A Concise Historical Overview Martin Luther ( CE ) Plato ( BCE ) Rousseaus Social Contract (1772 CE) Rationalism versus Empiricism Isaac Newton ( CE ) David Hume ( CE) Kants Enlightenment W.D. Ross ( CE )
Two things fill the mind with wonder and awe: the starry heavens above and the moral law within.
Animals Human Beings God / Angels Kants understanding of human nature is best appreciated within the context of: Desires Inclinations Animals follow their desires and inclinations only. They have no reason, so behave in accordance to the empirical realm of cause and effect, led by their appetite and instincts. Reason Human nature experiences the tension of desires and inclinations (their animal self) versus the voice of reason (their God-like self) God and angels are perfectly rational beings, without appetites and desires to lead them astray from following reason and objective moral laws. Kants view of Human Nature Phenomenal and Noumenal Realm Desires & Reason Phenomenal RealmNoumenal Realm
Intelligible world Inaccessible world of things in themselves Constant and unchanging Phenomenal Realm Sensible world The world as it appears to us Changing and transient Kant worked within a Platonic tradition, and, like Plato, believed in two Realms of human existence: the intelligible World, the Noumena; and the sensible Real, the phenomena. Reason Intellect Noumenal Realm Senses Inclinations Phenomenal Realm Kants view of human nature (sharing the `animal self of desires / appetites and an `angelic self of reason) means that humans have access to both the noumenal and phenomenal realm.
Autonomy (Self deciding) Versus Heteronomy (Different laws imposed upon you) Autonomy The individual decides their own moral laws Freedom of the will Noumenal realm Heteronomy People have laws imposed upon them by others e.g. the church, the state, ones family Governed by laws of nature Phenomenal realm Reason A posteriori (after experience)A priori (before experience) Desires / Inclinations Categorical ImperativeHypothetical Imperative Kant believed that morally human beings are autonomous
Newtons laws of nature Explains the sensible realm (Realm of the phenomena) Dependent on scientific observation / empiricism A posteriori – dependent on sense experience Kants Moral Law Located in the intelligible realm (the noumena) Accessible by reason, which is innate, within human beings A priori – not dependent on sense experience Just as Newton asserted universal laws of nature, so Kant asserted universal laws of morality. The difference being that laws of nature are a posteriori, whilst laws of morality are a priori. Nature Morality Universal Laws
The GOOD WILL shines forth like a precious jewel (Kant) Autonomy Freedom of will Based on Reason (not empiricism) Motive of duty Duty for dutys sake The Good Will chooses to follow the moral law BECAUSE IT IS THE MORAL LAW. Sole intrinsic good No need of qualification
The Categorical Imperative Versus The Hypothetical Imperative Categorical Imperative An unconditional command Willed as an end in itself Do `x for the sake of `x Intrinsic goods Universal Absolute Deontological Duty for dutys sake Hypothetical Imperative A conditional command Willed as a means to an end Do `x if you wish to achieve `y Instrumental goods Relative Dependent / Contingent Consequential The end justifies the means A priori, through reasonA posteriori, desires / inclinations Kant believed that the Good Will follows the Categorical Imperative
Categorical or Hypothetical Imperative? Be nice to your granny so she will leave you money in her will. Use artificial contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Tell the truth so people will trust you. How might you turn the first part of these hypothetical imperatives into categorical imperatives?
Kants Categorical Imperatives (1) Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. (2) Treat other human beings as an end in their own right, never as a means to an end. (3) Act as though you are a member of a law making kingdom of ends.
RATIONALRATIONAL Virtuous people are happy Wicked people suffer Some wicked people prosper Some virtuous people suffer IRRATIONALIRRATIONAL Kants Moral Problem But in the world Univers e
Consequently some virtuous people suffer Consequently some wicked people prosper But in the phenomenal world, of morally free human beings, desires and inclinations tempt people away from acting rationally Therefore to maintain a belief in a rational universe where the highest good is achieved Kant postulates 1.The Existence of God 2.The immortality of the soul 3.Human beings have free will are postulates of pure practical reason Dietriech Bonhoeffer Machiavelli The Moral Law may be understood a priori by reason, and requires us to achieve the highest good (Summum Bonum)
Benefits of Kants Categorical Imperative
Human beings are morally autonomous, authors of their own morality In the realm of the phenomena Kant respected the determined universal laws of nature, as outlined by Isaac Newton In the noumenal realm Kant asserted humanitys freedom to decide for themselves the Good will, a priori, through the use of reason According to Kants view of human nature (rational and empirical selves) it is up to the individual whether to assert their freedom by acting rationally, or let themselves be governed by empirical desires and inclinations.
