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The British Empiricists and Kant's Ethics - Essay Example

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The reporter states that for Spinoza, everything endeavors to preserve its own being, that is to say, it has a conatus, which is an active power or force towards self-preservation. In this sense, the essence of the human body is its conatus, which manifests itself as desires, which are directed towards pleasure and the avoidance of pain…
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The British Empiricists and Kants Ethics
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A: What do you think of Spinoza's active and passive emotions?
For Spinoza, everything endeavors to preserve its own being, that is to say, it has a conatus, which is an active power or force towards self-preservation. In this sense, the essence of the human body is its conatus, which manifests itself as desires, which are directed towards pleasure and the avoidance of pain. In the light of emotions, Spinoza introduces human passions. A “passion” is an emotion that decreases the active power of the body; it is passive. Given that all our desires follow from our active nature; which is good, how do such passive emotions arise? First, because of the theory of conatus, painful things happen to us because of external and not internal causes. And second, passive emotional states or passions, arise only from inadequate ideas – anger, fear, hatred, occur because of ignorance or incomplete understanding of their external causes. Therefore, in so far as we have an adequate idea of our emotions and their causes, we will not be subject to passions.
B: What is interesting to you about the British Empiricists?
The British empiricists all believe that knowledge is derived from experience alone. This aspect of arriving at knowledge seem quite interesting from the point of view of Locke, Berkley, and Hume. For Locke, our mind is a blank and clean slate, which he calls “tabularasa.” Thus, all ideas and knowledge can only come to us and are founded upon experience alone. On the other hand, for Berkeley, all that we ever know are the qualities of an object that our faculty of vision is capable of sensing. Hence, it implies that any given object is the summation of its perceived qualities. Lastly, Hume sets out to achieve the limits of our knowledge. Herein, as far as knowledge is concerned, we are limited to our impressions and their corresponding ideas, which manifest in constant conjunction through experience. We have no way of knowing what causes them. For Hume, if an idea has no corresponding impression, then it is meaningless, that is, it does not exist.
C. What do you think of Kant's ethics?
Kant’s ethics distinguishes between “acting in accordance to duty” and “acting for the sake of duty.” The latter are actions that have moral worth, while the former has no moral worth. Moreover, Kant explains another way of determining whether an action is morally good or not. This is presented in The Categorical Imperative. This principle states that before I will a certain mode of conduct, I should see to it that my subjective course of action could be universalized as a moral legislation. If my desired act involves certain contradictions, then my act cannot qualify as a moral law and must be rejected. However, if it is devoid of contradictions then, it can be morally acceptable. Given this, I believe that his ethics is necessarily linked to human freedom. For, freedom should be understood as accorded with the dictates of human reason. So whether the law works in your favor or not, you must follow through with the respect for law. And this to Kant is “good in itself”. Read More
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