Friday, February 13, 2004

Philosophy 104: Thesis Statements, Jon Bulaong

.:For The Benefit Of Those With Flash Photography:.

Everything's done!

Like always, I will answer the thesis statements for Philosophy. It's Saturday, and as promised, the answers are already up, and I will leave this here for a while until I start blogging about life again by Monday, I guess. However, a few things I would ask to those who would make use of these answers:

1. Mr. Bulaong reads this weblog. Do not, under any circumstances, take my answers, especially my examples, word for word. I’ve been Mr. Bulaong’s student for over a year already, so he knows what type of examples I frequently give. It will not help you one bit to use my examples as your own during your oral exams, whether or not you come before me.

2. Please do leave a comment on my Guestmap at the left side of this weblog. There is an icon there that says “View My Guestmap”. Better yet, you can also leave a comment at the end of this post, if you are so inclined to.

3. Keep on studying well. I have never considered myself a definitive authority on Philosophy. Please don’t give me too much credit at the peril of your own grade. Don't sue me, either. :)

And now, the thesis statements…


1. Every endeavor aims at some good, an end (telos) that is pursued in action,. The human being’s ultimate finality is, at the same time, the highest good of the human. According to the formal criteria for the good, the “highest good” of the human being is nothing other than well-being and flourishing (eudaimonia). In this context, Aristotle does not believe that the good is in the “realm beyond being” that Plato envisaged.

In everything a person does, the question arises without fail: why does one do what he does? There will always be some objective in sight, and these objectives set our actions in perspective. For instance, one might be working overtime every single day in order to get promoted in two months’ time. Why? Because he wants to be rich. Why? Because he wants to be able to live well. Why? Why not?

We see here a chain of “what-for’s” working towards an ultimate “for-the-sake-of-which” in the end, a telos, so to speak. Everything we do is clearly working towards a good rationally aimed at, which is further aimed towards yet another good rationally aimed at, until we reach the end of this chain. This chain points us to the realization that what a human being makes of himself, assuming that he reaches his ultimate finality, is what could very well be the highest good for that human being. This is clearly because when we reach the end of our chain of asking “what for”, we reach our ultimate goal, and this ultimate goal is that which we want to discover for ourselves in this respect.

Consider: there must be an objective criteria that we can set in order to find this ultimate good, albeit we have already answered it loosely at the start of this explicitation. This objective criteria of what the ultimate good is should be all of three things:

(a) The good must be complete; the telos pursued for and in itself, it is final, perfect, and comprehensive. This is to say that this good we speak of must be such that when we have it, we no longer feel the need to ask what the telos of this good is, because it is already complete in itself.

(b) The good is self-sufficient; it lacks nothing because it suffices in the socio-political sphere. This kind of good is something that is good enough in itself not merely ethically or morally or spiritually, but this ultimate good is also enough for one to live with others, without any need of anything outside of it.

(c) The good is choiceworthy; not counted as one good among many. It is the sui generis, the paragon of good. It is not something that is replaceable by another good.

With that being said, what is the ultimate good for a human being? Can we say happiness? Well, yes, in a deeper sense. The word loosely translated by most as “happiness” is the word eudaimonia, which is more aptly likened to “flourishing”, “doing well”, or “being well”. This eudaimonia in truth fulfills the threefold requirement: it is complete, as when one flourishes, one does not ask for what purpose he flourishes; it is self-sufficient, as a flourishing man will prosper in society as he is doing well; it is also choiceworthy, as one is hard-pressed to say that a specific virtue like, say, courage, is an ample substitute for one who does well. It is quite clear that there are a myriad ways by which one can flourish as a human being, as we do not have a singular idea of a person whom we deem to be eudaimon.

In this line of thought, we realize where Aristotle and Plato clearly cease to meet eye to eye. Plato, in his belief in a “realm beyond being” we know as the world of Eidos, believed that there is only one true form of good that is in this world (of Eidos). Everything that we may deem to be “good” in this physical world, to Plato, are merely “imitations” or “participations” of the true essence of good in the world of ideas. Plato contemplates upon this perfection. He plainly ignores the possibility that there is really any amount of good in the physical world, as they are merely imitations of the true good, inasmuch as there is truly only one universal essence of blueness for Plato, and as such, the Ateneo is nothing but an imitation of this true essence of blueness.

Although Aristotle does not even attempt to raise the question of whether or not there truly is a world of Eidos, Aristotle denies the fact that the good exists only in the realm beyond being. Aristotle is inclined to believe that the good can be manifest in the world, as he realizes that what makes Michael Jordan a good basketball player is not, commonsensically speaking, the same property that makes a Dad’s eat-all-you-can buffet good. Aristotle believes that with this realization, the good can and is present in the physical world. Plato may have genuinely had a point in his contemplating upon perfection, but it still cannot be denied that phenomenologically, there is no single, universal concept of what the good is. If we cannot approach a universal conception of the good, then Aristotle is justified in believing that the good can be present in the physical world.

2. Aristotle understands eudaimonia to be a stable property that lasts through time, it is to flourish and be excellent. This is related to the human function, which, when exercised excellently, leads to an obedience to the logos. Thus, eudaimonia is always an expression of virtue (arete).

Many people who mistook the word eudaimonia as merely a fancy way of saying “emotional happiness” tend to lose sight of the fact that eudaimonia is a stable property that lasts through time. When one is indeed flourishing, it is not some momentary bliss or high that fades away the moment a personal holocaust comes along. One may feel happy, but one is eudaimon. There is a marked difference in the stability of both, as the former is an emotion that could very well be fleeting while the latter is far more settled. An analogy that may help us but ultimately falls short would be one’s “Fundamental Option”. One’s fundamental option is a stable state that is not overturned by isolated actions that go against this fundamental option.

