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Jacques Louis David, The Oath of the Horatii, 1784 - page 57 / 80

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MORAL MOTIVATION, DUTY, AND FEELING

Langton reminds us that, in Kantian ethics, “an action has moral worth when it is done for the sake of duty; it is not enough that the action conforms with duty.”

Thus, for Kant, if we do something moral we ought to do it out of respect for duty, and not, for instance, due to sympathy.

According to Kant, the person who treats persons out of duty to the version of the categorical imperative which says to treat persons as ends and never merely as means, and yet who has no sympathy or feelings for others, is more moral than someone who is sympathetic.

Kant thinks that sympathy and feeling are burdensome.  It is reverence for the moral law which is to be respected, and it must prevail over all human “inclinations and desires.”

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