The categorical imperative promotes equality and is impartial Treat other human beings as an end in their own right, never as a means to an end. As all humans are rational Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Deontological approach Kant was radical in challenging the accepted social convention of the nineteenth century which practised social discrimination. Morality, grounded in reason, is impartial and egalitarian
The categorical imperative provides a deontological structure which enables the individual to decide for themselves the specific moral content REJECTION OF HETERONOMY (other laws) Individual Autonomy B I B L E e.g. 10 Commandments (Decalogue) M A G I S T E R I U M Categorical Imperative (C.I) Structure Duty Reason Universal People: end not means Good Will - Unconditional Official Church teaching D I V I N E C O M M A N D Specific Moral Maxims decided by the individual using the C.I. structure
In an increasingly secular age Kants emphasis on duty plays a significant counter-cultural role in an individualistic, egotistical society Dostoyevsky Ayn Rand Nietzsche The achievement of his own happiness is mans highest moral purpose What is strong wins. That is the universal law. To act as an antidote to an egotistical society the idea of duty encourages people to think again about their obligations to others. Duty tries to correct a fragmented society where individuals think only of themselves, by placing reason above desires and inclinations.
Kant Values Intrinsic Human Goods e.g. Freedom and Dignity Kant was deeply influenced by Rousseaus philosophy which emphasised the inherent dignity and freedom of humanity. Such goods are not dependent upon consequential gain or benefits, but logically discerned through reason according to the Good Will. Categorical, not hypothetical, imperatives.
Problems of Kants Categorical Imperative
Acting out of a sense of duty for dutys sake is cold and impersonal David Hume Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. Kants categorical imperative is therefore contrary to human nature as physical, desiring human beings. According to Kant the person who enjoys and takes pleasures in helping someone is therefore NOT acting morally – as they are following their inclinations and desires. Kant argues that the good will requires that an individual follow reason and acts out of a sense of duty alone. For Hume reason simply provides the means, the devices, for gaining what the passions desire. Humes view of morality is opposed to that of Kant, as Hume believed morality was based on a universal sentiment of benevolence / fellow feeling. For Hume sentiments such as sympathy, altruism, cooperation and mutual respect are grounded not in reason or duty, but in what human nature desires and feels.
Analysis / Application / Analysis / Application / Analysis On the one hand Aristotle, like Kant, recognises the importance of reason, If the intellect is divine compared with man, the life of the intellect must be divine compared to the life of a human being. Nichomachean Ethics Yet, Aristotle would have parted company with Kantian duty which acts in isolation from emotion, We may even go so far as to State that the man who does not enjoy performing noble actions is not a good man at all. Nobody would call a man just who does not enjoy acting justly, nor generous who does not enjoy generous actions… Nichomachean Ethics It is worth making lateral comparisons with other other moral philosophers … this demonstrates higher order thinking skills.
Duty, without guidance from human benevolence and sympathy, can lead to rigid moral fanaticism Trial of Adolph Eichmann, Chief Administrator of the Holocaust Jerusalem 1961 Official Record of Adolph Eichmanns pre-trial police examination Eichmann suddenly declared with great emphasis that he had lived his whole life according to Kants moral precepts, and especially according to a Kantian definition of duty… I meant by my remark about Kant that the principle of my will must always be such that it can become the principle of general laws. (Source: Peter Singer How are we to live? p. 220) Eichmann also cited, in support of his Kantian attitude to his duty, the fact that out of the millions of cases that passed through his hands, he allowed sympathy to sway him from his path of duty on only two occasions. The implication clearly is that on other occasions he felt sympathy for the Jews he was sending to the gas chambers, but because he believed one should do ones duty unaffected by sympathy, he steadfastly stuck to his duty, instead of being tempted to bend the rules and help the Jews.
Implications of Kants emphasis on reason…the loss of the human spirit? Reason Passions Unless reason takes the reins of government into its own hands, the feelings and inclinations play the master over the man. Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions. ? Implications of following Kant and the exclusive path of reason For Kant persons are respected because of their rationality. Like Star Treks Data intelligence, logic and reason are morally significant. But where is the space for the human spirit within an android?!