However, the analogy falls short when we realize that the fundamental option, while it is slowly eroded by contrary actions and is reinforced by concurring ones, more often is restricted to a moral realm for the human being. The eudaimon flourishes in aspects encompassing more than just morality. This is because the eudaimon flourishes and is excellent. One can be an “excellent wrestler”, or an “excellent public servant”, but it is wholly different when one is described as an “excellent human being”. It implies that one is doing well in various dimensions of his life. We might even say that he is functioning well.

Let us elaborate on this. It is clear that a human being serves a function, the way a knife serves the function of cutting, and is thus a good knife when it is used to cut and it cuts well. In this case, a human being’s function, contrary to Smith’s hypothesis (“To die.”), is to logon echontos, to be obedient to the logos (reason). But exactly what is this logos or reason? We recognize the logos as a kind of oreder of things; a universal principle that orders the unity of everything. It in fact is the principle behind all flourishing, that which establishes harmony and order and gives reason to everything. To take a Christian paradigm, Jesus Christ is the logos, loosely interpeted, the way. Do note that in the film “Matrix Revolutions” Niobe’s ship, the ship that restored the harmony and order between man and machine by taking Neo and Trinity to the Machine City, is named the Logos. This points to the fact that the logos is that which points us to the right direction, and while it applies to us universally, Aristotle still accounts for its universal application in specific circumstances, that is, one is not obedient to the logos only through one way.

The logos, as its properties have underlined, inevitably brings about one’s flourishing. Therefore, flourishing, doing well, makes one a good human being, in this respect, as a human being is “functioning” well if he flourishes. Obedience to the logos, following the path of reason, is that which inevitably brings about excellence. Now, this excellence is what we recognize as virtue (arĂȘte). Virtue is simply excellence, and is something that is arguably the “essence” (Term used loosely.) of eudaimonia. At the same time, this virtue is clearly something that should be made manifest in action. As such, one’s eudaimonia is not merely a disposition or capacity for goodness, but simply virtue in action.

Aristotle is clearly fixated on the idea of practicality: for him, this “flourishing” is not genuine if it isn’t manifest in one’s actions. One’s virtues are particularly useless if they are not set into action by eudaimonia. Ergo, as far as we concern ourselves here, Aristotle is obviously giving us pragmatic advice on how best to live out our lives. He is not giving us a checklist of what is right and wrong action, but simply giving a principle by which we can set ourselves into action accordingly. There is this advertising slogan that goes, “True beauty shows”. Let us appropriate that into saying “The excellence of the eudaimon shows.” Let us be explicit in stating that one cannot be eudaimon and not have it manifest. It may be a stable property, but it is not merely a capacity, but an enactment of one’s virtue. Okay. Having said that single idea in five different ways, we can assume this is clear.

3. An action is right if it is performed in accordance with virtue. In this case, Aristotle’s conception of the right is focused on ways of being human, rather than with specific actions. To be ethical, then, is to be in a certain state of character (hexis), for it involves a complete life of discernment. This state of character always seeks the mean (mesotes), defined by reference to the logos, in the face of changing circumstances. One should always be prudent in seeking this mean.

When a cellular phone snatcher steals your brand new Nokia 6600 and then sells it somewhere in Greenhills, then walks across a poor kid begging for money and plunks down, say, twenty pesos in the kid’s can, will you say that the snatcher was doing the right thing? Was his action “right action”, or “virtuous action”? Hardly, or better yet, not at all.

You see, right action does not come without its own threefold criteria, and we will see where our snatcher friend falls short here:

(a) He must know that he is doing right action. If a man were to trip his friend who was running, not knowing that the friend whom he tripped was running after having pulled a bank robbery, then he did not act virtuously. He merely acted in jest of tripping his friend, but did a “good deed” by pure accident.

(b) He must decide on them for themselves. That is, he is doing good action for the sake of doing good action. A traditional politician like GMA is not doing good action for the sake of doing good action, but is doing it for the sake of winning votes come election time. Clearly, this is not virtuous action, as it is not in accordance with the ultimate good that requires the good to be complete in and by itself, whereas GMA is actually using this good as a means to an ulterior motive.

(c) He must be doing it from a firm and unchanging state of character, or hexis. This is the hardest criterion to determine, as it is hard to ascertain one’s settled internal state, no matter who attempts to ascertain it. One who performs random acts of goodness in spite of his overall character being geared against the good is simply not someone who is doing good in accordance with virtue.

With these factors, we realize that our snatcher friend was far from performing any virtuous action. Even if we were to give the benefit of the doubt that he had managed to qualify for the first two criteria, he falls completely flat of the third, assuming that his settled state of character already is one that falls in line with being a cellular phone snatcher. His “random act of goodness” did not merit any value in that respect.

Aristotle’s concern is less with specific actions. We know that he is not merely prescribing a set of do’s and don’t’s. Rather, he is seeking that an action is done for its own sake because doing the right thing is conceived as a good; complete in and by itself, with no need, much less want, of any outside motivation. At the same time, this good act must be done from a settled state of character in accordance with the good. Thus, Aristotle is concerned with ways of being human: ways of doing right action defined under the aforementioned threefold criteria. When one does the right, he is doing so in accordance with his humanity. Right action (The correctly defined type.) dignifies one as a human being. Never mind exactly what you are doing, and be more concerned with how (Through such actions.) you can be human.

Thusly, being ethical results from a life of discernment. It’s easy for anyone to perform any given action, let’s say, to love, but it ceases being easy when one has to love virtuously. It’s a daunting task for one to love in the right amount, for the right reasons, towards the right people, during the right time, in the right way. Not everyone can just go and claim that they can do it, Mr. Suave be damned. There is no quick fix in discernment, but this is what a man with a settled state of character constantly does in order to flourish, and as this is not always a quantitative but a qualitative kind of discernment, then we realize that it is no mean feat.

