Kant’s moral theory as a guide in philanthropy

Filozofija I Društvo 33 (3):585-600 (2022)
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Abstract

This paper focuses on Kant?s moral theory and how it can guide our actions in philanthropy. Philanthropy is usually defined as a voluntary action aimed at relieving suffering and improving the quality of lives of others. It has been argued that, within the framework of Kant?s theory, it is our duty to be beneficent, sacrificing a part of our welfare for others. The duty of beneficence is a wide one. Interpreters of Kant disagree on what the wide duty of beneficence requires. While a few argue that it only requires that we provide help sometimes, others hold that the duty of beneficence should be seen as more demanding, particularly in cases of emergency when help is urgently required. We are morally obliged to promote the happiness of others, but the duty of beneficence does not tell us whose happiness and how much of our resources to give. Other than emergency cases, in fulfilling the duty of beneficence, we can prioritize the ends of those near and dear to us who concern us more. Moreover, on condition that we are not indifferent to others, it is morally permissible to prioritize our ends. Finally, the paper argues that it is not always straightforward what kind of action is required in helping someone in need, and that beneficence in Kantian terms is not limited to the philanthropic sector.

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Bojana Radovanovic
Cambridge University

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References found in this work

Famine, affluence, and morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
Two distinctions in goodness.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1983 - Philosophical Review 92 (2):169-195.
The schizophrenia of modern ethical theories.Michael Stocker - 1976 - Journal of Philosophy 73 (14):453-466.
The practice of moral judgment.Barbara Herman - 1985 - Journal of Philosophy 82 (8):414-436.
On the value of acting from the motive of duty.Barbara Herman - 1981 - Philosophical Review 90 (3):359-382.

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