Kant and Happiness

Kant and Happiness
philoso
Initiate

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Jul 21, 2007

Total Topics: 9
Total Posts: 41
#1 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jun 26, 2009 - 12:49 PM:
Subject: Kant and Happiness
Kant's view on happiness, on a broader reading of his works, is rather obscure, and I'm just looking for some interpretations as to what role happiness plays in his ethics.

Obviously, he holds that a moral theory principally based on happiness is imomral (or amoral?), and that only actions based on duty, acted through the good will are truly moral. This is not to say that Kant disregards happiness, he just says that is shouldn't be conflated with morality and ethics.

But I'm dubious as to whether we can completely separate the 2. Without any form of happiness, would talk of morality not be meaningless? or at best, pointless. Having a more Aristotelian approach to 'happiness' or flourishing as some kind of teleological end seems more in line with intuition. Could Kant's theory also be interpreted as having happiness in some way intertwined with morality and virtue, without converting it into a consequentialist theory?

Not only this, but separating happiness from morality leaves us with no motivating force to act morally, for without happiness as some part of an ultimate end, a natural end, or as some other function, there seems to be no reason to act morally. How does Kant introduce a motivation to his ethical theory? Does he intertwine happiness and morality in any obvious way?
ciceronianus
Just a Misfit
Avatar

Usergroup: Sponsors
Joined: Sep 20, 2008
Location: The Bughouse

Total Topics: 95
Total Posts: 5263

Last Blog: A Citizen of the World

#2 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jun 26, 2009 - 2:03 PM:

Well, he never left the vicinity of Konigsberg, isolated himself for years, was so regular in his habits that people supposedly set their watches according to when he took walks, and probably died a virgin. He may not be the fellow you want to look to when it comes to happiness.
philoso
Initiate

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Jul 21, 2007

Total Topics: 9
Total Posts: 41
#3 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jun 26, 2009 - 2:09 PM:

But I think happiness did play an important role in his thinking. He said that we can pursue happiness, and should pursue it as much as we can, provided we acted in accord with the categorical imperative. He's getten a bad name for himself, as, at a basic level, he's taught as some dogmatic totalitarian moral theost who simply wants people to act like robots, but that's miles from the truth.

He simply attempted to find an objective basis on which to base moral actions, while still retaining our ability to be free (through pure, practical reason), which enables us to promote our own happiness, and the happiness of others. I'm just wondering if he can separate the two as much as he does, or whether or not they have to be married in some way or another?
keda
Ijon Tichy

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Jul 25, 2005
Location: Finland

Total Topics: 43
Total Posts: 496
#4 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jun 26, 2009 - 9:35 PM:

Kant explicitely says that actions motivated for the sake of ones happiness are devoid of moral worth (not necessarily immoral, can be amoral, and even in accordance with duty, however one does either act out of duty or out of self interest, and acting in accordance with duty is not necessarily acting out of duty.) The connection between happiness and morality in Aristoteles approach, is more direct, while in Kant, there is no direct connection between morality and happiness. According to Kant, morality is the doctrine of how to act so as to make oneself worthy of happiness, not a doctrine of how to obtain happiness. Many evil actions are committed for the sake of personal happiness, including those of Hitler that killed millions of Jews. This is of course nothing Aristoteles would argue would be good, but from Aristoteles point of view, morality will lead to happiness. Not necessarily so for Kant. Still happiness remains important in Kant's system of critical philosophy, as Kant famously puts it in one of the three elementary questions he asks in the Critique of Pure Reason, "if I do as I ought, what may i hope?" to which answer is given by Kant's idea of rational religion. Since happiness is not a necessary consequence of morality, Kant supposes that like all actions, the end of ones actions, the highest good (aka summum bonum) is supposed that will serve as an external link between morality and happiness, for there to be a point in acting morally in the first place. This is not to say that the actions are then done for the sake of happiness, but rather that they are done in the hope to obtain happiness, but done for the sake of duty itself. As if it happens an immoral act would better satisfy your desires, if you act merely for the sake of happiness, you would pick that action, however if you act for the sake of duty, you would resist such a temptation.
Crackers
Forum Veteran

