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Explain what Kant means by 'summum bonum'

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Introduction

´╗┐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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

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.

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