Kant on Debt
Source Ian Murray
Date 99/07/09/02:04

Which is why we should no longer read Kant!


> Kant wrote: "Another finds himself forced by necessity to borrow money. He
> knows that he will not be able to repay it, but sees also that
> nothing will
> be lent to him unless he promises stoutly to repay it in a definite time.
> He desires to make this promise, but he has still so much
> conscience to ask
> himself: Is it not unlawful and inconsistent with duty to get out of a
> difficulty in this way? Suppose, however, that he resolves to do so, then
> the maxim of his action would be expressed thus: When I think myself in
> want of money, I will borrow money and promise to repay it,
> although I know
> that I never can do so. Now this principle of self-love or of one's own
> advantage may perhaps be consistent with my whole future welfare; but the
> question now is, Is it right? I change then the suggestion of self-love
> into a universal law, and state the question thus: How would it be if my
> maxim were a universal law? Then I see at once that it could never hold as
> a universal law of nature, but would necessarily contradict itself. For
> supposing it to be a universal law that everyone when he thinks himself in
> a difficulty should be able to promise whatever he pleases, with the
> purpose of not keeping his promise, the promise itself would become
> impossible, as well as the end that one might have in view in it, since no
> one would consider that anything was promised to him, but would ridicule
> all such statements as vain pretenses."
> It is interesting to take note of not only the way in which Kant
> formulated
> his categorical imperative (empty and formal, in contrast to earlier moral
> teachings that pointed to substantial goals) but also the kind of examples
> that Kant used to illustrate and clarify how he thought of it. Both the
> formula and the examples he offered suggest that Kant's
> innovation in moral
> philosophy consisted in proposing the kind of morality that would be
> consistent with the workings of the market. The above example should
> satisfy the creditors.
> Kant insisted that his moral principles are based upon the idea
> of a *will*
> as *good in itself*. Happiness, health, and other substantial goals are
> secondary to it. In fact, he went further and said, "Nay, it [the
> cultivation of the reason] may even reduce it [the attainment of
> happiness]
> to nothing." Here one can read Kant's idea of will as an
> excellent metaphor
> for the ideal free market, uncontaminated by feelings, desires, and
> objectives imcompatible with its primary and only unconditional purpose.
> Kant also wrote: "That an action done from duty derives its moral worth,
> *not from the purpose* which is to be attained by it, but from
> the maxim by
> which it is determined, and therefore does not depend on the
> realization of
> the object of the action, but merely on the *principle of volition* by
> which the action has taken place, without regard to any object of desire."
> Kant's principle of the will is as rigorous and implacable as the drive to
> accumulate--accumulation for the sake of accumulation, whic is the mirror
> image of morality for the sake of morality.
> Yoshie

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