Kant on the ethical community and the pursuit of happiness
Müftügil, Onur Fevzi (2006) Kant on the ethical community and the pursuit of happiness. [Thesis]
This thesis aims to refute the formalist interpretation of Kant’s ethics according to which all that it takes to be virtuous is to do one’s duty for the sake of duty with no regard to one’s happiness. In contrary, this thesis claims that for Kant, we have a duty to promote general happiness and its distribution in proportion to virtue-“the highest good”. In other words, we should adopt a beneficent will and promote the happiness of all. To be able to perform this command of morality, Kant thinks that we need to establish an ethical community. This is because a morally corrupt community feeds our desire to affirm our superiority over others making us too preoccupied with distinctions in terms of wealth, knowledge and status to recognize the importance of and our capacity for virtue. A further argument of this thesis is that the ethical community has a religious nature and appeals to our need for the possibility of God’s existence as well as to the morally useful psychologically compelling effect of belief in God. Kant thinks that by uniting in such an “ethical community”, we can create a moral kingdom (a kingdom of ends) in which the pursuit of one member’s happiness harmonizes with and advances the pursuit of another member’s happiness.
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