what is “ethics” really about?
Let us recall that in the Euthyphro, Socrates asks for an “account” of why something is holy, pious, or moral. He does not, and cannot accept, an explanation in terms of just “whatever the gods love”, or whatever God tells you to do. For, if at the end of the day, all that you have for morality is that “it’s what pleases God or the gods” then you have the problem of having always to depend upon someone else — presumably never yourself! — to “know” what to do, how to act, and in general how to live. Is this any way to live — always having to depend upon someone or something (like a holy text) else in order to know what to do, how to act and how to live? Socrates dares to want to know — for himself! — what makes something holy, pious, or morally right. If he can know that — the standard — then we doesn’t need anyone else to tell him what to do in order to be moral, holy, pious or good in the eyes of the gods, for with this knowledge, he can do it for himself! So, the first step, Socrates suggests, in being moral or holy is to acquire the knowledge of what holiness or morality really is. That knowledge leads to the prize — being a good, and perhaps also a happy, person.
In this text you’re reading, and in this “Preface” in particular, Kant talks about the need for a “pure moral philosophy” (see p. 2 of “Preface”). Do you think that this “pure moral philosophy” leads us to the kind of “independence” and freedom that I’m talking about above — something we see Socrates striving for?
What do you think about this independence — this call for becoming self-reliant, and self-dependent when it comes to knowledge, truth and, finally, morality itself?
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