Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Veatch on The Kantian Line on Moral Law

In his essay “Natural Law: Dead or Alive?,” Henry B. Veatch says that some thinkers try to justify their position on human rights and human duties without making an appeal to nature and natural law—they prefer to follow a Kantian line of justification.

In the following excerpt from Veatch's essay, we have his perspective on the Kantian line on moral law:
In general, Kant suspected that egoistic or self-interested motives were non-moral because they were not so much reasoned to and freely chosen as automatic, given biases or vested interests caused and determined heteronomously rather than by the autonomous choice of the moral agent. In the hope of making ethical choice more rational and autonomous, Kant turned to a universalizability principle. He reasoned that universalizing one’s reasons for action (i.e., by applying those reasons equally to every other agent) would form the decisive criterion for any action that is truly rational and hence a truly moral one. This universalizing approach led Kant to formulate his categorical imperative whose edict applied equally well to all moral agents. Kant was at pains to remove all self-interested goals, ends, or objects of desire as the possible justifying reasons for moral actions. Such self-interested motives seemed to him merely irrational deterministic reflexes of an agent’s actions (similar to Hobbes’s “passions”) rather than authentic, autonomous, and rationally chosen motives.

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