Suppose that your mother is sick and in the hospital. Kant would certainly hold that you have a duty to care for your mother when she is in need (i.e., to aid in her recovery, a form of beneficence). Therefore, visiting her in the hospital is (generally speaking) a morally required action. However, Kant also says that only actions done from duty have moral worth (i.e., can be called fully moral). Actions from sympathy or compassion alone may certainly be praiseworthy in some respects, but they cannot be said to have moral worth. Some of Kant’s critics, including Nancy Sherman (and Martha Nussbaum—reflected in her discussion of her own mother’s death), think this creates a serious problem for his moral theory, because most of us share the belief that visiting our mother out of love and concern for her recovery is not only an ideal moral action, but also that the same action motivated by mere “duty” is lacking in at least one morally significant respect (i.e., would you like it if someone visited you merely out of obligation?) What do they think is missing? And why is it important? Given this worry (shared by Kant’s contemporaries), why do you think Kant holds the position that he does about actions motivated from love or compassion alone? In explaining, be sure to discuss what exactly it is to act from duty, from sympathy/compassion/love, why the two are different, and why it matters. What then would Kant ultimately say about the scenario? Is love enough? Is mere duty enough? Or would he want both in a perfect world? And if so, how might he accomplish it? If not, why not? (The handout on the Commandment to Love might be helpful with this last set of questions, along with the class discussion on the Complete Good/Highest Good.)
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