I am about halfway through Rawls' Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy. Done with the lectures on Hume and Liebniz. The Hume lectures struck me as fair accounts, and interesting. I am just starting the lectures on Kant. It is a little disconcerting. It has been a while since I read Kant, and had begin to think that my views applied to a fanciful caricature of Kant. It is disconcerting to see Kant as weird as I had thought him. The only thing good in itself is a good will, and morality is to make us worthy of happiness. These are very peculiar ideas. Some of it is a deep disinclination to think in the same general ways. I don't see why a will would be good in itself, and am a bit doubtful that a will standing alone (so to speak) has any such moral quality at all. It does not change the world in any way. BUt it makes some sense in the context of religious views of the world; there one could well think that there is value inhering in a bare willing. Anyway, the notion is hard for me to think of as a serious effort, yet it plainly is. As well, it is now surprising to me that I got so many students to think of Kant as the great moral philosopher -- how did I do that given that I thought then as now that the project was, at the heart of it, nonsense.
Worthy of happiness -- I have been puzzling over this all weekend. It must be something about reasonable persons because it cannot be that there is some standard of worthiness for dogs or small children being happy. I don't see how there could be any sense, even on the surface, to the question of whether some Schnauzer is worthy of happiness, or a ten year-old. Why or how the lines would be drawn among kinds of creatures who are or could be happy is, at the least, a mystery. But suppose there is something about reasonable persons that allows a line to be drawn and one can ask whether such are worthy of happiness -- it is still a very weird idea (to me). It seems to require some very elaborate system of appraisal, reaching to every corner of every life; in other words, a deeply religious attitude towards ethics -- theory for the capricious god. I don't see how it gets us to anything useful or intelligible about living. On the other hand, it is important to work at seeing theories in their contexts. Kant was a Christian and his theories do not (as far as I can tell) seriously consider the question of justifying belief in God.