Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Justice #6 - Freedom

The sixth episode of the Harvard philosophy class on Justice taught be Professor Sandel is on Kant and shows why Kant rejected the Utilitarianism of the philosophers discussed in the earlier classes, Bentham and Locke.

It may seem uninteresting but actually I think it's really relevant to everything we do ... the question Kant tries to answer is the same one all the previous guys ask, and that I hope we all ask ourselves .... how do we know what's the right thing to do? The answer, for Kant, is all about freedom.

Not saying I completely get Kant correctly, but what I believe he would say is that freedom isn't about doing whatever we want, for when we seek pleasure or avoid pain, we aren't really acting freely but as slaves of impulses and appetites that we haven't chosen for ourselves ... the freedom to eat that Big Mac is not truly freedom but a following of the law of nature or necessity :). To act freely is to act autonomously, according to a law I give myself. To act freely is to chose an end for its own sake, as an end in itself, not for its utility .... I choose to eat the lowly carrot instead of the Big Mac, not because it is better for me health-wise but because I want to spare the suffering of animals, for instance (though Kant may cringe at my example - he wasn't an animal person).

So what gives an act its moral worth then if not utility? Kant would say that what makes an act morally worthy doesn't have to do with the results that flow from it, but instead the motive of the actor, the intent, doing not only the right thing, but the right thing for the right reason.

Still, how do you discern the right motive? Take a listen ........

And for those interested, another video on Kant by former Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, Keith Ward, can be found at my past post here.


Blogger victor said...

Just stop by to say hello and hope you're doing better.

Kant is way too deep for little old me so I'll pass on him for now! :)

God Bless,

6:05 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Victor - thanks :)

8:13 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Did you notice Spiderman in the 5th row? Good to know our superheros have a strong ethical foundation.

8:27 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Ha - I didn't see that :)

10:18 PM  

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