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Kantian Ethics

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Kantian Ethics Categorical Imperative Universal Maxim Respect of Persons MORALITY IN THE MODERN WORLD Area 1: The Relationship between Religion and Moral Values ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Kantian Ethics


1
Kantian Ethics
  • Categorical Imperative
  • Universal Maxim
  • Respect of Persons

2
MORALITY IN THE MODERN WORLD
  • Area 1 The Relationship between Religion and
    Moral Values
  • Introduction (pp. 1-7)
  • The Euthyphro Dilemma Are actions good simply
    because the gods command them or do the gods
    command certain actions because they are good?
  • Religious Morality (pp. 8-21)
  • Moral values are grounded in religious belief
  • The interpretation of sacred writings guided by
    faith, tradition and/or reason
  • Utilitarian Ethics (pp. 29-33)
  • Act and Rule utilitarianism
  • Principle of the greatest good
  • Kantian Ethics (pp. 34-37)
  • Categorical imperative
  • Universal maxim
  • Respect of persons

3
Duty and Reason
  • Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was all about duty.
  • He felt that using reason you can think about
    whats right to do based on how you think you
    should act.
  • According to Kant there should be no attention
    paid to consequences (unlike Utilitarianism)
    because they are far too difficult to predict and
    dont take into account your motivation.

4
Duty and Reason
  • Kant felt that what is right is what you feel you
    ought to do. We can understand what we ought to
    do by using practical reason.
  • The intention of his (Kants) morality is to set
    aside all ego-centredness, and move towards an
    unconditional and universal sympathy.
  • Ethical Theory, M Thompson, Hodder Staughton,
    1999

5
Kants shopkeepers
  • Kant compares two shopkeepers who both give
    correct change
  • The first is honest because he is scared of being
    caught if he tries to cheat his customers.
  • The second is honest because it is his duty to be
    honest.
  • According to Kant, only the second shopkeeper is
    behaving morally.

6
Right and Wrong?
  • In his writing Kant did not spend a great deal of
    time explaining what he thought was right or
    wrong, only that we should develop an internal
    voice which would tell us what we should do in
    any given situation.
  • When faced with a moral problem we should apply
    reason and come up with what we ought to do in
    that situation.
  • To Kant, everyone has a duty to take part in this
    type of moral-decision making which he called
    the categorical imperative.

7
Check your learning
  • Kant and duty
  • Kant and reason
  • Kant and consequences
  • Kant and right and wrong

8
Categorical imperative
  • Act as if the maxim from which you were to act
    were to become through your will a general law.
  • Critique of Pure Reason, Kant, 1788
  • Maxim A succinct formulation of a fundamental
    principle, general truth, or rule of conduct
  • Put this into your own words for your notes.

9
Categorical imperative in my own words
  • Act as if the maxim from which you were to act
    were to become through your will a general law.
  • Critique of Pure Reason, Kant, 1788
  • What would it be like if everyone did that?

10
Universal maxim
  • The categorical imperative requires that any
    moral decision you make must be acceptable for
    everyone else to do too.
  • If so, your action is right.
  • If your decision is not okay for everyone
    everywhere then it would be wrong.

11
Universal maxim
  • Every moral decision has to be universally
    applicable or universalisable.

12
Check your learning
  • Kants categorical imperative
  • Maxim
  • Universalisability(!)

13
Respect for people
  • As well as this, Kant wrote that people should be
    respected and ends in themselves, never used as
    means to ends.
  • Kant believed there was something that separates
    human and non-human beings the ability to
    understand and use the concepts of duty and
    reason.
  • To Kant, animals are dominated by instinct and
    desire, their behaviour shaped by these
    compulsions. For example

14
They eat
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They fight
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They have sex
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20
And when its all over they sleep
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22
Kant, of course, accepted that human beings are
no different to animals in that we share their
instincts and desires.
23
We eat
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Fight
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Have sex
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29
And when its all over we sleep
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31
However to Kant, what separates humans from
non-humans is our ability to REASON. According
to Kant it is this faculty that enables us to act
freely against our instincts and desires if we so
choose.
32
Check your learning
  • Kant on respect for people
  • Kant on Humans/Non-humans

33
Problems with Duty and Reason
  • Can there be such a thing as pure reason, and if
    there is, can we apply it to moral-decision
    making?
  • How do we agree on what ought to be done in a
    given situation?
  • Do we share the same concept of duty
    universally? If not how can we agree on what
    ought to be done?

