Kant's "Good Will" essay

Immanuel Kant / idealism / good will / happiness / morality

Essay Topic:

The definition of Kant’s “Good will’ and its opposition to happiness.

Essay Questions:

How does Immanuel Kant define the “good will”? In what way is Kant’s “Good will” opposed to happiness? What is the true philosophical essence of the “good will”.

Thesis Statement:

Kant explains what a “good will” is and what difference it makes in the perception of the moral actions that a person makes.


Kant's "Good Will" essay


Table of contents:

1. Introduction

2. Analysis of Kant’s “good will”

1. “Good will” vs. happiness

2. The essence of a “good will”

3. Plausibility of Kant’s view of the “good will”

4. Conclusion

Introduction. Being one of the main representatives of the Western-European classical philosophy, Immanuel Kant dealt with the best traditions of the German idealism. A human personality, according to Kant is the highest and absolute value. It is the personality, in Kant’s understanding, that towers the person over its own self and links the human being with the “order of things”. The “order of things”, according to Kant is the reflection of the “common sense”. The whole perceived world around us complies with the “order of things”. The most interesting part of Kant’s philosophy is that his own notion of the “order of things” and “common sense” is dual in case of analyzing it. In his work “Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals” Kant’s thoughts come to a vital question. This question lies in the fight between the undermost and highest abilities of a desire, between the longing to happiness and a good will that is a manifestation of duty. In this work it is very easy to trace Kant’s intension to oppose the "clean" teaching of morality and its degradation to any ethical relativism, which causes this degradation of morality. He tried to create the highest form of estimation of the ethical principles that managed morality? For he believed that the degradation of morality starts from, the impossibility to evaluate what is really wrong or right. Here, is the point where Immanuel Kant enters the definition of the notion “good will”. Kant explains what a “good will” is and what difference it makes in the perception of the moral actions that a person makes. Kant’s main intention is to underline the moral value of motivation and its realization at least through the presence of a “good will” in a person.

2. Analysis of Kant’s “good will”

“The only thing that is good without qualification or restriction is a good will”[17]. Kant outlines that goodness objectively remains to be goodness, even if nobody is really good. From this understanding he offers the definition of what a good will is. The notion of Kant’s ethics is the autonomous good will. This “good will” is not passive; a carrier of this will needs to make actions and deeds.A moral action looks like a result of an internal imperative command. So Kant makes an accent on the importance of the behavior, which is managed by the good will. “That is to say, a good will alone in good in all circumstances and in that sense is an absolute or unconditioned good”[17]. Kant evaluates a good will without basing on the results, which it produces.From the point of view of the philosopher a good will keeps remaining good even if it does achieve the goal it had. In other words, even if an individual fails to do something commanded by his good will what he did remains a good thing unconditionally. At the same time Immanuel Kant views a good will as a unique goodness that is able to produce the result it intended to produce. A good will is still valuable by itself, because it objectively either exists or not in the personality.

2.a. “Good will” vs. happiness

As it has been already mentioned Immanuel Kant in his work “Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals” widely uses the term “good will”. It is very important to understand the reason Kant valued this notion so deeply. To completely understand this it is necessary to draw the parallel between a good will and objective happiness of every individual.Let us suppose, basing on Kant’s words, that we meet a person who at all points is successful: he has power, wealth, a good health, a good state of mind, he is satisfied with his life, looks and considers himself to be a happy person. Can we say analyzing this man that he is happy? Generally yes. People would ordinarily say that this man is happy and has everything to be happy and his own perception of being happy in addition. Kant’s question to this matter is different – does this happiness have a moral bases? From Kant’s point of view some conditions and qualities of a “happy person” are not combined with any moral bases. At this point is necessary to come back to the term “good will”.The absence of a good will makes unacceptable generally needed personal qualities such as wittiness, ability to judge, courage, decisiveness and many others. Kant implies that these qualities may become “evil” in case when they are not supported by the good will. From the philosopher’s opinion a good will forms, probably, the most essential condition not only of being happy but even of being worthy to be happy.

