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Immanuel Kant & Deontology

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1 Immanuel Kant & Deontology
Duty-based Ethics

2 Deontology Duty Focuses on the act itself
Truth-telling and promise keeping are right even when such actions bring harm Acting unjustly is wrong even it it will maximize expected utility

3 About Immanuel Kant Greatest philosopher of German Enlightenment (lived ) An absolutist and a rationalist Believed we could use reason to work out a consistent, nonoverridable set of moral principles Influenced by Pietism Jean-Jacques Rouseau The debate between rationalism & empiricism Natural law

4 According to Kant… Morality is about following absolute rules
These rules are universal, without exception Through reason alone, one can locate moral truth The only thing that is totally and completely good without exception is a good will (desires; wishing really really hard for things) The basic duties to be obeyed: Always tell the truth Always keep your promises Never commit suicide

5 Pietism A Bible-oriented, experiential approach to Christian life that emphasizes personal appropriation of faith and a lifestyle of holiness as more important than formal structures of theology and church order. Initially a movement within the Lutheran church in Germany. Philipp Jacob Spener ( ) is often cited as the father of German Pietism

6 Jean-Jacques Rouseau Taught Kant the meaning and importance of human dignity, the primacy of freedom and autonomy, and the intrinsic worth of human beings apart from function.

7 Debate between Rationalism & Empiricism
Rationalism: claimed that pure reason could tell us how the world is, independent of experience. Claimed we can know metaphysical truth such as the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, freedom of the will, and the universality of causal relations apart from experience.

8 Debate between Rationalism & Empiricism
Empiricism: denied that we have any innate ideas and argued that all knowledge comes from experience. Our minds are a tabula rasa, an empty slate, upon which experience writes her lessons.

9 Morality: Contingency or Necessity?
Contingency: something is dependent upon something else. Necessity: exists independent of our experience, is to be discovered by reason. (Kant’s view)

10 Natural Law Syndresis: a mental process that gives us general knowledge of moral goodness. (Thomas Aquinas) From this knowledge, we derive a series of basic moral obligations. We have an intuitive awareness of morality, a general disposition called intuition, intuitionism.

11 Act-Intuitionism We must decide what is right or wrong in each situation by consulting our conscience or our intuitions or by making a choice apart from any rules. Joseph Butler believed that we each have a conscience that can discover what is right and wrong in virtually ever instance.

12 Disadvantages of Act-Intuitionism
Moral debates can’t be resolved, each must simply look deeper into their conscience for the morally correct conclusion. People generally learn how to act appropriately before acting appropriately. Different situations seem to share common features, so it would be inconsistent for us to prescribe different moral actions.

13 Rule-intuitionism Maintains that we must decide what is right or wrong in each situation by consulting moral rules that we have received through intuition.

14 Samuel Pufendorf Our moral intuitions fall into three groups:
1. Duties to God 2. Duties to Self 3. Duties to Others

15 Kant: Rule-Intuitionist
Believed that moral knowledge comes to us through rational intuition, in the form of moral rules. Kant accepted Pufendorf’s division of duties toward God, self, and others. But duties toward God are religious duties, not moral duties.

16 Case Study – Jenny’s Cookies
Jenny plans to visit her Grandma who is currently living in a nursing home. She knows that she likes cookies, so Jenny stops to buy her, but without nuts in them because Grandma is allergic. The salesperson in the bakery accidentally gives her the kind with nuts in them. After eating a cookie, Grandma has a reaction to them and almost dies.

17 Case Study – Jenny’s Cookies
What do you think about what Jenny did? Was it a good act or a bad act? If you look at it in terms of outcomes, it was a terrible act. What were Jenny’s intentions?

18 Kant’s Rejection of Outcomes
Jenny’s cookies is an example of why Kant totally rejected outcomes as a way of judging acts. Things can turn out well even when we don’t intend them to Things can turn out terribly even when we mean well.

19 RECAP Kant’s duty-based theory holds the following things:
Duties are absolute obligations that you must follow through with regardless of your personal feelings or inclinations. Duties apply to all of us in the exact same way without exception Your will determines the morality of an act-not the outcome

20 Hypothetical Imperative
Commands that are stated in an if-then form. They apply only if you want a certain result. If you want to get a good grade, then you will study for the test.

21 Categorical Imperative
…or absolute command. Refers to a moral obligation that is imposed on us no matter the circumstances of our personal desires. They are shared by every single individual. Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. You ought to act on principle

22 Case Study – Free Train Ride
Suppose you are able to ride a train without being charged for the ride because the conductors are distracted when you board. Should you do it or not do it? The way to decide according to Kant is to ask: “What if everyone did it?”

23 Kant believes… What’s good for one is good for all
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander If you should be free to do something, then so should everyone else Being a moral person means figuring out what the moral rules are and applying them to everyone.

24 Kant a little deeper… You could not excuse yourself from paying for the train because you can’t wish that for everyone…there couldn’t be a train! You cannot will at the same time that people both pay and not pay to ride the train. You cannot rationally will that you should ride the bus for free.

25 What if everyone did that?
What are some rules that people often make themselves exceptions to?

26 2 Formulations of the Categorical Imperative
Principle of ends “So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end and never merely a means.” DON’T USE PEOPLE

27 2 Formulations of the Categorical Imperative
Principle of Autonomy “So act that your will can regard itself at the same time as making universal law through its maxims.” No external authority: God, the state, culture, etc., to determine moral law. We can discover it ourselves.

28 Kant’s Autonomy Part of what it means to have reason and will is to be autonomous—self governing. When we use people, we violate this autonomy and no longer treat them as people, but as objects or things.

29 Kant’s Autonomy (continued…)
In health care… Patient’s Bill of Rights Informed Consent Advance Directives All based on the idea of patient autonomy

30 Kant the Retributivist
Retributivism: the belief that people deserve whatever they get for their wrong-doing. They had the will to commit the crime Had the will to accept the penalty Therefore, it would be morally wrong not to penalize the criminal.

31 Rehabilitation for Criminals?
Trying to rehabilitate criminals was a bad thing because it comes down to trying to make people behave in ways we think is right. Why is that a problem? It violates the respect for persons (autonomy) in that rehabilitation involves using prisoners as means to social ends.

32 Kant’s Duty Ethics – Concluding Thoughts
Kant believes that everyone who is ideally rational will legislate exactly the same universal moral principles. One of the problems that plague formulations of Kant’s categorical imperative is that it yields unqualified absolutes.

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