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Kant Are there absolute moral laws that we have to follow regardless of consequences? Are there absolute moral laws that we have to follow regardless of.

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Presentation on theme: "Kant Are there absolute moral laws that we have to follow regardless of consequences? Are there absolute moral laws that we have to follow regardless of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Kant Are there absolute moral laws that we have to follow regardless of consequences? Are there absolute moral laws that we have to follow regardless of consequences? First we want to know what Kant has to say about what moral rule we ought to follow. First we want to know what Kant has to say about what moral rule we ought to follow.

2 2 Types of Commands or Imperatives Hypothetical Imperatives – “If you desire Y, then you ought to do X” Hypothetical Imperatives – “If you desire Y, then you ought to do X” Hypothetical imperatives are conditioned on your actually desiring some outcome. Hypothetical imperatives are conditioned on your actually desiring some outcome. The imperative only has motivational force if you do desire the outcome that the action promises. The imperative only has motivational force if you do desire the outcome that the action promises.

3 Categorical Imperatives – “You ought to do X” Categorical Imperatives – “You ought to do X” Morality does not depend on our having certain desires. Morality does not depend on our having certain desires. Categorical imperatives are commands that we follow regardless of our personal end or desires. Categorical imperatives are commands that we follow regardless of our personal end or desires.

4 Fundamental Principle of Morality is a Categorical Imperative 1. Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. 2. Act as though the maxim of your action were by your will to become a universal law of nature. 3. Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or that of another, always as an end and never as a means only.

5 Application of the C.I. Application of the categorical imperative results in moral rules that are absolute, i.e., admit of no exceptions Application of the categorical imperative results in moral rules that are absolute, i.e., admit of no exceptions Applied to the judgment of specific actions: If action could become universal law, then it is morally correct. Applied to the judgment of specific actions: If action could become universal law, then it is morally correct. Examples: suicide; borrow money knowing you can’t repay it; charity; indolent man Examples: suicide; borrow money knowing you can’t repay it; charity; indolent man

6 Justification of the Categorical Imperative 1. Nothing is intrinsically good but a good will: all other goods, such as happiness, intellectual eminence are worthless or positively evil when not combined with a good will. 2. A good will is one that habitually wills rightly. 3. The rightness or wrongness of a volition depends wholly on its motive.

7 Implication of the C. I. Does not depend on consequences. Does not depend on consequences. To do something right requires that we do it for the right reason. To do something right requires that we do it for the right reason. An action can have a proper outcome with out it being moral. (Amoral, Immoral, Moral actions) An action can have a proper outcome with out it being moral. (Amoral, Immoral, Moral actions) Any action which is right or wrong in a given situation must be wrong for any rational being. Any action which is right or wrong in a given situation must be wrong for any rational being.

8 Primacy of Rationality in Kant’s Theory Because people have desires and goals, other things have value for them – we give other things value. Because people have desires and goals, other things have value for them – we give other things value. Human beings are valuable in and of themselves. Human beings are valuable in and of themselves. They have their own “intrinsic worth” i.e., “dignity” that is “above all price” They have their own “intrinsic worth” i.e., “dignity” that is “above all price” Value of human beings stems from the fact that they are rational agents: free agents capable of making their own decisions, setting goals and guiding their conduct by reason. Value of human beings stems from the fact that they are rational agents: free agents capable of making their own decisions, setting goals and guiding their conduct by reason. We cannot treat individuals as things because they are the source of moral goodness. We cannot treat individuals as things because they are the source of moral goodness. To treat a person as an “end in themselves” means respecting their rationality. To treat a person as an “end in themselves” means respecting their rationality.

9 Problems with the Kantian Approach Anscomb: proper way to construct moral maxims. Anscomb: proper way to construct moral maxims. Conflicts between absolute moral rules: Dutch fisherman example. Conflicts between absolute moral rules: Dutch fisherman example. Are all categorical imperatives actually hypothetical. Are all categorical imperatives actually hypothetical. Mill’s criticism of Kantian ethics – Kant himself is appealing to consequences in evaluating which maxims to accept. Mill’s criticism of Kantian ethics – Kant himself is appealing to consequences in evaluating which maxims to accept.

10 Kant on Retributive Justice Utilitarianism Utilitarianism Punishment increases the amount of suffering in the world. Punishment increases the amount of suffering in the world. Punishment may be justified if it: Punishment may be justified if it: Helps prevent crime Helps prevent crime Well designed punishment may help rehabilitate criminals Well designed punishment may help rehabilitate criminals Utilitarian rationale is close to our current notions of crime and punishment Utilitarian rationale is close to our current notions of crime and punishment “prison” = “correctional facility” “prison” = “correctional facility” “guard” = “ corrections officer “guard” = “ corrections officer educational programs/counseling/work educational programs/counseling/work

11 Kantianism Kantianism Punishment is acceptable because it is what the criminal deserves. Punishment is acceptable because it is what the criminal deserves. Punishing prisoners as a way of preventing crime is using people as a means to an end. Punishing prisoners as a way of preventing crime is using people as a means to an end. Rehabilitation is a violation of the autonomy rights of the individual to choose what sort person they want to be. Rehabilitation is a violation of the autonomy rights of the individual to choose what sort person they want to be. People should be punished simply because they have committed a crime. People should be punished simply because they have committed a crime. Punishment for crime should be proportional – seriousness of the crime determines the penalty. Punishment for crime should be proportional – seriousness of the crime determines the penalty.

12 Justification of Punishment 1. We must treat people as an end-in-themselves 2. To treat someone as an end is to treat them as a rational being 3. To treat someone as a rational being is to treat a person as capable of reasoning about his or her conduct and freely deciding what he or she will do. 4. When we decide what to do to those who do wrong to us we look to the categorical imperative they have endorsed by their own actions.


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