome will have at least some effect on one's life. If one need to make a choice then one must apply a standard of value to make that choice. A morally neutral choice is a contradiction in terms.

Heck, Rand loses out on this standard too, as she doesn't think any "...exact, objective morality can be prescribed for an issue where a man's life is endangered."

Where did you get that? I couldn't find anything containing "exact," "objective morality", "prescribe", "prescribed", "endanger" or "endangered" that even remotely matches that. The closest I can think of is that morality ends where a gun begins, meaning that a first or third party cannot apply normal codes of judgement to that first party when being seriously threatened by a second party - which does not mean there is no morality at all applicable to that first party. A similar line of thought applies to life-boat situations. There are no choices that are morally neutral.

JJM

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