2 Learning intentions After today’s lesson you will be able to: explain Kant’s theory on moral ethicsexplain the term ‘categorical imperative’evaluate the strength of Kant’s theory.
3 Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant was a hugely influential philosopher. Kant thought it was possible to develop a system of ethics and morals based on reason.
4 Kant’s formula for ethics… Kant argued that rational duty was behind ethics and morals.In other words, the motive behind an action is very important.He believed the only truly good thing is goodwill.Every other characteristic, like being helpful, cheerful, kind, loving, etc., could all be used for evil intentions except for goodwill.
5 Formula a la Kant+ % - x / = £Good = goodwill = duty= / - % £ + x
6 In other words …A moral decision is not based on a feeling of what is right, or the reward that might be given for doing right, it is based on duty.
7 Acting on goodwill leads us to do our moral duty purely because it is our moral duty. Let’s consider some examples:A shopkeeper who gives the right change to his customers because it is good for returning business is acting in a morally wrong way because he is not acting out of duty. If he had acted out of moral duty, giving customers the right change because that it is the right thing to do, then his action would be morally acceptable according to Kant.
8 Or what if…You help an old person carry their shopping across thestreet. You may have done this because…you felt pity and compassion for the old person2. the people around you would think good things about you for doing it3. you would feel better if you helped and didn’t walk on byyour parents would be disappointed in you if youdidn’t help.According to Kant all of these reasons are not acceptableand do not make the action a moral act because youshould help the old person across the road because youhave a sense of duty to help the elderly in society.
9 MotiveMotive is very important in Kantian ethics. It means your action can have negative consequences but still be considered a moral act.For example, if you stop to help someone who has been knocked down by a car in the street and by helping them you accidentally kill them, your action would still be considered a moral act because you tried to help because you felt it was your duty to do so.
10 What is it our moral duty to do? Kant argued that moral actions are not dependant on circumstances.For example, we must always care for our children. This is not dependant on circumstances or particular situations, it is always right and is what Kant called a categorical imperative.
11 Categorical imperatives Catergorical here means applicable in all situations, an absolute.Imperative means something that must be done, an obligation.In other words, a moral decision that you make must be made because you think it would be good for everyone to do. Are there some things that are absolute rights? Can you think of some examples?
12 Care for the elderlyConsider othersProtect childrenAbsolute rights
13 Kant said …‘Act as if the maxim from which you were to act were to become through your will a general law’This has become known as universalisation,which means a rule should apply to everyone.
14 Treat others as you would like Living by universalisation would prevent anyone wanting to do anything that they would not want everyone else to do.Does this sound familiar? It’s a bit like…Treat others as you would liketo be treated
16 Is morality really as simple as Kant makes out? Is making moral decisions really this simple? Does Kant’s straightforward formula work in our complicated world?For example, if it is right to always tell the truth and always protect your friends, what do you do if a murderer asks you to tell them where your best friend is so they can murder them? Do you tell the truth and lead the murderer to your friend or do you tell a lie and protect your friend’s life?
17 Can everyone really agree on what is absolutely right and wrong, what is our duty as humans, all the time?What if someone believes it is our duty to never get involved in violence and someone else believes it is our duty to fight for our human rights?How do we work out the categorical imperative here?
18 Can we really not help someone because we feel compassion for them? Is there really something wrong with helping an old person carry their shopping because we are compassionate?
19 Can we really not take consequences into account? What if someone really believes they are doing the right thing while causing harm to others?What if your granny dried your cat in the microwave? Is it ok because she meant well?Is motive really the only thing that is important?
20 Learning check… Who is Immanuel Kant? 1KU Explain Kant’s theory on ethics. Give two examples to support your answer. 6KUExplain in your own words Kant’s term ‘categorical imperative’. 2KUWhat does Kant mean when he says we should decideour moral actions based on having the ability touniversalise moral law? 3KU5. Outline two arguments against Kant’s theory ofrational. 4AE6. What are your views on Kant’s theory for ethics? 3AE
21 Quick recapKant argued that rational duty was behind ethics and morals.Good = goodwill = duty.Catergorical means applicable in all situations, an absolute.Imperative means something that must be done, an obligation.Universalisation according to Kant is that a rule should apply to everyone.