Difference between a Moral Concept and Cognitive Concept

Submitted by Admin on Wed, 12/08/2010 - 3:30pm.

POF 9-5 Kant's principle of morality -- Act so that the basis of your action may be valid for all men -- is the exact opposite of ours.

Following his surprising assertion that Kant's categorical imperative is the "antithesis" of moral activity, Steiner goes on to state that in performing authentic moral acts, we should not worry about what might hold true for "all men" but only what holds true for us.

How can it be that our actions can stem from motivations particular to ourselves yet also claim to be purely, objectively ideal actions? It's possible, Steiner says, when we consider the difference between motives to action, and the perceptible content of an action.

The ego is always looking at the perceptible content of an action, but does not have to be determined by it--accordingly there is a difference between the concept formed about an action (and its result) and the motive to action itself. When a person decides to do a positive act for the good of society or the world, he or she will think about it, forming a "cognitive concept" of the action and its outcomes.

The "moral concept" of the act is not something that the ego can take ownership of--it adheres to the morality of the act from an ideal standpoint. The actor seems to experience points of contact with the moral content of an act in two ways: 1) in intuiting the ideal moral quality of the act and 2) and in choosing the manner in which he or she carries out the act.

Again, owing to circumstances in life, people differ in their capacities for moral intuition--the degree to which we allow an objectively real morality come to life in our activity, in spite of the multitude of choices available to us, is the degree to which we exercise "ethical individualism."

Eric Cunningham