What’s So Good about the Good Will? An Ontological Critique of Kant’s Axiomatic Moral Construct

Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 18 (1):422–467 (2022)
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Kant maintains that the only thing that is good in itself, and therefore good without limitation or qualification, is a good will. This is an objectionable claim in support of a controversial position. The problem is not just that the good will is not the only thing that is good in itself, which indeed it is not, but more importantly, that the good will is not so much a thing that is good in itself as it is the good kind of a thing that is otherwise neither good nor bad in itself. The goodness of a good will is no more intrinsic than the goodness of a good act, good outcome, good attitude, good character, or good person. Nor is it even any more so than something as commonplace as a good laugh or a good cup of coffee. A good will, whatever else it may be, is a will that is good, much like how a good act is an act that is good, a good outcome is an outcome that is good, and so on with the other examples, not one of which is good for any reason other than the goodness predicated of the corresponding subject. This paper thus challenges Kant’s position on ontological grounds. It questions the validity of claiming intrinsic goodness for a complex construct whose goodness is, in fact, extrinsic to its substance. The objection is not that the good will might not turn out to be good after all, which is impossible by definition, designation, or stipulation, but that its goodness is axiomatic and derivative rather than intrinsic or fundamental.



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Necip Fikri Alican
Washington University in St. Louis (PhD)

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Restoring Kant's Conception of the Highest Good.Lawrence Pasternack - 2017 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 55 (3):435-468.
Two conceptions of the highest good in Kant.Andrews Reath - 1988 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 26 (4):593-619.

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