A virtuous hexis constantly seeks the mesotes, the mean between excess and deficiency, in anything. This is an objective fact: there is a mesotes in anything. However, it is subjective in that one’s mesotes on, say, exercise, will simply not be the same with a Manny Pacquiao if his name happened to be Joseph Estrada. Clearly, this is where the saying “one man’s treasure is another man’s poison” may come into play. Of course, this does not mean to say that all means are meant to be numerical (Really bad pun intended.). Recalling the Matrix Revolutions story, the peace, the mesotes that was found between the humans and the machines did not boil down to a number of people going out the Matrix, and the number of machines that would be accepted by the humans, but on a belief that the peace would “last as long as it will”, as the Oracle succinctly put it to the Architect.

Thus, this mesotes is obviously a moving target for us, inasmuch as the things that we once did often that used to be beneficial to us, such as breastfeeding, will obviously no longer look good once we’re twenty years old. The mesotes is found with reference to orthos logos, or “right reason”, as the circumstances that contribute to determining such a mesotes can and do shift all the time, and only our stability in our state of character can possibly be able to constantly discern for ourselves where this delicate balance lies. Seeking the mean in anything means that this is done all the time, as because we are human beings living in temporality, this mean is not a once-and-for-all matter, as there are likewise countless situations where the mean is in need of being discerned for one’s self.

4. The virtuous man (phronimos) not only judges and does the right thing; he has no motivation not to do it (Annas). This means that he is in a settled state of character that is not incontinent and not only continent. The virtuous man exercises practical intelligence (phronesis), which is concerned not only with universals but with particulars as well. He achieves this character through habituation, for it is in exercising virtue consistently that he becomes virtuous.

When a man is truly virtuous, when he is already what one may term as phronimos, then we know that his discernment can and will tell him the right thing. What is interesting for us to ask at this point is whether or not such a discernment is only that of a tunnel vision, wherein he does not see the countervailing motivations that men of less virtue find. Annas believes that this is not the case for the phronimos, as yes, he is indeed conscious of the temptation not to do the right thing, but there is simply no motivation for him to succumb to this temptation. He has been so conditioned to doing the right thing that a carrot dangling in front of this metaphorical rabbit will no longer snare him, so to speak. His hexis, his state of character, is so set already that he is obviously not incontinent, that he will give in to base desires with ease; nor is he merely continent, that he is being tempted by such base desires, yet he actively resists them.

There is some notion of being cemented in his way of doing things in this respect, such that for Michael Jordan during his prime, while the temptation for him to not find the open man as all the offense would collapse on him in transition did in fact exist, it held no attraction to Jordan, who was being double or triple-teamed, even. With that kind of a settled state of character, given that there is an open man, Jordan would pass off to him, in spite of the allure of taking a breathtaking drive towards the hoop when he knows it wouldn’t yield anything. While Jordan is not exactly a perfect analogy, we still see the consistency of his actions in this respect.

A truly virtuous man exercises phronesis, “practical intelligence” (Avoid using the Platonic term “wisdom” here to eschew from confusion.). This practical intelligence is one’s good deliberation about actions. In any given situation, the man’s ability to discern what is right action that leads towards his eudaimonia, is phronesis being put into action. A natural effect of application of such practical knowledge is that it will clearly allow him to correctly posit his telos or goal, given what he already knows and applies, and as such, he manages to perform right action. This right action is that which becomes the arche, or the jumping point for him to be able to further deliberate correctly. Obviously, while there is a notion of universality in deliberating about everything, there is still a sense of particularity when one actually goes about deliberating a “something” from that “everything” that is laid out.

Ultimately, when he does this, we notice a potential for a circular flow of correct deliberation towards correct action towards more correct deliberation. This process is what we call “habituation”. A man can be virtuous only through habituation. Unlike Plato, Aristotle believes that virtue is useless if it is not set into action, and as such, being virtuous and performing virtuous actions feed off each other to form the virtuous man. In his exercise of virtue constantly, he becomes truly virtuous. This is where we might say that Aristotle is “elitist”: for a man to be virtuous, he must already be doing virtuous acts. But his acts are not truly virtuous in the fullest sense until he himself is virtuous. As such, we see a mutually dependent relationship between one’s being virtuous and one’s exercising his virtue.

Therefore, phronesis neatly ties up with habituation, as this practical reasoning is that which allows us to determine right action, which is our arche for further deliberation upon right action. In setting up an opportunity for a chain of right action and deliberation, we are inevitably habituating our virtue.

5.Utilitarianism is a consequentialist morality. Mill states that, “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.” Thus, utilitarianism is about maximizing the net expectable happiness for all who will be affected, that one ought to act in a way that will produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

Utilitarianism is a consequentialist morality simply because it is concerned with the result of an action more than it is concerned with what goes behind that action. As such, this is distinguished from deontology, which concerns itself with the motivations behind any given action, regardless of what the result may be. Utilitarianism is something that is likewise concerned with the good, although it tends to be quite quantitative in its accounting for such good. So long as the most amount of happiness is brought to the most number of people (And here we use happiness in its affective, not Aristotelian, sense.) by a particular act, it doesn’t matter what the intention behind the act, or even what the nature of the of the act itself was. This utter disregard for any rationality behind an act sans its result is what has earned this kind of morality the derisive title of “Pig’s Philosophy”.

