A Grounding of Kantian Ethics in Kantian Metaphysics.

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Arjen
 
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 03:00 pm
A Grounding of Kantian Ethics in Kantian Metaphysics

It may be obvious to everyone reading this that ethical judgements are founded in metaphysics. A predicate of 'good' or 'not good' is not intrinsic to things after all, but is something 'about' this object or a situation. In the case of acts being undertaken this not intrinsic value is called 'intention' and Immanuel Kant thinks this intention the place where 'good' or 'not good' can be found; as opposed to in the act itself. One might steal a bucket to obtain it for oneself or to put out a fire, mind. The same act gets a different 'value' depending on the intention someone had with the act. In that sense Kant seperates potentiality from actuality. Apart from that there is also a difference between what we can observe of an act and the act in itself.




Actuality, Potentiality and Reality

When one examines an act one sees that the act is an expression of the intent; quantifying into an actuality. This is ment in the sense that there are many ways an intent may take form. Therefore it is possible that an intent can quantify into many different acts. In that sense one can seperate the act-uality from the potentiality (intent) of any act; the quantification process being the act-ualisation of the intent in an expression fixed in space and time.

The difference between the act and the intent with which it was made can be clearly seen by understanding the ontological differences between the two. This is ment in the sense that there a clear difference between the physical manifestation of an act and the intent thereof. The intent is not caught in the web of space and time, which the physical manifestation is. The most visible reason for this is the fact that it has extension. This brings a causal existence with it. The intent has no such limits, it is clearly something else. Reality, offcourse, is that in which both the potentiality and the actuality exist: the grand total.

In these ontological differences Kant bases himself on Aristotle's works concerning actuality and potentiality, although Aristotle himself keeps falling into the paradoxical trap that not fully realising ontological differences brings with itself. Kant solves Aristotle's problems in these matters. Aristotle did not seperate the way space and time existed from the way the things in themselves exist from a subjective standing.


Empiricism and Rationalism

Kant begins in his reasonings where David Hume left off. Hume states that all knowledge one has is empirical knowledge and by comparing our empirical knowledge with new observations one gains new knowledge. Kant expands on this by the thought that if indeed all new knowledge is knowledge gained by comparrisson, then at least something must be present a priori. This is what rationalism sees as a source for knowledge because what is present a priori must necessarily carry within itself the building blocks for all possible thoughts; that which all thoughts have in common: space and time. From this basic intuition concerning space and time anything observed can be percieved by the brain and thereby formed into thought-objects. Thought-objects therefore are predications; judgements on what one has observed.


Intuitions, Categoria, Judgements and schemata

In order to understand in what way Kant views these matters one has to go back to Aristotle, on whose works Kant based his model of categoria. Kant makes a big change in them though. He takes out space and time because in his opinion they are something else: that which is a priori.

Kant seperates what one percieves (phenomenon) from the things-in-itself (noumenon). What one percieves are judgements and are always subjective, bound to the individual judging because of the fact it was percieved by the brain; which is what thought-objects (judgements, predications) are. The thing-in-itself Kant names transcendental. This thing-in-itself necessarily has certain aspects because it exists in space and time. These aspects Kant named Categoria (as an homage to Aristotle) and the more subjective definitions of the thing-in-itself, derived by percieving the thing-in-itself, Kant names (appropriately) judgements. Below follows a layout of Kant's intuitions, categoria and Judgements:

A priori intuitions

Space
Time

Transcendental table of categoria

Quantity
Quality
Relation
Modality
Logical Table of judgements

Quantity
Quality
Relation
Modality
Schemata

Every transcendental thing-in-itself exists (in actuality) as a quantification from space and time (potentiality). This quantification is understood through schemata. Schemata are the schedule's used to understand the things-in-themselves; a referencing of a category to a sense impression through space and time.



The primary difficulty of subjectivications and quantifications and writing about them

What one sees happening here is that a certain 'framework' for existence is created for the limitlessness of potentiality. The things-in-themselves have certain qualities which can be subjectively observed by individuals. All judgements on all things-in-themselves are merely what a subject has observed: a phenomenon. Any judgement made therefore is unequal to the quality posessed by the thing-in-itself: it describes what was percieved by the subject in question. Any word (predication) used is therefore a word on a thing which one knows very little of. It becomes even harder when trying to write on potentiality because such things are not even quantified and all words are by definition definitions and therefore quantified. I take it these difficulties will not be sufficient for any interested readers to be dishearted in their research. I hope any and all strange formulations, which were ment to clarify things, concerning these matters used in this 'explanation' will be forgiven, although I wonder if this doesn't complicate things to an impossibility,


Judgements as ethical rulebases

When it comes to ethics Kant is a deontologist. The reason for this is that he realises himself that the subjective judgements people make cannot be an objective basis for any ethical values. What is 'good' for the one can very well be 'not good' for the nother. The reason for this is because judgements are always subjective in the sense that any judgement (predication) one makes is always what things are like to that specific observer. When coming to a crossroads from opposite sides the one's 'left' is the others 'right' for instance. These judgements are the basis for teleological ethics. Upon the perception that something was 'good' in a certain situation one concludes that this is 'the good' in any situation and uses such judgements as a 'rulebase'. Future actions will be aimed at recreating this 'good' by people using a teleologicly ethical framework.

