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Philosophy 323


Philosophy 323. Normative Ethical Theory: Kantian Ethics. Immanuel Kant ... Deontological Ethics ... criticism is that Kant's ethics are too rigorous. The ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Philosophy 323

Philosophy 323
  • Normative Ethical Theory
  • Kantian Ethics

Immanuel Kant
  • Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) revolutionized
    philosophical ethics. Prior to Kant, people
    sought the origin of morality in the natural
    order, in the ends proper to human beings, or in
    feelings. In contrast, Kant seeks the conditions
    of the possibility of morality and locates them
    in autonomy the wills capacity for
  • Why in a capacity of the will? Because a good
    will is intrinsically good, other features of our
    character are potentially turned to evil, and as
    a matter of psychological fact reason is not
    particularly suited to produce happiness.

Deontological Ethics
  • Due to its focus on the will, Kants ethics are
    deontological actions are morally right to the
    extent that they derive from motives of duty, as
    opposed to motives of inclination.
  • When we think about moral obligation, he argued,
    what we need to account for is its categorical
    character, the fact that it commands us

Whats with the Categorical?
  • Kant is convinced that everything in nature acts
    according to laws. We are unique in that we do so
    consciously, in obedience to laws of reason.
  • These laws of reason Kant calls imperatives.
  • Following his account of obligation, Kant makes a
    distinction between hypothetical and categorical
  • A law of reason (imperative) is hypothetical when
    the will is conditionally commanded relative to
    some end (think prudence).
  • A categorical imperative, on the other hand,
    commands absolutely, that is unconditionally.

What about the TRA?
  • Reflection on the categorical character of moral
    obligation leads Kant to a TRA that is also his
    fundamental moral principle the Categorical
  • Applying the categorical imperative to proposed
    actions provides a principle of moral evaluation,
    directing us to the right actions.
  • There are a number of formulations of the CI. We
    are going to look at two one that emphasizes the
    moral dignity of persons, and one that focuses on
    the universalizability of moral claims.

CI Humanity Formulation
  • CIHumanity An action is right iff the action
    treats persons (including oneself) as ends in
    themselves rather than as means to our ends.
  • There is both a negative (dont treat them as
    means) and a positive (treat them as ends in
    themselves) requirement contained in the
  • The positive requirement is captured by Kant with
    the notion of dignity, which all rational agents
    possess by virtue of their being rational.

CI Universal Law
  • CIUniversal Law Act always in such a way that
    you can will the maxim of your action to be
    universal law.
  • Maxim the subjective principle of an action (In
    situation X, I will do Y to accomplish Z).
  • Despite the proximity of this formulation to the
    Golden Rule, it is really quite different. The UL
    formulation imposes a consistency requirement.
  • You should only act in such a way that everyone
    else should act and that it is possible for them
    to act.

Criticisms of Kantian Ethics
  • Some have argued that Kants focus on the
    categorical nature of moral obligation results in
    an overly narrow conception of morality.
  • What is the role of moral emotions or sentiments
    like sympathy?
  • Another common criticism is that Kants ethics
    are too rigorous.
  • The example of lying.