Chapter 9  Kantian Theory : The Categorical Imperative
Section 3. Happiness

What about happiness?

Happiness is not to be ignored when making decisions in life. It is not unimportant. Kant does believe that, all other things being equal, it is better to be happy than to be miserable. And he wouldn't think that looking out for our own happiness is immoral. Looking out for people's happiness follows from their intrinsic and infinite value as autonomous, free, rational beings.

But happiness is, by far, not the most important thing when making moral decisions. For pleasure that comes at the expense of someone's freedom, of someone's life, is not worth it.

Kant believe that liers and cheats and abusers and exploiters don't have the moral right to be happy. Such happiness is undeserved.

According to utilitarians, there is a very close connection between human reason and happiness -- their calculative conception of reason is in the service of happiness. That is its primary function.

But Kant believes that happiness is not the unique possession of human beings. Nor does he think that reason is the best way of achieving it. We seem to be not particularly good at knowing what makes us happy. We seem to be not particularly good at knowing what makes others happy. The function of reason is not, primarily, to make ourselves or others happy, but to live rightly, come what may.

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Copyright Stephen O Sullivan and Philip A. Pecorino  2002. All Rights reserved.

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