We speak here of a kind of morality that concerns itself with what happens after something is done. In fact, utilitarianism, as laid out by the thesis statement, is in itself almost self-explanatory. But the “beauty” of the whole thing is that the minds behind utilitarianism, in their attempt to bring credibility to the whole movement, have attempted turning it into a science, by which values of dolors (negative value) and hedons (positive value) are given to any particular thing, be it the life of a human being, or the value of a brand-new Mercedes Benz. Thus, if, say, the life of one’s wife is pegged at about a million hedons, and a brand-new Mercedes Benz is valued at two thousand hedons, then giving a man five hundred brand-new Benzes would be enough motivation for a man to kill his wife, by this theory.

The compelling factor of utilitarianism is that one ought to do what is in the greatest interest to the greatest number of people. This completely overrides moral questions on the value of human life, property, and liberty, assuming that the ignorance of their respective values will bring about a lot of happiness to a lot of people. This point of view is hardline, and even mathematical, as some philosophers have taken the effort to calculate the amount of happiness or suffering any given action could actually bring.

But there are weaknesses in attempting to bring the most happiness to the most number of people. Plenty of weaknesses, in fact. For one, the dolors and hedons are being added up the way students would in accounting. If hedons outweigh the dolors, then all is well. The problem here lies in the fact that categorically accounting for hedons and dolors is a painstaking process. You can consider the hedons and dolors involved in the man and the wife, but what about their respective families? What about the effects it would have on their respective workplaces? So let’s say we take those into consideration as well. Then by all means, we have to continue until there is a point where absolutely no stone is unturned. Good luck doing that.

Secondly, how much value there would be in a thing is simply relative. Maybe the Benz is two thousand hedons to this man, but to a student from AMA, a Benz is probably twenty thousand hedons. If there is no uniform mathematical value for hedons and dolors under this system, then the system is simply pointless. A love letter may have ten dolors to a man who recently broke up with his girlfriend who wrote the letter, but a week before they broke up, it must’ve been worth around five hundred hedons! See how this inconsistency of hedons and dolors has completely driven the usefulness of such a system to next to nothing?

With that being said, it is clear that utilitarianism is focused more on gratification than anything else. Advocates of it may say that if there are so many hedons found in spirituality, then utilitarianism accounts for even virtues and spirituality. But clearly, this is where Aristotle once stepped in to say that the mesotes is not always a numerical value. Clearly, the numbers game of placing value into one thing or another has to stop at one point or another. If the only motivation for action is causing the greatest happiness for the most people, then there is nothing choiceworthy about any action, as one action is as good as another, so long as it statistically gives the same amount of happiness to the same amount of people. Nor is this ever complete: One could always add one more happy person to the equation, and it’d always be better. But hey, it could be self-sufficient, as utilitarianism works quite disturbingly well in society and politics. One out of three isn’t so bad? I don’t think so.

6. Kant believes that morality should be based on pure reason alone. This means that the positive basis of morality should provide universal and necessary moral rules; rules that are strong enough to bind any rational being. The source of this morality is the good will for it is the unqualified good. The good will is good not because of what it accomplishes but because it is good in itself.

Immanuel Kant’s brilliance emanates from the fact that he was able to formulate morality a priori any circumstances that may be involved. He employs using the furthest reaches of rationality, that which sets human beings aside from other animals. Forget any other method of basing morality upon, especially not empirical criterion. The idea is to devoid ourselves of any notions of circumstances to simply determine what is moral and what is not moral through pure reason alone. Having distinguished what pure reason is, we now proceed to justify the reason why Kant wanted to use pure reason over any other criterion.

Pure reason, when bereft of any mitigating or aggravating circumstances, yields us room for universal and necessary moral rules. This is because assuming that a human being is rational, it is quite clear that this human being will come to the same conclusions about the morality of an act as any other rational human being would. A priori to any circumstances, one can say quite universally that murder is wrong, no matter who contemplates the morality of such an act, assuming that the one contemplating is indeed a rational being. As such, because these rules are universal and necessary in that if one has come to the conclusion about this rule he must obey this rule, then these moral rules are simply binding to any rational being.

If we take a step back from morality and consider a similar situation, any rational being can and will recognize that a spider is an arachnid. There is no need for any circumstances. A spider is an arachnid. Taxonomy has proven it to be as much. If you are a rational being, and the person next to you is a rational being, then the both of you, once you both reach the conclusion that a spider is indeed an arachnid, are now obligated to call it an arachnid and not a mollusk or a mammal. This affirms your rationality in being able to reach such a conclusion. It becomes clear that when something is determined by pure reason, then that which is determined is so true and so binding that to deny it is to deny rationality.

Returning to morality, we realize that pure reasoning will therefore be able to give us absolute moral values. There will be no gray areas, as we simply ignore any circumstances. This is where Kant’s morality succeeds where other moral theories have failed, as their basis of morality is liable to corruption, since their guide and supreme norm for correctly estimating moral action are missing. A true moral law should be applicable to everyone, and only pure reason is capable of achieving this.

This morality ultimately has a source, and this source is the unqualified good. What kind of thing or idea is there that is such that when you ask “What good is it for?”, you can answer assuredly that it is good by and in itself. This unqualified good, that which we can evaluate as good without any proof, something we simply postulate (Those who have done geometry surely know this.) as good. Given all these things, we can simply say that the good without qualification is obviously the good will. Anything else only has conditional goodness insofar as it is good for something, and not intrinsically and unconditionally good. Good will is good in and by itself. There is no need to look at what this good will can accomplish. If one genuinely has good will, this is already good without qualification, whether or not there is anything this good will accomplishes. Do note the word “will” in good will. This good is simply something that is not merely a means to some further end, but is good in itself.