Resolving Conflicting Duties…? Duty for dutys sake But What happens when duties conflict? Mother Teresa believed she had a duty to protect the life of innocent foetuses and so opposed abortion Judith Jarvis Thomson believes that a woman has a duty to herself to pursue her own life and if a pregnancy interferes then abortion is acceptable Both positions can be universalized, as much depends on whether the foetus is thought to be a life with potential or a potential life.
Deontological Intrinsic good Willed for its own sake Categorical Imperative Kants Contradiction? For Kant is virtue not its own reward? So why does Kant postulate a life after death where the virtuous are rewarded by God with happiness? Has the categorical imperative turned hypothetical? Virtue is its own reward? Is happiness a reward for virtuous conduct? Consequential Instrumental Means to an end Hypothetical Imperative
Kant is Speciesist Kant is Speciesist Lack of respect for animal rights Although Kant does not uphold the Biblical sanctity of human life (image of God) as the Bible is based upon revelation and faith… N evertheless Kant is speciesist, as he thought human beings alone are rational, and so non-rational beings (i.e animals) have no moral significance. But so far as animals are concerned, we have no direct duties. Animals are there merely as a means to an end. That end is man. The question is not can they reason, can they talk, but can they suffer? (Jeremy Bentham) But… Jeremy Bentham, founder of utilitarianism, considered that sentience was an ethically important characteristic – the ability to feel pleasure or pain. More recently Peter Singer, a preference utilitarian, has developed Benethams thinking asserting that personhood is central to ethical rights. Singer argues that many animals have sentience, rationality and relationships (e.g. chimps and dolphins) and so are ethically significant.
Similarities between Kant and Marx Like Kant, Karl Marx considered that as people are rational they are capable of making free choices and should be treated with respect, ends in their own right, not as means to a capitalist end. People should collectively act as though they were a member of a law making kingdom of ends. The Good will is not enough… Consequences do matter! H O W E V E R The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it. (Karl Marx) Historical Materialism Marx believed that it was essential to change peoples social situation. Having a good will is not enough. The consequences of moral action and social goals which result in a fairer society are extremely important.
The Case of the Inquiring Murderer If a `would be murderer asked you where his next intended victim was hiding (and you are sheltering her in your house) should you lie? Do not lieLie It is impossible to universalize lying – as people would stop believing one another James Rachels But it would be possible to universalize Lie - if so doing would save an innocent persons life. There is no contradiction here and it promotes beneficial consequences. But by lying you might inadvertently cause the death of the innocent person. You can never know for sure that good consequences will occur by lying. So you should always avoid doing evil – and so should never lie. Even if a murder does occur, it will not be your fault, as you will have acted out of a sense of duty, following the categorical imperative. * Kant is wrong to take such a pessimistic view of our ability to predict consequences with accuracy. * It is highly questionable that one would have no moral responsibility for the persons death – after all by not lying one has aided the criminal
Ross asserted that we have Prima Facie duties at first glance which we recognise intuitively through reason W.D. Ross Intuitionist Prima facie duties are conditional duties and ought be followed, and so become actual duties, unless circumstances mean that there is an over-riding reason not to follow them e.g. I ought not to lie, unless lying might mean saving an innocent life. Prima facie duties are therefore more flexible than Kants rigid, absolute and universal moral maxims as they may change according to the particular contexts and likely consequences. So Ross, like Kant, believed that morality is objective. But, unlike Kant, Ross did not believe that morality was absolute and universal. Rosss Prima Facie Duties Rosss Prima Facie Duties An antidote to Kants absolute and universal approach
W.D Ross: Prima Facie Duties Do not lie Protect innocent life. W.D. Ross Prima Facie Duties are conditional, not absolute, and may change depending on the situation. Prima Facie duties at first glance which the mature person recognises intuitively through reason What should one do when intuitions conflict? For example: Do you lie to a gunman to protect the intended innocent victim?
W.D. Ross was an intuitionist who argued that the mature person intuitively knows what is good. Morals, like the principles of mathematics, are self-evident. Morality is objective, but morals are conditional – whether they should be followed depends on which is ones over-riding duty in the particular situation. W.D. Ross takes a deontological, not consequential approach, Besides the duty of fulfilling promises I have and recognise a duty of relieving distress, and that when I think it is right to do the latter at the cost of the former, it is not because I think I shall produce more good thereby but because I think it the duty which is in the circumstances more of a duty. (W.D. Ross)
W.D. Ross Six Prima Facie Duties (Duties one intuitively ought to follow, in the absence of an over-riding duty) Fidelity – faithful to promises made. Gratitude – appreciation for support offered. Justice – impartial, equal treatment of others and distribution of pleasure Beneficience – help for others. Self-improvement – self-fulfilment Non-malificence - avoid harming others. Ross does not rank these duties in order of importance. The mature person intuitively knows these prima facie duties are true and may follow the appropriate duty given the demands of the particular situation.