2.b. The essence of a ”good will”

A “good will” is a will, not able to be cruel or evil [53]. The “supposition” of goodness forms the nature of the good will. Goodness it the main requirement of the existance of the “good will” according to Immanuel Kant. A good will is a will in which subjective characteristics of an individual do not prevent but define and help the “desire to do good”. Good will in its own sense is a unity of liberty and law, mind and goodness. The purity of determination of the will by the mind is the real meaning of its goodness. Kant also refers to the “absolute good will”[60]. The “sanctity” of this good will in Kant’s understanding comes from its superiority over Kant’s ordinary ”good will”. Kant views the absolute good will as the moral destination of the human mind. It is the main goal of the highest gift humanity has ever gotten – the human mind. Kant interprets this form of will as a “pure” will. Kant through his notion “good will” reveals the necessity of high moral values in the life of every person, without which the life even subjectively happy individual is may not be called complete and successful, but even a failure of mind to success and to purify. Kant makes an accent on the required versatility of the good will – a good will needs to become the law of will of any creature. A good will possesses a full unity of subjective and objective beginnings of the will in the unconditional law of moralities.

3. Plausibility of Kant’s view of the “good will”

Some people claim that Kant’s idea seems to be a utopia of perfection. According to Kant the perfection of will is estimated by the completeness of absolute will in an individual. If therefore the perfection of will is a moral law, all other laws of duty remain considerably imperfect, which also makes the good will imperfect, too. Therefore, a human being is a unique creature, for which perfection in other fields is not as valid, as the good will is. The complete perfection is achieved only the good will itself, for it is objectively and unconditionally good [78]. Can this be considered to be a universal law? And is a good will the most valuable What Kant assures the reader is that the good will is good even if it does not produce the necessary effects and does not achieve the results is aimed to achieve. If the reader analyzes this point of view from a practical example he might face a certain difficulty. For instance, a person’s goal is to do a good thing, but while trying to do it he causes definite harm. Can it be estimated to be still a good will, even if it caused negative results, opposite to the ones aimed to achieve.The most questionable part of Kant’s opinion is the evaluation of the result of the action produced by the good will. As both positive and negative results do not postpone the goodness of the good will it is very hard to objectively judge the actions of a person. If the perfection can be found only inside of the good will and nothing else can be perfect by itself, than how can a person assume that he posses a good will. This is very doubtful, due to the difference of the notion of happiness of other people. Individual’s subjectivity does not allow them to possess a good will because even if their intensions are good they cannot know for sure that what they want to do is good in terms of the person they want to help and anything else. At the same time the fact of willing good may not be taken into count. If there are two different people with the same results obtained and if their wills are opposing each other, than the person that possessed a good will in his intentions is the “good” one. It is about the inconsistency of the will and the result of the action the will produces. Kant idea seems to be a utopia, but nevertheless, it may be called plausible due to the possibility to perfect while trying to achieve the absolute will. It is very plausible that even if a man is talented, gifted, if he posses the most suitable temperament for his ambience, even if he is clever, voluptuous, sincere it all may produce harm in case if it not directed by a good will. Immanuel Kant outlines that a good will is what makes a man highly moral and therefore evaluates him in it own definition.

Conclusion. Immanuel Kant provided a philosophical point of view of the morality of the society. His “good will” innovation gave the bases to the works of other famous philosophers. Immanuel Kant’s “good will theory” claims that only if a thing does not require anything else to be good in order to function – then it is good and if it does it is good with a certain limitation. “Good will” is estimated both by the goodness of the willing and the result of this willing, not necessarily both at the same time. As all the personal qualities require a good will to conduct them in order to be good – they are all good with limitations. At the same time a good will does not need all these qualities to be good. All the qualities and opportunities in the society around are good with limitations and the only thing that will make them truly good – is the good will, for it is the only thing that does not require anything else to be good. Kant’s unexcelled idea enraptures the thinker with its depth. The most important ting to understand, according to Kant is that the goodness of a good will is not evaluated through the result it achieves and the result itself has nothing to with the goodness of the good will and under no condition does limit its goodness. Nothing would end this paper better that Kant’s own words carrying the most important message he wanted people to hear: “It is impossible to conceive anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be taken as good without qualification, except a good will”.


Custom Essay

title page
bibliography page

Need A+ Definition essay?

  • – profound analysis
  • – original & auhentic writing
  • – individual approach
Order Now