Immanuel Kant

I’ve come to enjoy the program Justice with Harvard University professor Michael Sandel. I recommend you watch it some time! In episode 6b he discusses Immanuel Kant’s assertion that a deed is moral only when the motive is pure. For example, if a shop owner could give a customer the wrong change but doesn’t because he fears being caught (something that would harm the business) this action is not “moral” because his motive was not pure. If he gives correct change because it is the right thing to do then it is moral. Another example would be a man remains faithful to his marriage because he fears if he cheats he would be caught (i.e. the consequence is the motivation) is not the same as the man who remains faithful because he believes it is the right thing to do.

What do you say? Is the morality of an action determined by the action or by the motivation for the action?