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Kant’s philosophy is usually complex and requires a careful analysis to avoid arriving at fallacious interpretations. His assertions that nothing else can be entirely good in itself except a good will are an interesting concept, especially with his empirical claims that such goodness cannot be diminished, even if there are bad intents on the person possessing this good will (Wood, 2002). He further argues that the consequence of this good will does not alter the value of its goodness, even if the person fails to implement this will or if his attempts amount to failure. If a bad person is constantly involved in bad acts and at one point has a goodwill regarding some vocation or person, his bad nature does not diminish the goodness of that good will. In addition, a person who sets out to perform certain actions based on his good will and the results are negative, his good will cannot be called into question and neither can it be diminished.
Kant, however, tries to equate good will with situation where a person might be tempted to incline in the opposite direction, especially due to adverse conditions. In this regard, the person chooses to adhere to the good will, even if doing so might be detrimental to him (Wood). Kant is one of the philosophers who acknowledge that morality poses a conflict with human nature and it is only through heroic and determined will that we can live virtuously even under the burden of our own imperfections. A good example might be the temptation to offer a promise when knowing very well you have no intention or lack the ability to keep it. Following Kant’s declaration that only the good will contains infinite goodness, such an act is immoral and cannot be said to contain a good will regardless of the consequences. A moral being should make rational decisions, and this ability creates a duty to act in a manner considered moral (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2008). It is only then, when a person acts based on such a duty, recognizing that making a false promise goes against this duty, it leads to the conclusion that such an act cannot be based on a good will.
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A very interesting argument about a good will is that it has unconditional value contained within it and requires no qualification. Good will is therefore autonomous from its effects and does not derive any validation from the results of acts deemed to originate from a good will. Kant goes further to show that a good will has strong relations to the duty to do the good, and our acts are guided solely by that duty and not by any promise of reward or fear of punishment. It is only then, when an act is based solely on a duty to do the good without duress or incentive, that a good will can be said to exist and its value to be without the necessity for further qualification (Sayre-McCord, 2000).
The above mentioned arguments on the issue of a good will as presented by Kant raise the question of whether he was right to claim that the only thing good in itself is a good will. Kant uses one major premise to arrive at his conclusion, that every other principle, belief or act is only good if the end result qualifies it to be good. This means that apart from good will, everything else must be qualified by the intentions or the results before it can be considered good or bad. In this regard, Kant was right to make his declaration that a good will is the only thing good in itself.
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