In this sense ethical 'rulebasis' are subjective judgements made, which are then used as guidelines for future judgements, often thought of as objective. In reality a circulatory reasoning is made at the moment of the decision with the 'goal' of the judgement of 'the good' in mind. The judgement refers to something which was supposedly previously proven, a petitio principii, but in reality never was proven; the assumption was made that since it was percieved to be 'good' in a situation, it would be 'the good' in any situation: a circulatory reasoning. On top of that the judgement is on the 'goal', and not on the act-in-itself.


Universalising judgements and the act-in-itself

Kant is very much aware of the subjective value of the judgements and therefore has sought a way to describe the things-in-themselves. Kant does this through his Categoria. The categoria apply to the things-in-themselves and are, supposedly, devoid of subjective judgements. In his ethics Kant strives towards judging the acts-in-themselves, not their quantifications, nor their 'goals'. Kant combines these considerations in his categorical imperative.

The way he does this is by eliminating the judging of the 'goal', as in the hypothetical, and replacing it with the examining of the act-in-itself. Deontology has another aspect to it though. This aspect is clearly voiced in the categrical imperative as the maxim. The expression of the intent is not the quality which is judged, but the intent itself. In this intent the 'duty' of the actor can come to expression. Kant named this the 'maxim' under which an act is made.

In Kant's opinion an act can be judged 'good' by acting under the maxim to universalise because in doing so the act is done in a way that is objectively beneficial and that intent can be predicated as 'good'. In that sense the duty towards the moral law is the maxim of a deontologist. Kant thought of a few maxims which clearly voice the maxim to universalise, and which describe in my opinion the 'duty' towards the moral law in a precise manner:

1) "Act according to that maxim whose universality as a law you can at the same time will"
2)
3) "Act as if your maxims should serve at the same time as the universal law (of all rational beings)"


Post Scriptum


Perhaps it is important at this point to realise the full scope of the difficulties of writing on these matters. Writing literally is defining, predicating, a voicing of thought-objects. In that sense Kant's attempt to accurately describe the act-in-itself is one which is doomed to failure from the start because our predications, or thought-objects, are never equal to the things-in-themselves. This is something Nietzsche emphasizes in saying that any (aesthetical) ideal images are never the desired ideal itself and that one should never act with one in mind, not even one as lofty as that of a transcendental idealist.


Definitions

Actuality
Actuality is that which is the here and now for a subject; the state of affairs. Every time one speak of something one takes something as if frozen in space and time. Reality itself will have moved on from that 'freezeframe' into new actualities, so one speaks of that state of affairs as an actuality.

Potentiality
Potentiality is that which facilitates actuality; space and time (and perhaps more that we, humans, know nothing of). Actuality needs space and time as a basis to be quantified in. Space and time are the framework of infinite possibilities in which all actualities take place.

Reality
Reality is that which is the existence of 'everything'; in Kant's model the combination of potentiality with all actualities.

Noumenon
A thing-in-itself.

Phenomenon
That which is observed of a thing-in-itself.

Imperative
An imperative is a principle originating in a subjects mind, compelling a person to express a maxim in an act.

Hypothetical Imperative
An hypothetical Imperative is a principle originating in a subjects mind, which applies only conditionally. The condition is a 'goal' which is defined as 'good' and is to be reached. The reasoning is conditional: if p, then q. An example might be 'quidesiderat pacem, praeparetbellum': he who desires peace, prepares for war, or: IF one desires peace, THEN one had better prepare for war.

Categorical Imperative
The categorical imperative is a principle originating in a subjects mind, which applies universally. An act under a categorical imperative contains the 'duty' towards the moral law inside oneself in the sense to treat others in the same way one would like to be treated onself in simular circumstances. The consequences of the act are not the source of the moral worth of the act; the intent is. This intent is formulated in maxims.

Maxim
A maxim is the subjective principle or rule that the will of a subject uses in order to decide on how to act. The form of a maxim is 'I will p in q in order to realize or produce s' where 'p' is some act type, 'q' is some type of circumstance, and 's' is some end. Since this is a principle stating only what some agent wills, it is subjective.An example might be 'Act according to that maxim whose universality as a law you can at the same time will': If you will act and will that act to be a universal law, then act according to that maxim, or (IF "q AND s) THEN "p: If a certain end is desired and one can accomplish it by acting in a certain way, then make an act behaving in that certain way. The hypothetical imperative is present in the maxim, but not acted upon directly because the primary consideration is how the end (s) is accomplished (by duty to the moral law). This is the part of a deontological act which is valued as 'good' or 'not good' because it envelops the intent of the actor.

