g l o o m y s u n d a y (gloomy__sunday) wrote in moraltheory,
g l o o m y s u n d a y

Today's Topic

For Kant, morals are based on universal law, to be immoral is to be irrational.
I find this view to be really extremist... with a utilitarian, I'm going to argue at least partial psychological egoism, and claim that we have a leaning toward being motivated out of our own self-interest, so we can a lot more easily stomach utilitarian theory...

On the other hand, Kant is so far from practical concerns (when I say this I mean consequences in regard to self-interest) that they seem to be polar opposites.

Given at least some psychological egoism, why should anyone bother to buy into Kant's account of morality?
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well, for one, guilt. sometimes people are compelled to feel guilty about something, and self-less views like this help people feel bad about themselves. i know it's sort of silly, but people do this all the time.
Short answer? We shouldn't. Long answer? We should, simply because it's a goal to strive for. We shouldn't ever expect to reach a state of perfect extremism, but you should always reach for something unachievable. That way, you're never idle.
oh! i like this!
I'm not sure that this psychological leaning is at all relevant to morality. Just because we tend to act in self-interested ways doesn't mean we should act in such ways, in the same way that a college student's tendency to party every night and drink herself stupid doesn't mean that that's what she should do.

Or, if you don't like my switch from "everybody" to "her", just because we have a tendency to kill one another, doesn't mean we should do so. And it doesn't mean this tendency needs to be accounted for in our moral theory.

So, if Kant's theory fails, it's not on this count.
Well, we could say that psychology is irrelevant, as jonathonjones or Kant himself would seem to, and say that people 'should' bother to buy into Kant's account of morality because the things it describes are, as part of an account of morality, what they should do, and everyone should do what they should do.

Or, we could actually look at empirical psychology, and we would find that people have certain moral feelings. These may not even be always feelings of guilt or obligation - they also include feelings of outrage. If someone beats me in a race, or takes the last copy of something I want, I'll be upset but unless I can convince myself that it's unfair I won't feel the kind of powerful anger that I might feel if someone broke into my house and raped me - that feeling is qualitatively different, and it takes the form of feeling that they have violated some principle and acted in a way that would be wrong for anyone to do. So until you can get raped and then say 'fair dos' about it, I think you're already committed to some idea of a general principle.

Also, I don't think utilitarianism is more attractive from an egoistic point of view: if followed through logically it may well lead to things like an obligation to give away all of your money to the poor and abstain from eating animal products. Deontology is much more comfortable in many ways.