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Moral Acts

1. Immanuel Kant distinguishes between acts that are performed out of duty and acts which are performed for the sake of duty, holding that those acts performed in accordance with duty but not from duty have no moral worth. In making this distinction, Kant is setting forth a moral principle in keeping with his view that morality does not derive from nature but from the mind, and it is what is intended that is important rather than what occurs without intent, even if the action is the same. Kant uses an example that shows the distinction. He cites the case of a dealer who does not overcharge an inexperienced purchaser. This is clearly in accordance with duty. However, the merchant refrains from overcharging and thus provides the same price for all so that all his customers can buy form him equally. He does this because it is to his advantage to do it and not because there is a moral principle involved, though the result is the same as if he were paying attention to duty. However, unless the individual is acting because of a moral duty, the action cannot be considered a moral action.

For Kant, to act for the sake of duty means to act out of reverence for the moral law. He says that a good will is manifested in acting for the sake of duty. The good will, he says, is the only good without qualification. The good will is describe in terms very similar to those used for the question of duty. The statement that we have no right to happiness but only an obligation to do our duty does not mean that doing out duty will not lead to happiness, as Aristotle and others believed that it would. What it means is that the obligation comes before all else and that even if doing our duty threatens our happiness, we have the obligation to do our duty. For Kant, the categorical imperative is the moral imperative. The categorical imperative commands that the maxims serving as our principles of volition conform to universal law, and the s...

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Moral Acts. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:35, November 29, 2021, from