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Kant’s Ethical Theory.

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Presentation on theme: "Kant’s Ethical Theory."— Presentation transcript:

1 Kant’s Ethical Theory

2 “[I]n ethics what is right in theory must work in practice.”

3 Kant’s model The purpose of Ethical theory is
to present the ground on which all ethical decisions rest. to identify the general form of (the formula for) moral goodness.

4 What is Moral goodness? “Nothing in the world can possibly be conceived as good without qualification except a good will.” A good will = a free intention to act according to moral law.

5 Morality is: A given reality: as law it is understood rationally
“the moral law within” as law it is understood rationally applied consistently & impartially without regard to outcomes or specific circumstances expressed in principles

6 Morality is not: a matter of what we feel
a matter of what is most efficient a product of human invention or whim

7 Reason vs Feeling Feelings are particular & subjective
tend to be arbitrary and unpredictable Reason grasps what is universal & objective understands and applies principles

8 Kant assumes: Humans are inherently rational.
Humans possess free will. Humans are composite beings. Body (inclinations) and mind (reason). Which tend to be in conflict This conflict defines moral struggle.

9 The Moral Law: Kant’s Categorical Imperative
Imperative: It commands Categorical: It commands unconditionally, universally & absolutely, without exception A test for assessing the moral worth of any action: Can I will this action to become a universal law?

10 Act only on that maxim which you can will to become universal law.

11 What does Kant mean? maxim: personal principle of will that directs conduct. will: implies freedom of choice We choose our personal maxims. universal law: analogy is law of nature or laws of physics which apply equally & impartially Laws are objective & universally binding.

12 Kant’s Categorical Imperative
Expresses the basis of all moral action A formal directive expressing what one ought to do, what we are obligated to do. Distinguished from hypothetical imperative: Do x if you want y.

13 Principle of Autonomy Principle of Freedom:
An action is moral if and only if it is: CHOSEN freely rationally By the self (autonomously) Principle of Freedom: Freedom is a basic quality of the will of all rational beings. We cannot deny our freedom.

14 Understanding Duty Duty is rational obligation. We act morally when:
we act “from a sense of duty” not just “in accordance with duty” Test of duty is not met when we act from: Habit Instinct Inclination Feelings of any kind A desire to achieve the best consequences

15 Categorical Imperative 2
Act always to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of any other, at the same time as an end, and never merely as a means.

16 Implications Human beings have intrinsic value.
They are ends in themselves. No human should be treated merely as a means to someone else’s ends. This is a general moral rule. Individual Responsibility for all our rational actions. But what of non rational actions? How far does intrinsic worth extend?

17 Criticisms of Kant’s approach
Critique 1: Kant’s emphasis on reason devalues the role of feeling and emotion in moral matters Response: Kant doesn’t say emotions don’t accompany morally potent situations, only that the ground of morality cannot be emotion.

18 Critique: CI admits of no exceptions
Kant does not consider the weight of circumstances Reply: Kant does distinguish the ideal from the practical; wishing from doing. Critique: Anything imperative can be universalized if we qualify it sufficiently. Response: We must distinguish between categorical and hypothetical imperatives.

19 What people don’t like about Kant
emphasizes struggle excludes too many who seem good dictates state of mind as a precondition of morality can’t handle conflicts of duty

20 Advantages of Kant’s perspective:
He emphasizes intentions. Mind of the agent is the moral factor. He emphasizes human dignity. basis of modern moral understanding promotes principles equality & justice impartiality & universality

21 Philosophical Questions:
What does Kant get right? Universality of human dignity? Imperative of respect? Can we correct the things in his theory we don’t like while preserving the best of his insight?


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