Case Studies Kant
Is Hunting the Romanian Brown Bear Moral? Romania is the only country in Europe, apart from the former Soviet Union, where the `sport of hunting bears is legal. Aves, a nature protection group, are concerned that current hunting will lead to the extinction of the brown bear in Romania, home to the largest European number of bears outside of Russia. Would a Kantian support current Romanian legislation which approves of such hunting.
Is Hunting the Romanian Brown Bear Moral? There are currently 6,276 brown bears in Romania, Romanian government officials claim this is higher than the ideals figure of 4, 080 recommended by specialists who have monitored the existing habitat. The Romanian government has licensed 658 bears to be shot this season. Romania is a poverty-stricken country and earns a large amount of foreign currency from hunting; last year making £21 million. Brown bears are sentient beings, who fulfil many of the personhood criteria outlined by Peter Singer. Hunting can involve cruel practises. Some further points to consider…
Should Tyrants and Terrorists Face the Death Penalty? Should people who deliberately inflict torture and suffering on innocent people, to the point of death, face capital punishment for their actions? Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein are two examples of those who have been accused of committing crimes against humanity. How might a Kantian respond? Be sure to offer reasons for your views.
Capital Punishment for Tyrants and Terrorists? Capital Punishment for Tyrants and Terrorists? Some further points to consider… George Bush is in favour of Capital Punishment, believing in retributive justice. Alternatively Desmond Tutu adopts a position of restorative justice – looking to see how the grace of God may reform perpetrators of evil and heal those who have experienced dreadful wrong doings. For Kant treating a person as an end in their own right meant holding them to account for their particular actions.
Is Compulsory Aversion Therapy Moral? In Stanley Kubricks A Clockwork Orange the films anti-hero, Alex, is a hostile and violent youth who terrorises people in the community In order to correct Alexs anti-social behaviour he is subjected to cinematic brainwashing, a type of aversion therapy, where he is physically compelled to watch scenes of violence and pornography which cause him to be sick and so condition his future behaviour. Alex
Is Compulsory Aversion Therapy Moral? A utilitarian might argue that greater emphasis should be placed on reforming the offender, not only for their own sake, but also for the future safety and protection of society. Kant believed in retributive justice where the individual received the due punishment their crime warranted. However, the autonomy of the individual is vital. The state should not manipulate people to its way of thinking if this is contrary to their personal wishes. Some further points to consider…
Psychological Autopsy For Serial Killers? Would it be moral to offer Serial killers preferential treatment in prison if they agreed to a `psychological autopsy with the aim of finding out more about serial killing, so as to assist police in preventing future crimes? Offer a Kantian response to this suggestion. Be sure to give reasons to support your views. Be sure to think about the implications of your views.
Socrates Says Links
Plato ( BC) The Republic Kant worked within a Platonic tradition and, like Plato, believed in two realms of human existence: (1) The intelligible world which Kant called the Noumenal realm. (The inaccessible world of things in themselves; constant and unchanging) (2) The sensible world which Kant called the phenomenal realm. (The world as it appears to us. Changing and transient)
Kants Lutheran Background The Lutheran background of Kants parents emphasized intrinsic values such as sincerity, honesty and integrity as opposed to church doctrine (official teachings). The foundation for Kants universal idea of duty was also a feature of the pietism of the Lutheran church and so influenced this feature of Kants categorical imperative
Rousseaus Social Contract There is an `urban myth of the time when Kant was so engrossed by reading Rousseaus Social Contract that he was delayed for his famous daily `philosophers walk – and the townsfolk, who kept their watches by Kants daily walk, were all late for their appointments that day! Central to Jean-Jacques Rousseaus Social Contract is the freedom and dignity of all human beings. This influenced Kants ideas. By having free will and following their rational selves people are truly autonomous. People are capable of establishing their own code of morality; as opposed to having morality imposed upon them by a moral law giver, be it God or the church.
