Chapter 9  Kantian Theory : The Categorical Imperative
Section 9. Goodness vs Rightness

What is the relationship between "goodness" and morally "right" actions?

According to Utilitarians, rightness follows from goodness. What is "intrinsically good"? Pleasure. What about people? Are people intrinsically good? Well, only insofar as they are the carriers and bearers of pleasure. One person's pleasure is as good as another's. An action is morally right because it brings happiness -- because it has certain good effects. Right actions are right because they achieve something that is good.

For Kant, the roles are reversed. It is a person that is the source of value. A person is of infinite worth, and what a person has, what a person does, what a person believes, what a person enjoys are all dependent upon the person's reason and the person's autonomy. Kant says that the virtues themselves -- evenness of temper, patience, can be turned evil if they are used for evil.

For Kant, then, "goodness" follows "rightness." What is good is good because it is the expression of a rational will -- because it is achieved in accord with the universal principles of reason.

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Copyright Stephen O Sullivan and Philip A. Pecorino  2002. All Rights reserved.

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