Monday, October 28, 2013

Acting from Duty vs. Merely Acting in Accord with Duty


Kant says that actions only have positive moral value if they are done from duty and not merely in accord with duty. One example that Kant talks about is a shopkeeper who does not overcharge his customers. We can say that this person has a duty to charge a fair price to all customers. Now, if the shopkeeper only does this because he doesn't want to lose business, then he is acting in accord with duty but not out of duty. He is only acting out of duty (or from duty) if he charges a fair price because he knows it is the right thing to do.

Here is another example. You have a duty to preserve your own life. In other words, you have a duty to keep yourself alive. The person who loves life and continues to live because they love life is acting in accord with duty but not out of duty. However, the person who hates life and only continues to live because it is the right thing to do is acting from duty. The person who continues to live because they want to is not doing anything morally good (they are not doing anything bad, either). But the person who continues to live even though they don't want to but because they know it is the right thing to do is doing something morally good.

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