Rationalism versus Empiricism Rationalists, such as Rene Descartes, thought that reason could explain the working of the world; without reference to sense experience. Conversely John Lockes empiricism argued that the mind was like a tabula raza (blank sheet of paper) which was informed by the world of experience. Kant rejected Lockes empiricism, arguing that the rational mind is capable of structuring and interpreting sense experience. Rene DescartesJohn Locke
Newtons Laws of Nature Newton explained the physical world as being governed by universal laws of nature. Kant accepted Newtons laws of nature as governing the sensible, empirical world (which Kant called the phenomenal realm) But Kant also asserted the intelligible realm (which he called the noumenal realm) accessible by reason alone. Such a realm is the moral realm, accessible through reason alone which, like Newtons laws of nature, is universal.
Kant showed great respect for David Hume as a philosopher. David Hume However, Kant strongly disagreed with Humes moral philosophy that reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions. For Hume sentiments of sympathy and benevolence were the core of human morality. Unless reason takes the reins of government into its own hands, the feelings and inclinations play the master over the man. (Immanuel Kant)
The Dawn of the Enlightenment Enlightenment is mans emergence from self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use ones understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! (Dare to Know) Have courage to use your own understanding! That is the motto of enlightenment. Kant, What is Enlightenment (1784)
Rosss Prima Facie Duties Rosss Prima Facie Duties An antidote to Kants absolute and universal approach Ross asserted that we have Prima Facie duties at first glance which we recognise intuitively through reason W.D. Ross Intuitionist Prima facie duties are conditional duties and ought be followed, and so become actual duties, unless circumstances mean that there is an over-riding reason not to follow them e.g. I ought not to lie, unless lying might mean saving an innocent life. Prima facie duties are therefore more flexible than Kants rigid, absolute and universal moral maxims as they may change according to the particular contexts and likely consequences. So Ross, like Kant, believed that morality is objective. But, unlike Kant, Ross did not believe that morality was absolute and universal.
This fascinating quotation illustrates an essential aspect of Kants philosophy: (1)The heavenly stars above show how insignificant human beings are in relation to the rest of the vast universe. (2) Yet, because human beings have the ability to reason they have intrinsic value and dignity, as humanity is capable of being a moral agent, unlike all other beings in the world. (3) The human will, a priori, can use reason to comprehend the moral law of the universe.
Noumenal Realm Phenomenal Realm Empiricism (Senses experience) a priori (prior to experience) a posteriori (after experience) Discovers the Moral law Discovers laws of nature Kant accepted Newtons laws of science, explaining how the phenomenal world is governed by universal laws of nature. The moral law is based on reason, a priori, which in order to be valid must be universal – as otherwise it would be contrary to reason. To claim that an action is right for me, but wrong for you, in the same situation, is illogical. Freedom of the will Causally Determined Isaac Newton UNIVERSALUNIVERSAL Absolute Necessity Reason
Kant considered that morality is a priori, which individuals can freely choose, in the noumenal realm, when following reason. The ground for obligation must be looked for, not in the nature of man nor in the circumstances of the world in which he is placed, but soley a priori in the concepts of pure reason. (Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals)
NOUMENANOUMENA PHENOMENAPHENOMENA When we think of ourselves as free, we transfer ourselves into the intelligible world and recognise the autonomy of the will together with its consequences – morality; whereas when we think of ourselves as under obligation, we look upon ourselves as belonging to the sensible realm Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals Kant accepted that in the phenomenal realm Newtons laws of science applied, resulting in laws of universal necessary causation where everything could be determined according to the laws of nature. Physical functions of the human body are restricted by the laws of nature in the phenomenal realm. The moral self is the noumenal self, the self as it is in-itself. In the noumenal realm the laws of nature do not apply, the individual can be truly free, untouched by the laws of science. The noumenal realm is accessible by reason alone. Isaac Newton Everything in nature works in accordance with laws. Only a rational being has the power to act in accordance with his idea of laws – that is in accordance with principles – and only so has he a will.
According to Kant the good will is the sole intrinsic good as it is good in itself and requires no further qualification. It is different from other goods, such as pleasure or courage, as other goods can be misused by wicked people and so they cease to be good. By contrast the good will always adopts a motive of willing the good for its own sake, according reason.
The good will is grounded in the freedom of the individual. It is not imposed upon someone by the state, church or any other organization. The individual follows their moral, noumenal, self and so is free from the causal necessity of the phenomenal realm.
The good will is known a priori through reason and not a posteriori through sense experience. Sense experience, the empirical realm, is dependent on peoples desires and inclinations and as such it is no basis for the moral law. The Moral law acts in accordance with reason and is therefore universal and absolute. Being known a priori, through reason, the good will is a democratic ethic – open to every rational human being and is therefore not elitist – unlike some aristocratic regimes who imposed moral laws on the under-class.
