Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Quote of the Week, 2015-01-21

It is likewise a contradiction to make the perfection of another my end, and to regard myself as in duty bound to promote it. For it is just in this that the perfection of another man as a person consists, namely, that he is able of himself to set before him his own end according to his own notions of duty; and it is a contradiction to require (to make it a duty for me) that I should do something which no other but himself can do.

IV. What are the Ends which are also Duties?, The Metaphysical Elements of Ethics, by Immanuel Kant

Translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott

Retrieved from Project Gutenberg

So long as another person can set his goals before himself according to what he believes is his duty, he will be perfected? I can think of a few ways that this is insufficient, and in many of these ways, people can be assisted to their own perfection, and it is quite reasonable to make assisting such people a duty.

First, some notions of duty are harmful. Feeling duty to an evil government is harmful. Feeling duty to social conventions that degrade people are harmful. Feeling duty to purely toxic family members is harmful. There is no contradiction in taking, as one of our own ends, the convincing of another person that they have chosen duties that are harmful, and to assist them in the ability to discriminate between harmful and helpful duties. This would be a duty we had toward the perfection of other people.

Second, people can not rationally choose duties to follow without learning to think rationally. It's not enough to say have a duty that is helpful, we need to understand how to advance such a duty in our lives, and which of our behaviors tends to support that duty. This instruction would also be a valid duty to undertake to support the perfection of another.

Thirdly, parents have a duty to raise their children in a fashion to help their children to their own perfection.

I could go on, but I think these examples suffice to point out that the perfection of others can be, and often is, a duty of ours.

No comments: