Our Duty for Beavers

In the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant states that there is an unconditional good where people are intrinsically good without any intentions of power, intelligence, fortune, etc. He claims that the specific obligations of a good will are called duties, in which he makes three propositions about them. The second proposition is interesting because he states that “an action from duty has its moral worth not in the purpose to be attained by it but in the maxim in accordance with which it is decided upon”. This means that one should fulfill his or her duties because of the principle of volition where people fulfill a duty without any regard for objects or desires. However, if one expects a particular result or is driven by some external motivation other than the duty, it violates this good will. Therefore, people should only act upon a duty without regard for the benefits or consequences the action may bring upon them to be considered an unconditionally good driven duty.

In a Facebook video I found, there’s a man who finds a beaver with a stick about five times its size preparing to walk across the street. The man recognizes that this beaver is probably trying to build a dam in the middle of the night and decides to leave his car and help the beaver carry the stick across the street. This man is acting out of a sense of duty in which he understands that he should help innocent animals despite the fact that he will not gain anything directly from the beaver. On the other hand, he could fulfill his duty driven from an external motivation in which he knows he will go viral on Facebook for this act of kindness. Considering both sides, I would argue that he is fulfilling his duty out of an intrinsically good will by the second proposition Kant states in which he is doing it for its moral worth and not because of any material principle. 

2 thoughts on “Our Duty for Beavers

  1. William, you made a good point here and I really agree with your saying that intrinsically good should be considered as duty but not some behaviors that aim to gain something from doing that. Just as your example shows that the man’s behavior is considered as intrinsically good since whether he helps the beaver or not will not bring any actual benefits to him. The reason for him of helping the beaver is his intrinsic beneficence which arouses his sense of responsibility to help the animal. Since it is not usual for people to predict whether their behaviors will be posted on social media, I think that the behavior of this man is the result of his intrinsically good.

  2. Hello William, first of all can I just say that this video is so pure. I also agree that his behavior is due to an intrinsic good in him. There are too many variables in which his behavior could have stopped (such as the beaver running away or other factors). He was initially not going to help, but once he saw the beaver struggle he began to help it. If he did it for the wrong reasons he would have immediately tried to help the animal while being filmed, bot after he saw it needed help. Once he saw the animal was in need he helped it get across the street, not before. Therefore I would also say that the man is acting by an intrinsic goodness towards other creatures.

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