The good will acts out of a sense of duty to the moral law which is understood by reason, a priori. The good will does not act out of a sense of pursuing happiness, as Kant recognised that happiness is: (a) not an unqualified good i.e. a person wishes to be happy for a purpose and (b) happiness without good will is undeserved luck and at the mercy of contingent factors of the empirical realm.
(1)Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. This ensures that moral judgements are impartial and objective and so avoids the dangers of appealing to self-interest Reason maintains that the moral law be applied universally; to admit of exceptions to the rule would be inconsistent and therefore illogical.
(2) Treat other human beings as an end in their own right, never as a means to an end. People should be treated with respect and dignity as all human beings are rational beings and therefore are worthy of the respect of the moral law. Kant deliberately asserts a moral law that upholds equality and does not treat people differently according to class, wealth or race. Such an ethic of equality was forward looking in the eighteenth century.
(3) Act as though you are a member of a law making kingdom of ends Kant regarded the moral community as a kingdom of people who should apply moral maxims in such a way that showed respect for others (based on their rationality) and, in line with reason, moral maxims should be universal in application – thus maintaining the justice of impartiality.
Understanding the word POSTULATE is vital to appreciating Kants moral reasoning. Kant is NOT saying that he has proven the existence of God. Rather, the term `postulate means to assume without proof, especially as the basis of an argument. So, for Kant, in order for the universe to be rational it is necessary to postulate that humans to have an immortal soul which, after bodily death, is judged by God. Gods existence therefore is a necessary postulate; as God acts as a moral guarantor – ensuring that justice occurs. Those who have lived a moral life on earth in accord with the good will receive eternal happiness.
It is worth noting that whilst Kant claimed that people should be treated as an end, never as a means to an end there are seriously implications of this assertion. Kant believed that justice requires holding people to account for their moral actions. For example, believing in retributive justice Kant was in favour of Capital Punishment for serious offences. Even if a civilised society resolved to dissolve itself with the consent of its members… the last murderer in prison ought to be executed before the resolution was carried out. This ought to be done in order that every one may realise the deserts of his deeds, and that blood guiltiness may not remain on the people.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MUM I should send mum a card (this can be universally applied and respects her rationality – end in own right) - but I must make sure I take no pleasure and dont enjoy writing Happy Birthday.. (!?) A celebration to enjoy! Birthdays are an opportunity to express our love and appreciation. Imagine you are a mother of twin boys: Immanuel and David. You receive two birthday cards sent by contrasting philosophies… A son cannot love a mother for dutys sake. Acting out of a sense of `duty for dutys sake is cold and impersonal and is a denial of what it is to be a (per)son! (Mum)
A serious criticism of any philosophy is that of inconsistency; and it is this weaknesses that is charged against Kant. Kants good will emphasises intrinsic values, and yet at the last moment Kant seems to appeal to a consequential, hypothetical imperative, as justification for behaving in a virtuous way. This consequential justification, that virtue will be rewarded by happiness after bodily death, suggests that the good will is not followed purely for its own sake – but rather for the posthumous prize of eternal happiness, so undermining the whole of Kants supposedly deontological ethic.
It seems ironic that Kant should reject belief in God as the authority for ethics (on the grounds that human beings would cease to be autonomous) and yet, in order to make sense of his belief in justice, Kant ends up postulating the existence of God as a divine moral guarantor. One may also ask `Why does one need a God to act as a moral guarantor? Why not simply a powerful angelic being?
Kants understanding of humanitys duty toward animals only arises indirectly. Kant would argue along the lines that, Inhuman treatment of animals blunts our sympathy with their suffering and thereby weakens our natural disposition which is very helpful to our morality in relation to other people. In short, if human sympathy with animal suffering is blunted, then people may start to lose the inherent respect (person end in own right) of other people.
James Rachels argues that by offering specific categorical imperatives it is possible to overcome the rigidity of Kants universal application of moral maxims. Alasdair MacIntyre has argued a similar point, with sufficient ingenuity almost every precept can be universalized. For all that I need to do is characterize the proposed action in such a way that the maxim will permit me to do what I want while prohibiting others from doing what would nullify the maxim if universalized. e.g. I may break promises only when…. The gap is filled by a description devised so that it will apply to my present circumstances but to very few others. In practice the test of the categorical imperative imposes restrictions only on those insufficiently equipped with ingenuity. ( A Short History of Ethics p. 198 )