Kant famously argues that the only thing that is "good without qualification" or good in and of itself is a good will. For Kant, even an act that benefits others can lack moral worth if one does it with "ulterior motives." This is very intuitive: when one has good intentions, it is difficult to fault them as doing something immoral. But are there exceptions? Can you think of an example where one has genuinely good intentions yet still acts in such a way that we think they are immoral?

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Kant himself unwittingly provided an example of where good intentions could lead to what most of us would regard as an immoral outcome.

Kant says that lying is always wrong because if it were turned into a universal moral maxim, then promises would become utterly meaningless and we wouldn't be...

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Kant himself unwittingly provided an example of where good intentions could lead to what most of us would regard as an immoral outcome.

Kant says that lying is always wrong because if it were turned into a universal moral maxim, then promises would become utterly meaningless and we wouldn't be able to trust one another. If a murderer should come to one's door looking for his intended victim and one knows where that person is, then, according to Kant, it would still be immoral to tell the murderer a lie.

Here we have a prime example of how good intentions (always wanting to tell the truth) can lead to consequences that most of us would find thoroughly immoral (someone being killed by a murderer). To some extent, this is an inevitable outcome of a deontological moral system like Kant's—that is to say, a system of morals that evaluates the inherent morality of specific acts rather than their consequences. In this sense, intentions are insufficient grounds for an analysis of the moral worth of an action. Consequences and outcomes can be just as ethically salient as intentions, perhaps even more so.

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