Usergroup: Members
Joined: May 28, 2009

Total Topics: 5
Total Posts: 751
#5 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jun 27, 2009 - 4:11 AM:

I think this helps to understand Kant's view on happiness:

Wikipedia, on Kant's "Observations of the Feeling of the Sublime and Beautiful", wrote:


* A person who has a constitution that is melancholic will have a predominating feeling for the sublime. That person may possess genuine virtue based on the principle that humanity has beauty and worth.
* One who has a sanguine nature will mostly have a feeling for the beautiful. This results in an "adoptive" virtue that rests on goodheartedness. This person's compassion and sympathy depend on the impression of the moment.
* A choleric human will have a feeling for the splendid or showy sublime. As a result, this person will possess an apparent virtue. Kant calls it "a gloss of virtue." This includes a sense of honor and concern for outward appearance.
* Phlegmatic people have apathy or lack of any finer feeling. They therefore may have an absence of virtue.


Melancholic = sad.
Sanguine = happy.
Choleric = ambitious/energised.
Phlegmatic - apathetic/unemotional.

Kant might have argued that "Sanguine happiness" is more of a light-hearted naïvé sort of happiness and that true happiness is melancholic: seeing cruelties and imperfections, avoiding them and so becoming "virtuous" (I personally disagree with this though).

Here's a good quote to answer your own views on happiness:

Nietzsche wrote:
Whether it be hedonism or pessimism or utilitarianism or eudaemonism: all these modes of thought which assess the value of things according to pleasure and suffering, that is to say according to attendant and secondary phenomena, are foreground modes of thought and naïvetés which anyone conscious of creative powers and an artist’s conscience will look down on with derision, though not without pity. Pity for you!

That, to be sure, is not pity for social “distress,” for “society” and its sick and unfortunate, for the vicious and broken from the start who lie all around us; even less is it pity for the grumbling, oppressed, rebellious slave classes who aspire after domination—they call it “freedom.”

Our pity is a more elevated, more farsighted pity—we see how man is diminishing himself, how you are diminishing him!—and there are times when we behold your pity with an indescribable anxiety, when we defend ourselves against this pity—when we find your seriousness more dangerous than any kind of frivolity.

You want if possible—and there is no madder “if possible”—to abolish suffering; and we?—it really does seem that we would rather increase it and make it worse than it has ever been!

Well-being as you understand it—that is no goal, that seems to us an end! A state which soon renders man ludicrous and contemptible—which makes it desirable that he should perish!

The discipline of suffering, of great suffering—do you not know that it is this discipline alone which has created every elevation of mankind hitherto? That tension of the soul in misfortune which cultivates its strength, its terror at the sight of great destruction, its inventiveness and bravery in undergoing, enduring, interpreting, exploiting misfortune, and whatever of depth, mystery, mask, spirit, cunning and greatness has been bestowed upon it—has it not been bestowed through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering?

In man, creature and creator are united: in man there is matter, fragment, excess, clay, mud, madness, chaos; but in man there is also creator, sculptor, the hardness of the hammer, the divine spectator and the seventh day—do you understand this antithesis? And that your pity is for the “creature in man,” for that which has to be formed, broken, forged, torn, burned, annealed, refined—that which has to suffer and should suffer?

And our pity—do you not grasp whom our opposite pity is for when it defends itself against your pity as the worst of all pampering and weakening?— Pity against pity, then!— But, to repeat, there are higher problems than the problems of pleasure and suffering and pity; and every philosophy that treats only of them is a piece of naïveté. —


cosscos
Resident

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Dec 11, 2008

Total Topics: 4
Total Posts: 184
#6 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jun 27, 2009 - 4:41 AM:

What if happiness will lead to morality, not vice versa, keda?

