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Kantian Ethics Categorical Imperative Universal Maxim Respect of Persons.

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Presentation on theme: "Kantian Ethics Categorical Imperative Universal Maxim Respect of Persons."— Presentation transcript:

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 )  Act and Rule utilitarianism  Principle of the greatest good Kantian Ethics (pp )  Categorical imperative  Universal maxim  Respect of persons

3 Duty and Reason Immanuel Kant ( ) was all about duty. He felt that using reason you can think about what’s 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 don’t 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 (Kant’s) morality is to set aside all ego-centredness, and move towards an unconditional and universal sympathy.” Ethical Theory, M Thompson, Hodder & Staughton, 1999

5 Kant’s shopkeepers Kant compares two shopkeepers who both give correct change: 1. The first is honest because he is scared of being caught if he tries to cheat his customers. 2. 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 Kant’s 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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16 They fight

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18 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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25 Fight

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27 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. 1.What is the correct decision according to Kant? Why? 3.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. 1.What is the correct decision according to Kant? Why? 3.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 Kant’s 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 Kant’s 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 Kant’s 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 Kant’s 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 Kant’s 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 Kant’s Duty and Reason Onora O’Neil 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 O’neil’s 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 )  Act and Rule utilitarianism  Principle of the greatest good Kantian Ethics (pp )  Categorical imperative  Universal maxim  Respect of persons

48 Extension exercises How would Kant feel about Crime and Punishment? How would Kant feel about the Purpose of Punishment? How would Kant feel about Capital Punishment?


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