Teleology
Teleology is the form of ethics in which the consequences of the action are judged.

Deontology
Deontology is the form of ethics in which the 'right'ness of the action itself is judged instead of the consequences thereof.

Empiricism
Empiricism is the theory for gaining knowledge which states that knowledge is gained through experience, by use of the senses.

Rationalism
Rationalism is the theory for gaining knowledge which states that knowledge is gained by comparison of observation by means of reason and that reason itself is the source of knowledge or justification. This theory contains empiricism in the sense that the senses are used to derive thought-objects from while it is also concluded that at the very least one thought-object must be present a priori an be true for reason to use as a comparison to deduce which thought-objects are true or not.



Notes

1) The wikipedia pages I am linking to are not always correct in my opinion. The writer frequently points to the difficulty of the subject, stating Kant should have been more clear (as Kant admitted himself). I am of the opinion that Kant was clear enough, albeit dry and to the theoretical points. The reason I am linking to the wikipedia pages is because it is important that not just my reading of Kant is read by inquisitive minds, so nuances can be made by the readers. If anything will remain unclear, please feel free to ask. Perhaps I can help you to come to a better understanding of the subject, or perhaps you can help me come to a better understaning of the subject. In any case this is the most interesting topic of discussion I can think of.
2) This explanation was written for interested readers who are willing to investigate the terms used. Although I have explained some terms to a degree needed to understand the subject at hand I have left other terms to the wikipedia, linking to them. I hope these will be sufficient. If not, please feel free to open up topics on those terms in, for instance, the metaphysics subforum. If you will pm me to notify me of the topic, I will see if I can elaborate on any term you would like explained.
 
iconoclast
 
Reply Sun 31 Aug, 2008 02:59 am
@Arjen,
Arjen,

This is a great piece of work. Thanks for contributing it to the forum. I see myself coming back to this page time and again for refference.

But a thought occurred to me about maxims. It is that there's a tension between the subjectivitiy of his metaphysical foundations and the universialization of maxims.

If, as you say:

Quote:
Kant seperates what one percieves (phenomenon) from the things-in-itself (noumenon). What one percieves are judgements and are always subjective,


then it cannot follow:

Quote:
1) "Act according to that maxim whose universality as a law you can at the same time will"


...for what I might think I am doing is not what I'm actually doing. We know this from common experience; for example, the US/EU stance on Georgia - condemning Russia on the basis of the principle of soveriegnty, when NATO acted in Serbia/Kosovo under similar circumstances and invaded Iraq in violation of that very same principle. And it works on a personal level too: for instance, arguing with someone about gender equality I began to suspect that his extreme correctness was actually a cover for some sexual inclination or physical inadequacy he couldn't bring himself to acknowledge. And this brings us back to denial.

I just don't see how ethics can be grounded in a metaphysics that acknowledges subjective quantification of intent into actuality - given that we so often kid ourselves about what our intent is, seeking good reasons to do bad things - and/or rationalizing that which we do but cannot accept.

regards,

iconoclast.
 
Arjen
 
Reply Sun 31 Aug, 2008 03:29 am
@iconoclast,
I think what you mean can be explained by seeing the seperation between the 'objective' vision on things-in-themselves and the fact that those objective visions are still bound to subjective standing. A thought-object may (forgetting all the difficulties for a moment) be perfectly objective, it is still objective from a (subjective) human standing. All quantifications are things-in-themselves in their own right, because in actuality seperations can exist. There exist more than one things-in-themselves. The intent of an act is in that sense a subjective principle because it is 'vested' in a thing-in-itself, while the act-in-itself can be seen seperate from its quantification. So, in that sense intent is potentiality, but because it is 'vested' in a quantified thing-in-itself it also quantifies into certain states of that thing-in-itself: acts.

What you are referring to is explained by the seperation of that which is a priori and cognition I think. Cognition taking the place of the actuality and that which is a priori the place of potentiality. While one compares any and all thoughts to that which is a priori what quantifies in actuality is always 'shaped' by the actuality in the same way that a certain intent can be expressed in multiple ways. The way it is expressed is up to the subjective (knowledge).

I hope this is clear because I find my words sadly lacking in this matter. I think this can be best explained by the way new knowledge is gained though. It is clear there that some potentiality necessarily is present while otherwise one might be inclined to think that only actuality exists. As with all forms of creation, it simply won't fit into the 'flat' world model.