A note, though: while good will may have similarities to eudaimonia, avoid comparing the two extensively, as their similarities stop at their being good in and by themselves. Eudaimonia is a state of being that flourishes and sets virtue into action. Good will does not always produce good action. Be aware of this very clear distinction between the two.

7. The basic motive of the good will is moral duty. This means that the actions that have true moral worth are done from duty and not just with duty. Thus, one must act morally because it is right to act morally; that is, one is motivated by what is right rather than by some other inclination.

If the source of morality is the good will, then the basic motivation of this good will is clearly moral duty. What this indicates is that true moral worth is found in actions that are done from duty and not merely with duty. Let us illustrate this more clearly: duty, not more votes, not recognition as the “paragon of morality”, must be the clear motivation for morality. Duty is not a “side dish” that we are fulfilling inevitably because nothing pressures us from straying otherwise, nor is it our “prerequisite” in order for us to achieve something else. Duty is the “main course” in both analogies, so to speak. With duty essentially means that duty becomes a tag-along, when it should be done for its own sake, which is what doing moral action from duty connotes.

Here, we speak of four cases that are related to our musings about this:

(a) Acts that do not accord to duty. These are immaterial to the discussion at hand. Murder, stealing, and rape are simply not fulfilling moral duty, any which way you look at it. There is clearly no moral worth in these actions.

(b) Acts that accord to duty only because there is an incentive in fulfilling the duty. GMA is the epitome of this, with her enforcing the death penalty upon kidnappers to appease the Filipino-Chinese community. What an annoying cow. Is there moral worth in performing one’s duty only because there is incentive in doing so?

(c) Acts that accord to duty only because there is no incentive to do otherwise. If you make more money in your advertising job than by pushing drugs, why would you want to not do your advertising work? Is there moral worth in fulfilling one’s moral duty only because it’s more convenient not to do otherwise?

(d) Acts that accord to duty in spite of the incentive to do otherwise. It is so easy to ask for bribe money when a policeman pulls a traffic violator over for a ticket. Why would he want to fulfill his duty and deny himself some much-needed extra money? Is there moral worth in fulfilling one’s moral duty in spite of any incentive to do otherwise?

Clearly, these four cases show to us that great moral worth can be found in one’s fulfillment of duty in spite of any motivations to do otherwise. This is to say that duty is clearly that which motivates you to do it. All other three cases do not compel you to accomplish your duty because of duty itself, which is the problematic in the equation. There may be other cases where there is no prevailing motivation to do otherwise, or there is the existence of an overriding motivation to fulfill duty, but so long as the sole motivation that is given focus upon is fulfilling moral duty, then there is moral worth in such a compliance. Emotions, or how one feels about fulfilling such a moral duty, is ignored (A main difference between Kant and Aristotle, as Aristotle notes pleasure in performing virtue for the virtuous man, while Kant does not even attempt to elucidate this, although this is not to deny the possibility.)

Why then, should one do what is morally upright? One should do what is morally upright because it is what is morally upright. This is rather clear: doing what is morally upright is not done for some other motivation, nor does one do what is morally upright only because there’s no reason not to. The reason must be because it is right. Doing what is right is the objective in itself. Moral duty is clearly the motive of Kant’s morality.

8. Hypothetical imperatives “represent the practical necessity of possible action as a means for attaining something else that one wants” (Kant). This kind of imperative requires bribes, inducements, or pay-offs; that is, one needs to get “paid” in order to act morally. In contrast, categorical imperatives are objectively necessary in themselves. They command absolutely; they are absolute commands.

Kant presented to us two types of imperatives: the hypothetical imperative, and the categorical imperative. While both may bring about the same results if their imperatives are more or less the same, there is quite a marked difference that sets one apart from the other.

Hypothetical imperatives are clearly conditional imperatives. They simply tell us a practical course of action in order to attain something else that one may want. That is to say, the basic formula that hypothetical imperatives follow would be: do X in order to attain Y, or any of their converses and inverses, depending on what X and Y respectively signify. Acting morally with this in mind, therefore, is self-defeating for Kant, as you are not acting morally for the sake of acting morally, but for the sake of something else.

A clear-cut example would be, “If you want to be re-elected as president of the Philippines, then you must cater to the needs of your voting public.” As we have constantly brought up, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is guilty of using hypothetical imperatives in fulfilling her moral duty to her constituents as incumbent president of the Philippines. She’s performing the things that her constituency require of her not because it is the right thing to do given her moral duty as president of the Philippines, but because it will add votes to her come election day this May. Her motivation to fulfill her moral duty (And her fulfillment itself is questionable as is.) is clearly a sign of moral immaturity in that she needs an outside motivation to do the right thing.

We realize at this point that hypothetical imperatives promote the need for bribes, inducements, or pay-offs in order for one to fulfill such an imperative. Take away the need or the desire for the incentive being presented, and there will no longer be any reason for one to fulfill moral duty. Clearly, if we were to go by how we see GMA’s character at present, had she not wanted to run for president anymore, can we assume that she wouldn’t even attempt to appease the Filipino-Chinese community by removing the stay of executions (This is not to say that the executions are morally correct actions.) upon kidnapping convicts? Ah, in this case, it is not illogical to believe that GMA wouldn’t even bat an eyelash in that direction, as there is really no great incentive for her since in this scenario, she isn’t running again, anyway.

Categorical imperatives, on the other hand, clearly draw necessity from themselves. They are objectively necessitated by the fact that in a logical statement, it is not the minor of the major, but rather, it is the only part of the logical statement. Forget the formulation of “doing X for the sake of Y”. Just “do X”, without any qualification or incentive to do it except in doing it. Why? Why not? Why? Don't ask why! This categorical imperative shows us a stronger conviction in doing the right thing, and not doing the right thing in order to achieve something else. If one achieves something else in doing the right thing, then fine. In spite of that, the categorical imperative should be oblivious to any outside benefits such fulfillment of the imperative may bring.