34
Problems with Duty and Reason
  • Can we really apply clear reason in the real
    world?
  • Surely consequences do matter
  • Can we really apply a moral rule like not killing
    others to every situation?

35
Suppose one evening you hear a knock on the door.
You answer and a woman is standing there looking
scared. She tells you she is on the run from a
man who is trying to kill her and asks for you to
help hide her.
  • What is the correct decision according to Kant?
    Why?
  • What problems does this raise?

36
In this case the fundamental principle is whether
you should help someone who is in need. Kant
would have felt that this was a right thing to
do. Using reason you could argue that helping
someone who is in need is something everyone
ought to do (a duty). It is also universalisable
as everyone should do it.
37
A few minutes later you hear a knock on the door.
A man is standing there with an axe in his hand.
He appears to be very angry, shows you a picture
of the woman you have just hidden and asks you if
you have seen her.
  • What is the correct decision according to Kant?
    Why?
  • What problems does this raise?

38
In this case the fundamental principle is whether
you should lie. Kant would have felt that this
was the wrong thing to do. Using reason you could
argue that lying should not be allowed. If I lie
I am saying the everyone else has a duty to lie
also. This is not universalisable.
39
Check your learning
  • What are some problems with Kantian ethics?
  • Explain the case of the knocking door

40
Christianity on Kants Duty and Reason
  • There is also an emphasis on duty in
    Christianity.
  • Clear guiding principles exist within the Bible
    especially the teaching of Jesus.
  • To love one another sounds like a
    universalisable principle and therefore the
    categorical imperative.

41
Christianity on Kants Duty and Reason
  • However these principles require interpretation,
    meaning that to keep one you have to ignore
    another.
  • For example Christians think you ought to
    protect the weak and you ought to preserve life.
    These principles may become contradictory
    depending on the situation

42
Buddhism on Kants Duty and Reason
  • The Buddha taught that his teachings must be used
    in practice and that if they do not work for you,
    they should be abandoned. This appears to be in
    opposition to the categorical imperative.
  • Buddhists in turn do not have a duty to follow
    teachings if they do not work for them in
    practice.
  • Buddhist ethics are in opposition to moral
    absolutes. Instead Buddhists are expected to
    think about a moral decision depending on the
    circumstances.

43
Buddhism on Kants Duty and Reason
  • However, Buddhists do speak of having certain
    duties like not killing, stealing, lying etc.
  • When ordained, a monk or nun has many more duties
    they are expected to keep.

44
Viewpoints Independent of Religious Belief on
Kants Duty and Reason
  • Humanists argue that we have a duty to others and
    our common humanity should trigger how we relate
    to one another.
  • For example, to Treat every human being as
    equal is something we ought to do.
  • However, this is because to a Humanist certain
    basic human actions are right in themselves, they
    need no justification.
  • To Humanists, responsibilities go hand in hand
    with rights.

45
Viewpoints Independent of Religious Belief on
Kants Duty and Reason
  • Onora ONeil is a modern Kantian Philosopher who
    has interpreted Kantian ethics for today.

Starting premise We are all moral
equals. Rather than deriving Therefore, we
all have equal rights. Kant derives
Therefore, we all have equal duties. We should
not act on principles that are unfit to
be principles for all.
46
Check your learning
  • Christians on Kant
  • Buddhists on Kant
  • Humanists on Kant
  • Onora Oneils interpretation of Kant

47
MORALITY IN THE MODERN WORLD
  • Area 1 The Relationship between Religion and
    Moral Values
  • Introduction (pp. 1-7)
  • The Euthyphro Dilemma Are actions good simply
    because the gods command them or do the gods
    command certain actions because they are good?
  • Religious Morality (pp. 8-21)
  • Moral values are grounded in religious belief
  • The interpretation of sacred writings guided by
    faith, tradition and/or reason
  • Utilitarian Ethics (pp. 29-33)
  • Act and Rule utilitarianism
  • Principle of the greatest good
  • Kantian Ethics (pp. 34-37)
  • Categorical imperative
  • Universal maxim
  • Respect of persons

48
Extension exercises
  • How would Kant feel about medical ethics
  • How would Kant feel about the using embryos?
  • How would Kant feel aboutEuthanasia?
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