Kant: Reasons and Causes, Morality and 1. Summarize this paragraph: As we have seen, Kant strongly emphasizes the distinction between self-interested inclinations and moral duty. He contrasts our human nature with the animals, on the one side, and with the conception of a “holy will,” on the other. Animals feel no tension between desires and duty, for they have no concept of duty. A rational being with no self-interested desires (an angel?) would not experience any tension either, but for the opposite reason: not being subject to temptation, he or she (or it?) would always do the right thing. But we humans are mixed beings, midway between animals and angels. We are embodied creatures with our individual needs, including not only physical desires for food and sex but emotional needs or drives for love, approval, status, and power. Yet we are also rational beings (some of the time!), and that involves what Kant calls “pure practical reason,” the recognition of moral obligations. The tension between these two sides of our nature is an inescapable feature of the human condition, so we never achieve complete virtue or holiness. 2: Explain this statement: Rather, he thinks that radical evil arises from our predisposition to prioritize our self-love, as a result of development under social conditions. 3: Summarize this paragraph: There are very practical problems here for parents, teachers, social workers and legislators, about how people can be taught and encouraged to develop virtue. (Here we echo Plato’s and Aristotle’s recognition of the need for ethics to be located in a wider conception of society.) Kant has things to say about these questions; not all of his writing is at the level of abstruse theory. The most obvious response is to offer rewards or threaten punishments, but that does not produce Kantian virtue, it only puts new self-interested reasons in place. It may induce outward conformity to rules, but it cannot create the virtuous inner attitude, the will to do the right action just because it is right. Kant does not regard blame and praise as mere external incentives like a slap or a sweet. Rather, they are ways of “sharing in the reason of one another,” that is, of seeing other people as (partly) rational beings with needs and interests of their own. Praise and blame become part of distinctively moral discourse; they can convince or remind someone about what is right or wrong.
1: Kant highlights the difference between our self-interested desires and moral duties, and notes that animals do not experience this tension as they lack the concept of duty. Humans are a mix of both animal and rational being, which leads to an inherent tension between our individual needs and our moral obligations. This tension is a fundamental aspect of the human condition.
2: Kant believes that radical evil arises from our predisposition to prioritize our self-love. This is due to the social conditions in which we develop, rather than a flaw in human nature itself.
3: There are practical challenges in teaching people to develop virtue, and Kant argues that rewards and punishments cannot create virtuous inner attitudes. Instead, moral discourse, including blame and praise, can be used to convince or remind someone about what is right or wrong. Praise and blame are not mere external incentives, but ways of sharing in the reason of one another and recognizing other people as rational beings with their own needs and interests.