A categorical imperative for our next president ought to be “Serve the country well.” No ifs, buts, and ors about it. Don’t add “So you can be rich at the end of your term” to the statement. In fact, don’t add anything. Nike has the right idea by saying, “Just do it”. If one were to ask what they were to gain from it, the only appropriate answer should be the fulfillment of such a categorical imperative. Thus, categorical imperatives are there in order to explicitly and directly achieve something, and not indirectly. Hypothetical imperatives are searching for an indirect result by using moral action as a means to an ulterior end, which is what Kant wishes to avoid.

9. The four categorical imperatives...

There are four categorical imperatives that can be acquired through pure reasoning alone. These four categorical imperatives are actually extensions of the first categorical imperative, and at the same time, the fourth categorical imperative is the amalgam of the first three categorical imperatives. By now, we know that categorical imperatives are simply imperatives that are so without any qualification or motivation for them to be an imperative save the fact that they are. That is to say, we do not fulfill these categorical imperatives in order to achieve something else. Rather, we fulfill these categorical imperatives in order to fulfill them.

a. “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should be a universal law.”

The first categorical imperative is briefly termed as the categorical imperative on universality. Universality, in this case, is determined from a particular action, so as not to be confused with a Platonic notion that the first categorical imperative is otherworldly. Basically, if one were to ask whether or not an action is moral, one need only turn this maxim (A subjective command, which, along with the law, is the substance of Kant’s morality), and see if it can be applied to all rational beings. Do note that morality in this respect is concerned with actions that affect others inadvertently, and not actions that determine one’s own life (ethics), or actions that determine the most efficient means of doing something (pragmatics).

Given these qualifications, let us then evaluate a given action that can be discerned morally. Let us say, stealing. Do note that we speak of these actions as general and without qualification. We cannot add qualifiers to “stealing” and make it “stealing out of desperation and extreme hunger”, as we are thinking of these things a priori to any circumstances, although a posteriori evaluations can and do happen, as we will see if we were to use the above qualifications in our explicitation later on. Moving on, we can form a maxim for ourselves regarding stealing: “I should steal everyday.” At this point, we imagine this maxim to be a universal law: “Everyone should steal everyday.”

Note the sheer absurdity of the premise, as it goes against rationality. Stealing everyday obviously undermines a rational principle of property, and as such, is not a sustainable practice. It is commonsensically wrong in this respect, as well. The internal contradiction comes in “Out of self-preservation, everyone should steal.” By making this a universal law by which anyone could steal from another, self-preservation is ultimately denied as what one could steal for his survival, another could steal from him, denying his survival. As such, there lies in it a logical flaw, as it contradicts itself in this respect.

Therefore, what could be a good course of action that can be conceived as universal law? Let us try the act of love, in this context, its non-romantic, communitarian-based connotation. “I should love everyone,” would be how the maxim goes. Can one will this to become universal law? “All people should love everyone,” is a universal law that cannot be rejected by common sense. In fact, common sense points to its sustainability as everyone loving everyone would certainly be in accordance with rationality. Neither is it self-contradictory. If everyone were to love everyone, then it would be so, and there would be no contradiction of loving all and in the end producing division. As such, the first categorical imperative becomes the springboard for all other categorical imperatives.

Do note that the way a categorical imperative is phrased can actually already be conceived as a maxim or even a universal law, if the pronouns are changed to reflect a catch-all command. This essentially means that a universal law is precisely what proposes and defines, and ultimately affirms itself.

b. “Act in such a way as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never as a means.”

Again, this is a maxim that can be turned into a universal law, like any other categorical imperative. This one, however, attempts to dignify the human being as an end in himself, and never as a means. Do recall who performs moral actions. These are rational beings. We realize that moral actions are done for their own sakes. If the fruit is done for its own sake, then more so must the tree from which the fruit falls from must be regarded for its own sake. The ultimate goal of these categorical imperatives, after all, is for all to be members of a kingdom of ends. But lest we get ahead of ourselves, let us elaborate.

Humanity is meant to be treated as an end if we were to accept the fact that a rational nature exists as an end in itself. Rational nature is not there so one could do this great rational thing or that great rational act, but it is there as an end in itself. As the possessor of such a rational nature, we recognize then that a human being is an end in itself. Subjectively speaking, this human being is an end in itself. But let us not forget the idea of universality. Every human being, as each of them are assumed to be a possessor of a rational nature, is necessitated to be regarded as an end in himself as well!

Rational nature is the only thing we can consider to have absolute value, compared to the instrumental value everything else would have. Money has instrumental value. We wouldn’t want or need money if we don’t want or need to buy anything with it. School has instrumental value. We want to study because we want to graduate and get a good job, and the instrumental value of a good job is good money, whose instrumental value we already know (Of course, some really weird people do study for the sake of studying. Or do they? Perhaps a dialogue with a nerd is necessitated here?). Rational nature is not “valuable for something”, but instead, it is valuable for its own sake. This is where the distinction lies, and this is what dignifies the human being above all else, and is also that which obliges him to perform his moral duty.

It is quite obvious that no goal of desire can be the moral goal. Because they have conditional worth to the human being, then they cannot be our telos, since we end up rationally aiming for something else beyond this. Much less can the means to this goal be the moral goal, because if the desire for this goal disappears, so does the need for the means. The Rock is currently making film after film, and his means to be making films was his success as a professional wrestler. Is his moral goal to win an Oscar? Not really, because once his films begin to bomb, he’d probably be back wrestling full-time and he’d ditch this goal if it ever was his goal. Is his moral goal to wrestle, then? If that were the case, then why is he not even making his presence felt for Wrestlemania? Why does he not feel obliged to wrestle more often, considering how the ratings dropped without him around?

