Presentation on theme: "Philosophy 220 Kantian Moral Theory and the Liberal View of Sexual Morality."— Presentation transcript:
Philosophy 220 Kantian Moral Theory and the Liberal View of Sexual Morality
Kantian Moral Theory Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) revolutionized philosophical ethics. Prior to Kant, people sought the origin of morality in the natural order, in the ends proper to human beings, or in feelings. In contrast, Kant seeks the conditions of the possibility of morality and locates them in the autonomy, the self-legislation, of the will. When we think about moral obligation, he argued, what we need to account for is its categorical character, the fact that it commands us absolutely.
Kant and the Categorical The focus on the categorical nature of obligation suggests a Theory of Right Conduct: those actions are obligatory which we are categorically commanded to do, wrong which we are categorically commanded not to do, and permissible if we are not either commanded or forbidden to do. The categorical character of obligation also provides us with a Theory of Value: that will is good which freely choses to satisfy her duty.
Two Different Imperatives The form taken by the categorical nature of obligation is what Kant calls an imperative. Imperatives are expressions of the human will, but only some of them exhibit the categorical force of a duty. There are two types of imperatives. The more common is what Kant calls a Hypothetical imperative. It has the form: “If I have an end/goal ‘X,’ and doing ‘Y’ is required for ‘X,’ then I should do Y. The moral imperative is a function of categorical willing, and can only be observed when it is the moral law itself that directs our will.
What about the Practical Aim? So much for the Theoretical Aim of MT, how does Kant address the Practical Aim? He does so with a fundamental moral principle called the Categorical Imperative. Applying the categorical imperative to proposed actions provides a principle of moral evaluation, directing us to the right actions.
CI: Humanity Formulation CI Humanity : An action is right if and only if the action treats persons (including oneself) as ends in themselves rather than as means to our ends. There is both a negative (don’t treat them as means) and a positive (treat them as ends in themselves) requirement contained in the formulation. The positive requirement is captured by Kant with the notion of Dignity.
CI: Universal Law Formulation CI Universal Law : Act always in such a way that you can will the maxim of your action to be universal law. Despite the proximity of this formulation to the Golden Rule, it is really quite different. The UL formulation imposes a consistency requirement. You should only act in such a way that everyone else should act and that you want them to act.
Mappes on Sexual Morality Mappes makes clear from the beginning of his essay that he is taking exception to what he calls “conventional sexual morality:” that non-marital sex, or sex without love, is immoral. To dispute this is not to deny that there are moral limits on sexual behavior. It is rather to contest the ground on which such limits are commonly articulated.
Using Other People ● The ground that Mappes thinks is appropriate is the Humanity formulation of the CI. ● Mappes highlights the concept of “Voluntary Informed Consent” as an aid to understanding what’s wrong with “using people” in a way that violates the CI. ● “A immorally uses B iff A intentionally acts in a way that violates the requirement that B’s involvement with A’s ends be based on B’s voluntary informed consent” (91c2-92c1). ● Two obvious ways that people can be used is via coercion and deception.
Using Other People for Sex Employing the concept of VIC, we can easily provide a criterion by which it can be determined if a specific sex act violates the CI’s insistence of personal dignity. A sexually uses B iff A intentionally acts in a way that violates the requirement that B’s sexual interaction with A be based on B’s voluntary informed consent.
Putting the Informed in Consent An important caveat of Mappes’ specification of the VIC for matters of the moral evaluation of sex is that by definition sex with children and other not fully competent agents is by definition immoral. The notion of “informed consent” requires a competency (both legal and moral) that children never meet and that adults can sometimes not meet.
Deception and Sexual Morality There are obvious, clear-cut cases in which the use of deception violates the VIC standard and by extension the CI. At issue is the “informed” part of the VIC. In general, “If one person’s consent to sex is predicated on false beliefs that have been intentionally and deceptively inculcated by one’s sexual partner in an effort to win the former’s consent, the resulting sexual interaction…[is immoral]” (93c2). As is typically the case, withholding information can be as intentionally deceptive as outright lying.
Coercion and Sexual Morality Coercion is the more difficult case of the two, in part because coercion can take two forms. Occurent coercion occurs when physical force is used to overwhelm the agent’s very capacity to consent or dissent. Dispositional coercion occurs when the capacity to consent is not overwhelmed, but manipulated by threats. While there is very little confusion about occurent coercion, the concept of dispositional coercion does admit of some ambiguity.
Putting it to Work Look at the examples on pp. 94-95. The distinction Mappes makes is grounded in the conceptual space between threats and offers. Can this distinction be maintained? What about the “Coercive Offer?”
What does it all Mean? What are we to make of the obvious difference between Mappes’ position and that of the Natural Law Theorists? What should we do in the face of this sort of conflict? As we’ve seen, we have some principles in terms of which we can adjudicate this conflict.