Immanuel Kant on Freedom

today we turn to Immanuel Kant who offers a different account of why we have a categorical duty to respect the dignity of persons and not to be use people as means merely even for good ends.

is well, it’s about what the supreme principle of morality this number one, and it’s also it gives us an account one of the most powerful accounts we have of what freedom really is so let me start today.

Kant rejects utilitarianism he thinks that the individual person all human beings have a certain dignity that commands our respect the reason the individual is sacred or the bearer of rights according to Kant, doesn’t stem from the idea that we own ourselves, but instead from the idea that we are all rational beings we’re all rational beings which simply means that we are beings who are capable of reason.

we’re also autonomous beings which is to say that we are beings capable of acting and choosing freely now, this capacity for reason and freedom isn’t the only capacity we have. we also have the capacity for pain and pleasure for suffering and satisfaction Kant admits the utilitarians were half a right

of course we seek to avoid pain and we like pleasure Kant doesn’t deny this what he does deny is Bentham’s claim that pain in pleasure are our sovereign masters he thinks that’s wrong. Kant thinks that it’s are national capacity that makes us distinctive, that makes us special that sets us apart from and above mere animal existence.

Now we often think of freedom as simply consisting in doing what we want or in the absence of obstacles to getting what we want that’s one way of thinking about freedom. but this isn’t Kant’s idea of freedom Kant has a more stringent demanding notion of what it means to be free and though stringent and demanding, if you think it through it’s actually pretty persuasive Kant’s reason is as follows when we, like animals seek after pleasure or the satisfaction of our desires of the avoidance pain when we do that we aren’t really acting freely. why not? we’re really acting as the slaves of those appetites and impulses I didn’t choose this particular hunger or that particular appetite, and so when I act to satisfy it I’m just acting according to natural necessity and for Kant, freedom is the opposite of necessity

to act freely is not to choose the best means to a given end it’s to choose the end itself for its own sake and that’s something that human beings can do and that billiard balls can’t

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