Clearly, we see here that only The Rock as The Rock can have unconditional value in himself. It doesn’t matter if he’s making movies, it doesn’t matter if he’s wrestling, but so long as The Rock is The Rock, then he’s already layin’ the smacketh down, as far as he’s concerned. His rational nature is valuable in itself, regardless if it points him to being an actor, a wrestler, or just a bouncer. Do you smell what he’s cooking?

c. Act in such a way that “the will is not merely subject to the law but is subject to the law in such a way that must be regarded also as legislating for itself and only on this account as being subject to the law (of which it can regard itself as author).”

The will can be regarded as autonomous, in contrast to being heteronomous. Gathering from their respective etymologies; autonomy = self law, heteronomy = other law. A child is an obvious example of heteronomy. Any tenets or principles that they uphold have been imposed upon them by their parents, under fear of punishment, or under promise of a reward. Heteronomy is clearly linked to a moral immaturity, as if there is a deficit in motivation to act morally, i.e. Mom isn’t looking, then the child can feed the goldfish to the cat, since they know they won’t be found out.

Autonomy, on the other hand, is a maturity of morality. A man who refuses to cross a red light even if there are no policemen or cameras or even other cars around is doing this because he feels it is the right thing to do, not because he wants to avoid punishment (As in this case, there is no punishment to avoid.), nor is it because he wants to be recognized as a law-abiding citizen (Assuming nobody is around to see him stop for this red light.). This man has legislated this law of not crossing the red light for himself (Although we can argue that this is not a universal law, let us bear with this example.), irregardless if it is actually a law already legislated in government. He has appropriated it as his own, inasmuch as we have appropriated a lot of the American Constitution in writing our own Constitution, yet we recognize the Philippine Constitution, no matter how many similarities it may possess with the American Constitution, as that of our own. And as such, because it is indeed our own, we abide by it (Ideally.), with fifteen Supreme Court Justices (Ignoring current vacancies.) making sure that we abide it correctly. Thus, we realize why we are known as an autonomous, independent country, and not merely a colony of, say Spain, though we once were.

Moral maturity comes when we no longer care about incentives or pay-offs in order for us to perform our moral duty. Our only motive is moral duty. On the other hand, we can akin moral immaturity to a prostitution of one’s morals, instead of recognizing the respect a law generates by itself by virtue of it being a law. We only recognize the law if there’s something in it for us. What is disturbing is that this moral maturity and immaturity is not determined by age. GMA is 50-something years old. Can we call her morally mature? Saint Dominic Savio was fifteen when he died. Can we call him morally immature?

d. Act in such a way that you are “fit to be a member in a possible kingdom of ends, for which [your] own nature has already determined [you] as an end in [yourself] and therefore as legislator in the kingdom of ends.”

The conglomeration of all three earlier categorical statements boils down to this: a kingdom of ends. A kingdom of rational human beings who can come up with universally binding laws even when on their own. If one were to be true to his rational nature, then it is one’s “ticket” into being a member and legislator in the kingdom of ends.

(Outside note: I swear, don’t try to use this analogy, and the Rock analogy. These two will be obvious rip-offs. Don’t even try it, as remember who also reads this weblog. :)) The Friendster network, when idealized, can very well represent a Kingdom of Ends. Ideally, every single member of the network lists one as a friend not because he wants to meet this nice girl who is a friend of a friend of his friend, but because each friend he adds to his account is a great person in and by herself. People write testimonials of really kind words for one another, and though the vocabulary they use may be the same because they are universal, they have appropriated it so that it is as good as their own ideas.

Come to think of it, this sounds a lot more like Orkut (Free plug! Free plug! Better than Friendster!) than Friendster, but let’s not digress. Clearly, the kingdom of ends like an optimal Friendster: everyone is autonomous to add and invite and so forth whom they wish, yet those additions and invitations that they have are also additions and invites that other Friendsters would make anyway, as these things are universally binding since all of them work on the same wavelength and thus arrive at the same conclusion. Therefore, expect all invites to be accepted in this ideal kingdom of ends, and expect all people on the network to eventually be your Friendsters. In the meantime, any new friend they add are friends that they add for their own sake, and not for the sake of upping their Friendster count, or for the sake of getting to know this cute person who happens to be on Friendster, too.

It’s hard to explain this concept of a kingdom of ends (Particularly a human being as an end.) to someone with a utilitarian edge, as Marcelle once found out when he started out at trying to befriend Sacha.

Sacha: So why do you want me to be a friend?

Marcelle: Because you’re a nice person.

Sacha: So what? There are many nice persons out there.

Marcelle: But you’re you, and you’re nice in your own way.

Sacha had great difficulty in understanding that concept at the time. Essentially, for utilitarians, one human being is as good as another, barring any differences of utility. Clearly, the kingdom of ends here upholds the differences among human beings, inasmuch as upholds that which binds them: rationality and autonomy in legislating universally binding laws that regard human beings as ends in themselves.

In nary everything, there comes a price. If something has a price, that price can be matched. But contrary to the Million Dollar Man, not every man has a price. This is because the human being has dignity instead of price, which, as Whitney Houston once said, they can’t take away. The human being as such is something that is far and beyond price, and of such, admits no possible equivalent. Only morality can hold a similar claim. Any father can name his son Michael Jordan, but he will never be that Michael Jordan (The concept of “thisness”, or Haecceitas). In the history of existence, this Michael Jordan, basketball player, number 23, Chicago Bulls, will always be this Michael Jordan, no matter how many other people may come along, sharing his name, even duplicating his talents. While this concept may extend to beyond humans, the dignity of the human being is that he is never used as a means, anyway, which tells us that he truly is irreplaceable, indispensable, whereas a ten-peso bill can be replaced by a ten-peso coin, and they will have the same price of ten pesos, in spite of their “thisness”.