As long as I recall Aristotle's works, the priority is summum bonum. namely, supreme good, which is happiness.
keda
Ijon Tichy

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Jul 25, 2005
Location: Finland

Total Topics: 43
Total Posts: 496
#7 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jul 4, 2009 - 8:06 AM:

cosscos: happiness is perhaps not the best translation of eudaimonia, because happiness is thought of as something subjective while Aristoteles thought of eudaimonia as something objective. Still you can't subtract happiness from it, and Aristoteles argues that only the wise can obtain it because they have the knowledge, i.e. they know virtue will lead to eudaimonia unlike the common person. One may then ask, how can the common person be blamed for being unfortunate not to be taught this knowledge, and how can one praise the enlightened for being fortunate to know something, and of his self interest take advantage of this knowledge to find his own happiness?
keda
Ijon Tichy

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Jul 25, 2005
Location: Finland

Total Topics: 43
Total Posts: 496
#8 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jul 4, 2009 - 8:20 AM:

Crackers wrote:
I think this helps to understand Kant's view on happiness:



Melancholic = sad.
Sanguine = happy.
Choleric = ambitious/energised.
Phlegmatic - apathetic/unemotional.

Kant might have argued that "Sanguine happiness" is more of a light-hearted naïvé sort of happiness and that true happiness is melancholic: seeing cruelties and imperfections, avoiding them and so becoming "virtuous" (I personally disagree with this though).

I don't think Kant made a distinction between various kinds of happiness. In the critique of practical reason he goes about to equate all kinds of happiness saying there is no "higher" desires. Kant's humor theory is based on his notions of the feeling of the sublime and the beautiful. The sanguine has an inclination for the beautiful, while the melancholic an choleric have incliniation for the sublime (I'm not entirely sure what the distinction was but i guess it was between dynamic and mathematical sublime) and the phlegmatic has no finer feelings.

philoso
Initiate

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Jul 21, 2007

Total Topics: 9
Total Posts: 41
#9 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jul 6, 2009 - 6:17 AM:

how then does kant's view on happiness differ from pleasure? not just sensual pleasures, but more of an Epicurean sense of pleasure, or a Millian higher pleasure?

Also, would you say Aristotle's and Kant's theories are directly opposed? Or to they just appear to be? Is there a way of reconciling them?

After all, Eudaimonia/true happiness for Aristotle is a moral, worthy end. For Kant it is not. Kant would say that Aristotle has got it wrong in the sense that he introduces happiness into a moral theory, when really he should keep it completely separate so that we are not biased, and so that our willing can be influenced only by pure, practical reason.

What would the Aristotelian say to this? Is Kant dehumanizing morality by separating it from happiness?
keda
Ijon Tichy

Usergroup: Members
Joined: Jul 25, 2005
Location: Finland

Total Topics: 43
Total Posts: 496
#10 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jul 7, 2009 - 3:05 PM:

I would like to say that they are quite compatible in practice simply because virtue ethics is incorporated into Kant's theory of morality quite nicely, however at the bottom Kant and Aristoteles comes from different starting points to the same conclusions about virtue, which also in practice leads to some differences. So it is really the other way around, they appear quite similar, but only outwardly and are internally fundamentally opposed. Key differences being:
Aristoteles: it is an empirical science
Kant: it is an a priori science
Aristoteles: only the wise can be moral
Kant: everyone has a chance, ought implies can
Aristoteles: self interest is valid motivation
Kant: self interest is not a valid motivation, only duty

While Aristoteles thinks virtue is necessary for happiness, he does not go so far as the stoics to say it is both sufficient and necessary cause of it. This is why luck plays a role also in obtaining eudaimonia for Aristoteles, but for Kant, it is not obtained by means of luck but by means of divine grace, as the condition under which virtue is a necessary and sufficient condition for happiness.

I'm not sure what you mean by dehumanizing morality. I would say Kant does purify morality from all empirical conditions without making it any less human, it is quite on the contrary in harmony with humanity, as it is compatible with happiness.

On a final note, I think Aristoteles was on the right track and may just have not thought through all the conclusions to find himself in agreement with Kant, for if we are to keep to the Aristotelelian idea that virtue being necessary for eudaimonia we may have to become Kantian to succeed, in this sense I suppose they could be reconsiled, depending on how well the other Aristotelian idea that this can be known holds, but likewise Kant had to reject the dogmatism of the rationalists, he had to reject this second idea ultimately as an enemy of morality.



locked
Download thread as
  • 80/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5



This thread is closed, so you cannot post a reply.