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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 17, 1992

Walter E. Schaller
Pages 351-382
DOI: 10.5840/jpr_1992_4

The Relation of Moral Worth to the Good Will in Kant’s Ethics

I consider three questions concerning the relation of the good will to the moral worth of actions. (1) Does a good will consist simply in acting from the motive of duty? (2) Does acting from the motive of duty presuppose that one has a good will? (3) Does the fact that one has a good wilI entail that all of one’s duty-fulfilling actions have moral worth, even if they are not (directly) motivated by duty? I argue that while only persons with a good will are capable of acting from the motive of duty, it does not follow either that a good will consists in acting from duty or that if one has a good will, all of one’s dutiful actions will be motivated by duty. Whereas the good will is constituted by the agent’s highest-order maxim (the moral law itself), moral worth is a function of the agent’s first-order maxims.

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