What I mean to express here is that potentiality quantifies into things-in-themselves (actuality) while things-in-themselves (noumena) can be viewed subjectively (phenomena) by things-in-themselves. People call subjectively that which is deformed by the workings of the mind, while in reality all thoughts, even objective ones, take place in a subject....
You are misled by the grammar of our language. (<--Luwdig Wittgenstein) Wink

Arjen
 
iconoclast
 
Reply Mon 1 Sep, 2008 04:47 am
@Arjen,
Arjen,

I'm sorry but no, this does't help much - except to suggest that I've misunderstood. I admit my knowledge of Kant is scant - and the question was a first impression, but as I don't understand the terms used in your reply I can only assume the fault is mine. I wish I could say I'll try and get to grips with Kant - perhaps when I have a decade to spare. Until then I'll have to stick with an evolutionary basis for the ethical sense, translated into social convention as an explanation for specific ethical and moral codes. It lacks that thorough going analytical approach - but I think must be essentially correct, if a step toward the abstract and away from the specific.

Interestingly, I see the the phenomenological reality of evolution and metaphysical ethical sense meeting in the concept of function - where ethics enables the individual organsim, and social organism to function, and denial is perfectly understandable in these terms. To address the examples I raised: the US/EU are using the principle of sovereignty as a weapon to serve thier functional interests, and the closet homosexual pretends to a commitment to gender equality to explain away, and re-conceptualize his lack observable male characteristics and/or sexual aggression - in a functional sense, a pretence of function to avoid shame.

'I set before you the great bow of King Odysseus now!
The hand that can string to bow with greatest ease,
that shoots an arrow through all twelve axes -
he is the man I follow...'

regards,

iconoclast.
 
Arjen
 
Reply Sat 6 Sep, 2008 06:50 am
@iconoclast,
Iconoclast, I think your problem is the same as many have. You do not see through the paradoxes. I have promised another to write an explanation of paradoxes. When I have done so I will alert you as well.

I hope that will help.
Smile
 
iconoclast
 
Reply Sun 7 Sep, 2008 06:20 am
@Arjen,
Arjen,

You say:
Quote:
I hope that will help.


We will see! I've re-read your OP and your response to my question and it still won't gel. Maybe I'm just thick. I also wonder though - are you reading the orginal German? Whenever I've encountered Kant one of the principle obstacles is that in English, his sentances are torturous.

Quote:
The thing-in-itself Kant names transcendental.


What does that mean? What I think it means is that there's a distinction between the object and subjective understanding of the object, is that right? Why doesn't he say so? Kant doesn't tell me - he assumes I understand, and then throws 'categoria' into the mix. What the heck are they in plain English?

I think I need to read 'Kant for Dummies' - because I just don't seem to be able to get past his jargon and/or the way it's translated. And now you tell me it's a paradox - damn, I was hoping it would make sense!!!

iconoclast.
 
Fairbanks
 
Reply Sun 7 Sep, 2008 11:55 am
@iconoclast,
iconoclast wrote:
. . . Why doesn't he say so? Kant doesn't tell me - he assumes I understand, and then throws 'categoria' into the mix. What the heck are they in plain English?

I think I need to read 'Kant for Dummies' - because I just don't seem to be able to get past his jargon and/or the way it's translated. And now you tell me it's a paradox - damn, I was hoping it would make sense!!!

iconoclast.


Smile
I had hoped to be able to avoid reading Kant, but eventually I threw in the towel and have read most of it, translated to something resembling English. Nobody can read it for you, not to mention explain it. The stuff has to be read cover to cover, sentence by sentence, and a miracle occurs! He defines his terms one place or another, but you have to read all of his repetitious paragraphs to find those little gems. Then you can start making sense of his critics. Take a couple years and get it done. A couple index cards will do for taking notes.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Mon 27 Oct, 2008 05:17 pm
@Arjen,
May I make a recommendation on the essential Kantian text on his ethics. It is the Cambridge edition which collects all of Kant's works on practical philosophy. Not to mention, the translation is outstanding. It is rather expensive, but considering what is contained within it is well worth the investment for anyone that studies Kant. The English-German and German-English glossaries in the back help with the terminology as well.

Amazon.com: Practical Philosophy: Immanuel Kant, Mary J. Gregor, Allen W. Wood: Books
 
jgweed
 
Reply Mon 27 Oct, 2008 09:35 pm
@Arjen,
The transcendental aesthetic tells us nothing about things-in-themselves nor that they necessarily have certain aspects as is presented in the original post. As I understand Kant, his position is that space and time underlay all intuitions, and these are a priori conditions for intuitions (sensible appearances) to be possible, and not properties of noumena. As appearances, "sensible objects cannot exist in themselves, but only in us. What objects may be in themselves...remains completely unknown to us." (B59, section 8). What we can know is our mode of perceiving them because it is prior to all actual perceptions.

Later on in the same section, Kant writes: "It is only if we ascribe objective reality to these forms of representation, that it becomes impossible for us to prevent everything being thereby transformed into mere illusion."
 
 

 
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