Philosophy 214 -11
Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals
University of St. Thomas
Scenario: Jim is walking down a lonelybeach while suddenly, he sees Jane drowning in the sea. He does not hesitate and swims right where Jane is drowning, and rescues her.
Before analyzing this scenario it is important to assert thedifferent factors under which this action is to be judged. Whether this action features moral worth and moral content, and its accordance with duty. It is also important to see if Jim’s maxim can beuniversal and if it was motivated exclusively by duty or by other factor.
When a person is about to lose her life, the duty is to help her not to lose it (if it is at our reach). To help aperson preserve his/her life is a maxim that can be applicable as a universal law. It is “universalizable” because it is good in itself; it is universally good for its own sake. Not helping Jane fromlosing her life is not a universalizable idea since it could not be applied universally to all people, because then there would not be any lifesavers, doctors, or persons that can help/prevent people fromlosing their lives. The idea of life preservation would not exist. This maxim of not helping Jane is then contrary to duty, as said before, because its maxim cannot be universal.
Jim has jutssaved a person from dying in the sea. In order to see whether this action has moral worth, we have to see if its maxim is in accordance with duty.
As I mentioned before, Jim’s maxim of helpingJane is universally applicable. By being universal, it is automatically in accordance with duty. Thus, an action in accordance with duty is necessarily an act of respect to the universal law (hence anact of good will). Summarizing, to save the life of a person is a good action, for it is an act of respect to the law. Finally, Jim’s action has indeed moral worth and content.