What Is the Purpose of Moral Action?June 28, 2021
“What is the purpose of moral action?” Different answers have been given to this question throughout the history of philosophy.
While the thinkers of Antiquity generally answered this question as “happiness”, Kant “is suitability for homework.” he said.
There is no consensus on what the purpose of moral actions is. These views can be classified as follows:
Aristippos (Hedonism): The purpose of moral actions is pleasure. Happiness is happiness. Pleasure here is bodily pleasure.
Epicurus (Hedonism): The purpose of moral actions is pleasure and happiness. But these pleasures are not bodily (material) pleasures, but spiritual and mental pleasures. Not instant pleasures, but continuous pleasures can only make people happy. Happiness is getting away from pain and getting closer to pleasure.
Democritus: The purpose of moral actions is moderation and happiness. In order for a person to be happy, he must reach the peace of mind. In order to reach the tranquility of the soul, one must avoid all kinds of extremes.
Socrates: The purpose of moral actions is happiness. According to Socrates, happiness is virtue based on knowledge. Good, which finds a solid foundation in knowledge, makes people happy.
Plato: The purpose of moral actions is to reach the “Idea of Goodness”, which is the supreme goodness. According to him, happiness is the realization of the idea of goodness.
Aristotle: The purpose of moral actions is virtue and happiness. Happiness is perpetuating pleasures. This is possible by taking the middle road (avoiding extremes). Therefore, in order to be happy, one must avoid all kinds of extremes.
Farabi: Happiness is also good. The highest good is the virtue, which is possible with knowledge. Since the knowledge of God is good, attaining this knowledge will lead us to happiness.
To Antisthenes and Diogenes (Cynicism): The purpose of moral actions is happiness. This is happiness; It requires not worrying about anything, not paying attention to anything, that is, letting go.
Kant (Homework morality): Happiness can never be a goal. The purpose of moral action is to be “fit for duty”. Homework is the person’s willingness (benevolence) and acting in accordance with the moral law, without any self-interest. The imperatives of the moral law become duties when they are internalized by the individual.
Thomas Aquino: The purpose of moral actions is to obey the laws of the state and God.
Zeno of Elali (Stoicism): The purpose of moral actions is happiness. Happiness can only be achieved by suppressing and restraining desires, passions and emotions that force one’s spiritual balance by living in a measured way.
J. Bentham (Utilitarism): The purpose of moral action is happiness and happiness depends on utility. Happiness is not something that an individual can achieve alone, but it can be realized within the framework of social benefit in society. Human happiness is related to the happiness of the people around him. Because man is not only under the influence of his own actions, but also under the influence of the actions of the people he lives with.
J. S. Mill (Utilitarism): The purpose of moral action is happiness, and happiness depends on utility. It perceives utility as universal happiness for all humanity. What is good is to do what is for the benefit of humanity. Doing what is good for everyone leads to happiness.
Jean Paul Sartre: The aim of moral action is freedom. Only a person who can take responsibility for all his actions can be free.
Compiled by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook