Kant's Assessment of Motivation in the Fulfillment of Social Obligations
Penn Bioethics Journal 2006; 2(2): 29-32
This paper explores the motivations of physicians who promote the health of their communities through the fulfillment of social obligations beyond the boundaries of their own patients. Based on the assumption that physicians do not have social obligations, this paper looks at the normative, motivational question, namely "How should physicians be motivated to fulfill social obligations?" The paper traces the Kantian view of morality and motivation. The distinctions between required, merely permissible, and forbidden actions is drawn. Furthermore, Kant's view that required actions done in accordance with duty are of no moral worth is critiqued from three stand points. First, it is argued that just because motivations outside of Kantian-based duty are not as good, it does not follow that these motivations are of no moral worth. Second, it is argued that there are some motivations behind required actions that are clearly better than other motivations. Third, it is argued that required actions done in accordance with duty are clearly better than those actions done without relevance to duty. The paper concludes that many required actions done in accordance with duty are performed from motivations that do have moral worth.
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