|Kant's Thoughts On Morality
Kant believes that our motives are
controlled by reason, and he proves this as he writes, "There is no possibility of
thinking of anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be regarded as good
without qualification, except a good will."
Kant admits that doubt can always be
raised as to the possibility of our ever acting from a disinterested sense of duty, that
"there have always been philosophers who have absolutely denied the reality of this
disposition in human actions and have ascribed everything to a more or less refined
self-love." Kant is poking fun at the egoists as he says this but he acknowledges,
"We like to flatter ourselves with the false claim to a more noble motive; but in
fact we can never, even by the strictest examination, completely plumb the depths of the
secret incentives of our actions." Kant proves the egoists wrong in their thinking
that they control their actions and that "even if there never have been actions
springing from such pure sources, the question at issue here is not whether this or that
has happened but that reason of itself and independently of all experience commands what
ought to happen. Consequently, reason unrelentingly commands actions of which the world
has perhaps hitherto never provided an example and whose feasibility might well be doubted
by one who bases everything upon experience."
Kant quickly points out that one
must not lie. Kant defines a "lie" as any "intentional untruthful
declaration to another person" and claims that it is always harmful in barring other
persons from access to the truth. A French utilitarian (Benjamin Constant) asks Kant to
consider whether, in Kant's mind, it would not be right to lie to a murderer who asks
whether our friend, who he means to kill, is hiding in our house. Kant sticks with his
opinion and responds that "To be truthful (honest) in all declarations, therefore, is
a sacred and absolutely commanding decree of reason, limited by no expediency,"
including human life.