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What A Kant: Can Bad Be Good?

Updated on November 15, 2016
tHErEDpILL profile image

Alem is an Entrepreneur and Writer with an A.S. in Digital Film Making.

Kant's Moral Theory is intriguing. I especially like these two questions;

1. Does a bad intention make an otherwise good act bad or lose its value?

2. Does a good intention redeem a bad act?


To answer these questions we have to define what a "bad" and "good" intention is and also what a "good" or "bad" act is.

The most logical definition I can come up with for a "bad" intention is; something that is intended to hurt or harm someone.

The most logical definition I can come up with for a "good" intention is; something that is intended to help or please someone.

The logical definitions for "good" and "bad" acts are the same above with the difference being that intentions are mental and acts are physical. For example, you can "intend" to make someone cry but you have to initiate a physical "act" to achieve this.

Now that I have defined the terms I will attempt to answer the questions.

A's Answers To Kant's Moral Theory Questions

1. Does a bad intention make an otherwise good act bad or does it lose its value?

In the movie "Trading Places" two rich old white guys give a homeless black man, Billy Ray (Eddie Murphy) a high paying job, a luxurious home, and his own man servant. This is a good act. Unfortunately the reason they do this is not good.

At the same time they are giving this homeless man the chance of a lifetime they are destroying another man's life in the process. Dan Aykroyd's character "Louis" is set up by the rich guys to lose everything, just so one of them can prove that it's possible to destroy a rich white guys life and at the same time rebuild a homeless black guys life. This gives their good act a bad intention.

You can use different scenarios I believe the result will always be the same, the good act cannot be considered bad or lose its value based on a bad intention. The fact that these two guys were trying to eventually harm both these men does not change the fact that giving a homeless man a home and a job is a good thing. The act is still good it just so happens that it was not meant to "be" good.

2. Does a good intention redeem a bad act?

Robin Hood steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Stealing is a bad act for sure, but does the fact that he is stealing from people who have much more than enough to survive and giving it to people who have barely enough to survive cancel out the bad act of stealing in the first place? Ah, sometimes answering a question with a question is the best way to get an answer.

My answer...the bad act cannot be redeemed because it will ultimately always result in more bad acts. No matter how good the intentions are it is in human nature to be self destructive and as soon as you let Robin Hood get away with stealing for whatever reason you open up the door for people to copy. At the end of the day people will start rationalizing all kinds of bad acts. That is why we have moral and societal laws. Without them there would be chaos. With that being said I now wonder if the good intention of keeping our society functioning fairly redeem the bad act of imprisoning people? Hmmm.


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    • avorodisa profile image

      Anna Sidorova 

      6 years ago from Russia

      The questions discussed in this hub are very interesting. As children, we learn that there are bad things and good things. Till certain moment, we believe in them, then life gets more complex as we notice that sometimes apparently bad acts bring balance and even positive change... Life is more complicated than bad and good. Some day you arrive at the point when you notice that to be good is to actually correspond to social norms and behave in a socially acceptable way. But, then, there are flaws in the society also, different kinds of social evil. Especially, when some degradation takes place. Finally, you notice that your "misbehaviour" can show other people where they are wrong. For me, the good thing is to be compassionate towards people. One zen master said: "Live with love in your heart and do whatever you want." I wonder what Leonardo da Vinci would say to this...

    • tHErEDpILL profile imageAUTHOR

      Alem Belton 

      6 years ago from New York

      If a good act is premeditated to be good even though the intentions are bad once again we have to understand what that person's definition of good is. Hitler thought exterminating Jews was a good thing, was it? Most of us would say no, a sociopath like Hitler would say yes.

    • penofone profile image

      Anish Patel 

      6 years ago

      What if a good act is predispositioned or self thought of or premeditated to be good even though the intentions may be bad. Interesting factoid because its not always morality that justifies the end to a means or the final act isn't always a good intention if it has purgotory notes to isn't the work of a good person relieving the bad intentions? Lets talk....



    • Nordy profile image


      6 years ago from Canada

      Absolutely... on all points! Great hub!


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