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Dela Cruz

Alexis Dela Cruz
Prof. Payongayong

Significance of Passions: A Critique on Kants account on Passions

Kants ethics undermines and gives little or no moral worth at all to our actions, which
are non-intellectually motivated. An action with moral worth, for Kant, is not of those, which are
motivated by passions, even if it is a positive one. Motivations must come from the reverence to
the law of our moral principles and the action must be done in accordance to our duty. The action
with moral worth is that of someone who, despite the fact that he does not feel any sympathy for
others still helps them because it is his duty to help others.
I simply cannot agree with Kant when he argues that passions are unreliable source of
moral judgment. I am more inclined in choosing passion as a source of moral judgment and I
think as a human being, we cannot have a moral judgment free from passion. I am basing this
belief from two premises. First, I believe that it is part of human nature to have some degree of
sympathy; and that is where I believe that moral judgment commences. Second, Kant does not
give any account on our personal relations with other people. I simply cannot think of any human
affairs, which personal relations do not count. I would first discuss my idea of sympathy. When I
feel that I have done something that is not right, there is a feeling of something bad that is
happening inside. For example, if I had cheated on an exam, there is something within me that is
repulsed with my action and that is when I know that what I did was wrong. If I do a good action
on the other hand there is a good feeling that is happening within me. For example, if I helped
an old lady from crossing the street I would feel good about what I did. These feelings that are
invoked in my actions are what motivates me to do or not to do an action. I believe that the
passions, which motivate the action, are what make it morally worthy. Kant argues that the moral
worthiness of an action is derived from our sense of duty. This statement I cannot agree. If we
are doing an action out of duty, this means that we are compelled to do so. It is in nature of a
morally worthy action to be praise worthy as well. For example, it is the duty of a policeman to
protect the people from criminals and it is expected of him to do so. If he is protecting the people
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because it is his job to do so, he is acting in accordance to the nature of his job. What he is doing
is good but he is doing it because that is what we expect him to do and I do not see anything
praise worthy with that because it is just natural for him to so. We do not praise something that is
what is expected for us to do. I mean, we do not praise a teacher for teaching. However, if there
are positive passions that follow then the action is worthy of praise. For example, if the
policeman was doing his job because of his love for peace and repulsion of evil then we praise
that man for his kindness. If the teacher was teaching because he wants to impart his knowledge
to the children to improve the state then we praise the teacher for having those sentiments. For
me, therefore, a morally worthy action is that of which there is a passion and volition to arrive at
something better through that action. When I help the people who were devastated because of a
hurricane and I do it because I want to relieve them from their pain then that is when my action
becomes morally worthy. If I helped the people because I just believe that I have the duty to help
other people but I do not necessarily feel sympathy or care towards them then the action is just a
sense of compulsion. The action is good but it is not morally worthy. Only an action with the
hope of something better would come out of it is a morally worthy action. It does not follow
however that I believe that the worth of an action is based on the consequences. I am a
consequentialist at some degree but I believe that there are morally worthy actions which does
not necessarily produced a good consequences for consequences cannot be calculated, there is a
need for an element of luck and chances for the calculations to be correct.
My second argument against Kants account on passions is that of the role of our
personal relations to our moral judgments. As I was saying a while ago, I cannot think of any
human affair, which does not account for personal relations. How I treat a friend maybe different
from how I treat a stranger. For example, if I were a surgeon how I feel about operating on a
stranger would be different from how I would feel about operating on my own mother and
therefore would have acted differently. I could have refused to operate on my mother because of
some sentiments in me that is repulsed with the idea of operating on my mother. It is like having
to punch someone who you love and punching someone you bare extreme hated for, if you are
compelled to do it the degree of force that you would invoke would vary because of the
difference in sentiments that you hold for the two. What I am trying to say here is that, how we
personally relate with other people may affect how we arrive at a moral judgment, which Kant
did not account for. Imagine a mans son who is need of a blood transplant, the man and his son
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are both Muslims hence, donating blood is forbidden in their religion. If that man was asked to
donate his blood to a total stranger there is a high possibility that the man would refuse because it
is immoral to do so, as what was said in their religion. If the person who is in need however was
his son and if he does not do the transfusion his son would die, at this situation unlike that with
the stranger, there is a much higher possibility that the man would donate his blood to his son.
I disagree to the account of Kant regarding passion but I do not entirely disagree with his
ethical theory. I would not go as far as Hume to say that reasons is a slave to our passion. I also
believe that our passions sometimes blind us from coming up with the better option that is I
believe in the significance of reflection. However, as what I was arguing a while ago the
beginning of moral judgment is still our passions, such as compassion and sympathy, but reason
also have its role, which is to traffic our emotions. Our passion gives us the capacity for moral
consideration while reason puts our passions in the right place. Both therefore, are equally
necessary in coming up with the right moral decisions.