Re: virus: Masterbation and Kant

Nathaniel Hall (
Sun, 14 Sep 1997 14:58:06 -0600

KMO wrote:

> virus-digest wrote:
> > From: Nathaniel Hall <>
> > Subject: Re: virus: sound byte
> > Come to think of it I have come across this
> (consequentialist/deontological debate) before. It just seemed so
> > obvious to me that good deeds required good will combined with good
> > knowledge, I simply forgot about those who argued otherwise. I do
> know
> > that Kant concluded that telling the truth is always good so
> therefore
> > if a Nazi were to ask if I were hiding some jews, I'd have to say
> yes if
> > I was. A patently wrong response which is why I had forgotten about
> it.
> > Kind of like of like the rants of conspiracy nuts, something which I
> > dismiss without much further thought.
> Kant's point is that nothing other than a good will is good in and of
> itself. Any other characteristic, accurate knowledge and the ability
> for critical thought included, is only good in conjunction with a good
> will.

My point is that good will is a necessary but not sufficient condition
to achieve the good. Hillary Clinton may think that imposing Marxism
upon America is a good thing, but Marxism historically leads to bad
results so she would be acting with good will but bad knowledge.

> I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "good knowledge," but if
> it means having a command of the facts, then ask yourself which is the
> greater evil; the ignorant thug motivated by malice and greed who
> clobbers someone over the head and takes their money, or the
> intelligent
> and patient villian, also motivated by malice and greed, who uses his
> knowledge of the workings of political power, human psychology, or
> even
> genetics to coerce and enslave entire populations? Knowledge,
> patience,
> and powers of critical thinking, (qualities we normally think of as
> being virtues) in the absense of a good will elevate a mere villian to
> the status of super-villian.

Your definition of good knowledge "Command of the facts" is
acceptable to me . Bad will carried out with good knowledge is
certainly an amplification of evil, no disagreement there. But good will
based on bad knowledge is also evil. (See Hillary Clinton above)

> As for Kant's belief that lying was always wrong; sure, he had a few
> positions that he would have twisted any moral framework to fit. He
> also thought that one was never justified in rising up against one's
> ruler and that masterbation is worse than murder. These were values
> instilled in him at an early age; beliefs that were inculcated in him
> by
> external authorities and not positions that he adopted only after he
> had
> formulated and applying the catagorical imperative.
> Here's a bit more Kant for you to chew on: (again, from the
> "Groundwork")
> "A good will is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes --
> because of its fitness for attaining some proposed end: it is good
> throught its willing alone -- that is, good in itself.

Good in relation to what? If I have no standard in which to evaluate it
your only half-way to the goal of achieving the good. It's not "good in
itself" it's only halfway to being good. In mathematical terms goodwill
= 1/2 good. To be "good in itself " it would have to be goodwill=good
and its not!

> Considered in
> itself it is to be esteemed beyond comparison as far higher than
> anything it could ever bring about merely in order to favour some
> inclination or, if you like, the sum total of inclinations.

Even if it brings about bad things Kant claims we are supposed to hold
good will in high esteem. Some of the Soviets who fought so bravely to
bring communism to Russia truly thought they were bringing wonderful
things to humanity. They had good will but were acting on bad knowledge
(socialism is wonderful). They were evil even though they did not think
of themselves as such. The suffering that could have been prevented on
the people of Russia and the rest of the world had they been acting on
good knowledge (Capitalism) is immeasurable.

> Even if, by
> some special disfavour of destiny or by the niggardly endowment of
> step-motherly nature, this will is entirely lacking in power to carry
> out its intentions; if by its utmost effort it still accomplishes
> nothing, and only good will is left (not, admittedly, as a mere wish,
> but as the straining of every means so far as they are in our
> control);
> even then it would still shine like a jewel for its own sake as
> something which has its full value in itself.

If one has good will but that will consists of the sincere and
personally genuine belief that the world would be a better place if only
all those rotten jews were wiped out, lets hope such an individual has
some" special disfavor of destiny " to stop him and that he never
achieves his "shining jewel". (Whoops! There was once such a fellow
wasn't there? Well lets hope it never happens again!)

> Its usefulness or
> fruitlessness can neither add to, nor subtract from, this value.

So if "Son of Sam" receives special commands from god to kill some women
it doesn't subtract from the value now does it? Even if he only manages
to kill a few!


> Its
> usefulness would be merely, as it were, the setting which enables us
> to
> handle it better in our ordinary dealings or to attract the attention
> of
> those not yet sufficiently expert, but not to commend it to experts or
> to determine its value."

It usefulness acts to see if the equation [action *{(good will) + (good
knowledge)} = ( good)] actually occurs. (I'm using "*" as a
multiplication symbol here) .
The Nateman