• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Explain what Kant means by 'summum bonum'

Extracts from this document...


´╗┐Explain what Kant means by ?Summum Bonum?. Immanuel Kant, the famous Enlightenment philosopher, uses the term ?summum bonum? to describe the ?highest good? in his Critique of Pure Reason. He employs the idea of ?summum bonum? to postulate the existence of God; however it is worth noting that it was not his intention to prove the existence of God. In order to understand Kant?s idea of ?summum bonum?, we have to understand his ideas of moral duty and categorical imperative first. First and foremost, Kant believes that there are objective moral values. There is universal agreement that some actions are right and others are wrong, which we instinctively know. It does not matter what culture, circumstances or period of history we are talking about. Actions like murder and rape, for example, are always wrong. If we are not sure if a particular action is morally right, we can work it out through philosophical reasoning. Kant, as an Enlightenment philosopher, believes that the universe is fundamentally knowable through reason. ...read more.


one?s duty because we know what is morally right or wrong instinctively. If we take our ethical nature seriously, we can see that it is what we should aim to achieve. Kant then goes on to argue that a good will, i.e. a person with the right moral intentions, will always seek to bring about the ?summum bonum?, or the perfect state of affairs. In Kant?s own words, ?the perfect accordance of the mind with the moral law is the supreme condition of the ?summum bonum?.? (Kant, Critique of Pure Reason) It is worth noting that at this point, Kant argues that ?ought implies can?. Because we know that we ought to aim for the ?summum bonum? as it is our duty, it follows that it must be achievable. What we cannot achieve is not our duty. For example, if we see someone drowning, it is not our duty to do so if we cannot swim even though saving someone else is a moral action. ...read more.


In reality, good people are not always happy while bad people could be fairly happy in their own ways. Therefore, Kant argues that ?summum bonum? postulates the immorality of the soul (which outlives our body and will be judged after our physical death), as well as the existence of a moral, rational being, who can bring these two together and judge one according to one?s morality, perhaps in another life and another world. In order to do so, this being must be greater than any human being and also have the power to see through people?s selfishness when they act morally and award those who are truly God. This being we call God. In other words, God is the moral lawgiver of the universe. Therefore ?summum bonum? makes morality meaningful. In conclusion, Kant believes that ?summum bonum? is the perfect state of affairs whereby virtue exists coincidentally with happiness. ?Summum bonum?, however, cannot be achieve in this world simply because we are not omnipotent. Therefore ?summum bonum? postulates the existence of afterlife and God, who is omnipotent and reward those who act morally accordingly. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Practical Questions section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Practical Questions essays

  1. `Always tell the truth and Always keep your promises' Kant's Categorical Imperative.

    After a brief discussion of each of the four examples, Kant then goes on to describe and analyse the second formulation of the categorical imperative, namely, the 'Formula of the End in Itself'. After stating the second formulation Kant considers once again each of the examples.

  2. Capital Punishment

    Although despite most of the objections, there is the feeling of satisfaction which attracts people to this theory in the system of punishment. Retribution is known as looking backwards at the crime and judging the type of punishment the criminal requires, thus it is also contrasted with Utilitarianism and it looks forward.

  1. This essay will seek to prove that the statement "the end justifies the means" ...

    But how do the people fit in? Machiavelli does admit that a principality should rest upon the support of the people. But later on, he clarifies that the "moral goodness of the masses" stems only from their gullibility and willingness to be misled.

  2. Evaluate Korsgaard's discussion of the Universalizability Argument. In what ways does she conform with ...

    Ends (So act as if you were through your maxims a law-making member of the Kingdom of Ends). Kant tells us that maxim to be universal, it should be subjected to a universalizability test. This happens when we act under the idea that we have free will, where this free

  1. Immanuel Kant - discussing Critique Of Pure Reason.

    The reason our knowledge has these constraints is that the mind relies on experience therefore limiting the minds access to the empirical realm of space and time. Kant's theory is deontological, he believes that humans seek an ultimate end called the supreme goodness (summum bonum).

  2. “People should always do their duty”. Explain how Kant understood this concept.

    A synthetic statement also tells us something new the subject. Prior to Kant, it was widely accepted that there were only two types of statement: a priori analytic and a posteriori synthetic.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work