Morality is, obviously, a condition under which a rational being can be an end in itself. In this situation can he only be a member and legislator in the kingdom of ends. There is thus a relation between morality, and rationality; a positive relation, even, and in the kingdom of ends, this morality, which can and does post duty (Which the autonomous end-in-himself legislates for himself and is universally binding.) is far greater than the hold of desire, because desire for something can disappear, but a self-imposed will to fulfill moral duty runs far deeper than that.

What is the basis for such a bold claim on morality as far beyond price? Simply, it is the share that such a disposition of morality affords the rational being of legislating universal laws in the kingdom of ends. He is free to make the laws he wishes to, and to obey the laws he chooses to, and yet because he is working from the same wavelength as everyone else, they inevitably are legislating and abiding by the same laws, which they have made universally binding. They are subject to universal laws, but these universal laws are their own laws.

Is this an ideal that we can reach? Maybe not in its entirety, but who’s to say we shouldn’t strive for it, or at least hope for it? In fact, in every person who follows the three categorical imperatives without fail, we see someone who could very well be a citizen of this kingdom of ends, which we may already be building as we speak. True democracy, true religion are the very things that a kingdom of ends would be able to establish. Everyone is regarded as equals insofar as they all uphold the first three categorical imperatives, yet by virtue of their being ends in themselves, they are also regarded for their differences as unique human beings.

10. For autonomy to be really autonomous, it is the law of morality that it must lay down for itself; for morality to be really moral, it must be based in a motivation that is autonomous.

Autonomy is based on the notion of self-legislation. How can self-legislation be truly self-legislation? Clearly, it is the law of morality that it must lay down for itself, in that morality affords great dignity unto this autonomy. One is free to make the laws he wishes to, indeed, and obey these, but when one lays down the law of morality for himself, and one realizes that it is universally binding, then we realize that this autonomy has been truly exercised autonomously.

Confused? Consider two employees in a government in the same position, Jon and Ediboy. Both have the same salary. Jon sidelines himself as a fixer to have extra cash, and earn even four times as much as his co-worker, Ediboy does. On the other hand, Ediboy refuses to engage in such a shady practice, and instead fulfills his moral duty, even if they both know nobody will catch them, anyway, since even their boss himself is equally corrupt. We might say that Ediboy is indeed morally upright because his action has moral worth. But doesn’t he seem constricted in his actions? Doesn’t he seem so “un-free”?

But let us bring this down to the level of the self as legislating laws for himself, which is the sign of autonomy. Jon does not legislate anything for himself, but instead is following the will of greed. Greed is outside of his rational nature. Greed is not his entire being. As such, it is greed that legislates his course of action for him. Anything greed says, he does. Of course, since greed says a lot of things, he does a lot of things. But it’s not him who tells himself what to do, but greed.

On the other hand, Ediboy is self-legislating. He appropriated Republic Act 2075, the Code On Ethics And Standards For Government Employees to the point that it is already his law. He doesn’t care if he won’t get caught if he takes bribes. Ediboy is simply motivated to fulfill the moral duty that he placed upon himself. He did it. It wasn’t greed, or guilt, or fear that told him to do it. Ediboy told Ediboy to do it. While one might say that Ediboy is “Making it hard on himself”, the better idea is that “Ediboy is his own boss. Ediboy is the captain of his soul.”

True autonomy is found in laying down the moral law, for only in laying down the moral law can one really find himself in the kingdom of ends. Morality, being the only other one besides human beings to have dignity instead of price, is such that its infinite intrinsic worth irrevocably commands respect. This respect is that which fuels one’s autonomy, as in his being truly moral, he is acting on his own accord to do the right thing. Jon was clearly acting on greed’s accord, and it is quite useless to say that he has appropriated greed as his own, because greed has appropriated him instead. You call that autonomy?

Autonomy and freedom are two inextricably linked terms that conventionally mean the same thing. What is important to note is that people often misconstrue freedom as being able to do anything. This is not freedom, nor is it autonomy. This is anarchy. Being able to follow this vanity or that whim, being able to do anything one pleases to do, oblivious to any laws and any morality, is clearly not autonomy, as autonomy connotes one has control over one’s self, which explains why one subjects himself to his own law. The incontinent man, to borrow an Aristotelian term, has no control over himself whatsoever, and is thus not autonomous in the way it should be viewed.

As such, morality, when not based upon an autonomous motivation, cannot be truly moral. What dignifies morality is that it is there for its own sake, and by saying that there is a motivation that is outside of one’s self, be it recognition, votes, or avoidance of punitive measures, then morality is not truly moral indeed. If suddenly, the BIR cracked down on fixers, and this forced Jon to stop taking bribes, then he complains day in and day out of how annoying this law (Note: not his law!) is, then we see that his performance of a moral action is not really moral, but rather, done out of fear. Ediboy, who was complying with the law he appropriated for himself even before the BIR decided to crack down on fixers, was being moral because he was doing it for his own sake. There is no price to his morality, and since morality, true morality does not have a price, then we see that he is acting from duty, morally. Jon, on the other hand, has set a price to his morality: I will be moral if you threaten me with apprehension. This clearly is not true morality, as there should be no price to it.

Therefore, for autonomy to be really autonomous, it must lay down a law of morality, as it is that which has no price, and that which dignifies one’s autonomy. For morality to be truly moral, it must be based in a motivation that is autonomous, lest we attach a price and deny the dignity of morality.

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