Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Quote of the Week, 2014-12-17

Now that ethics is a doctrine of virtue (doctrina officiorum virtutis) follows from the definition of virtue given above compared with the obligation, the peculiarity of which has just been shown. There is in fact no other determination of the elective will, except that to an end, which in the very notion of it implies that I cannot even physically be forced to it by the elective will of others. Another may indeed force me to do something which is not my end (but only means to the end of another), but he cannot force me to make it my own end, and yet I can have no end except of my own making. The latter supposition would be a contradiction- an act of freedom which yet at the same time would not be free. But there is no contradiction in setting before one's self an end which is also a duty: for in this case I constrain myself, and this is quite consistent with freedom.

Exposition of the Conception of Ethics, The Metaphysical Elements of Ethics, by Immanuel Kant

Translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott

Retrieved from Project Gutenberg

As so often happens when a person declares that one of two conditions must exist, reality intrudes with situations that fit into neither category. Here, Kant seems to be saying that there are two reasons that we undertake an action, either to accomplish our own end, or by threat of coercion from another to accomplish their end. but he makes no allowance for a person to be able to install an end from the their own mind into the mind of another.

An obvious counterexample to the general statement is child-rearing. One of the primary goals of parenting is to instill the appropriate ends into your children, to teach them to esteem being virtuous. Perhaps Kant will discuss this in a later section of this book. I can certainly see a possible exception being offered, that children are too unformed to have free will, and the contradiction does not exist in the absence of free will.

Nonetheless, This answer does not satisfy, because we can see the same phenomenon in adults. In kidnapping victims we refer to it as Stockholm syndrome. People change their ends to reflect those of their captors, abusers, religious leaders, etc. Any detailed discussion of free will needs to account for such occurrences.

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