Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, was known for his rigorous approach to deducing the logical and moral order of the world. His quote “Morality is not properly the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness” gives us a glimpse into his deontological (duty-based) approach to ethics.
Kant argued that moral actions aren’t defined by their consequences, but rather by the motivations and intentions behind them. In other words, the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by whether it conforms to a set of moral rules or duties, not by the happiness or satisfaction it may bring about. So, morality, according to Kant, isn’t a pathway to happiness—it’s about behaving in a way that’s intrinsically right or just.
Kant believed in the concept of the ‘good will’, which is the capacity to act out of duty and respect for moral law, not personal gain or desire. He thought that a person who acts out of good will is worthy of happiness, but it’s crucial to note that acting out of good will does not guarantee happiness. It merely makes us worthy of it. The key takeaway from this quote is that for Kant, ethics isn’t about pursuing happiness, but about acting in a way that makes us deserving of it. Our focus should be on performing our duties and doing what’s morally right, rather than seeking personal satisfaction or pleasure.