Kant. Deontological Ethics

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1 Kant 1 Deontological Ethics An action's moral value is determined by the nature of the action itself and the agent's motive DE contrasts with Utilitarianism which says that the goal or consequences of an action determine its moral value For Kant, one s duty (moral) is to follow the moral law Only humans have the ability to work in accordance with his conception of the moral law 2

2 Right Action An act is right if it is done in accordance with duty and from the motive of duty. An act is wrong if it is contrary to duty and it lacks moral worth if it is not done from the motive of duty One should act in accordance with duty and thus have moral worth If an action is not done from the motive of duty then it may be appropriate but have no moral worth An act is in accordance with duty if and only if the maxim of the action is universalizable 3 Rules for Kant Rules are all there are the rules are more important than the consequences What matters is whether the rule could be universalized If there were a perfect world, then everyone would act on universal laws out of necessity What perfectly good agents would do of necessity is what we ought to do Maxim: a personal plan of action 4

3 Rational Agents As rational agents, we are capable of guiding our behavior based on rational principles When we act morally, we act on principles that any rational agent in our situation would act upon 5 Can We Ignore Our Moral Reasoning? Regardless of the circumstances or of the consequences of an action, we cannot ignore the force of our moral reasoning Why? Because our moral reasoning is based on universal principles of rationality; we cannot escape our duty The principle which motivates a good will is the same principle that is fundamental to all of morality That principle is the Categorical Imperative 6

4 How Do We Figure Out the Moral Law? Imperatives Hypothetical: applies conditionally Categorical: applies unconditionally Each of these tells us what we ought to do Each is an imperative because it is a command; a command to use our wills in a certain way 7 Hypothetical Imperatives Definition: a rule that tells us what means to use to achieve a desired end Tell us what we ought to do given we have the relevant desires or have willed certain ends If you want to be a physician, then you ought to go to med school The degree to which the "ought" binds one to a certain action depends on the desire--if you don't want to be bound to do something then just give up the desire 8

5 Categorical Imperatives Definition: a moral law that tells us what we ought to do but does not depend on any prior conditions or subjective wants and wishes and contains no qualifications "We ought not torture babies for fun" carries with it a moral obligation independent of our desires Moral obligation has the form: "You ought not to do such-andsuch, period." The moral force of a categorical imperative applies to us unconditionally simply because we possess rational wills 9 Categorical Imperative First Formulation: act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law. What makes an action right or wrong is the maxim s (for that action) fitness to be a universal law of nature Second Formulation: act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never as a means but always at the same time as an end Treating other people as an end in themselves means taking on the ends of the other person 10

6 Conformity to a Universal Law First formulation: act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law. This first maxim gives a procedure for determining whether an action is morally permissible Procedure: 1. State the rule (maxim) you are following for some particular action 2. Would you will that everyone all the time follow this rule? 3. Follow that rule that can be universalizable 11 Money Lender Example Suppose a man needs to borrow money and he knows that he cannot repay the money. He also knows that no one will lend him money if he cannot repay the loan. If he were to promise to repay the debt, what maxim/rule would he be following? Could this maxim/rule become a universal law? 12

7 Universalize This Can you universalize the following maxims? Would the principle undermine itself if followed without exception by everyone? Never say I love you to someone unless that person says it to you first Always pay your debts on time When running a business, always charge less for your product than your competitor Never help someone out unless you get something in return Share some of your wealth with those less fortunate Cheat on your tests whenever possible Never cheat on a test 13 Second Formulation Second Formulation: act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never as a means but always at the same time as an end 1. I take myself to be an end, never merely a means. 2. Each person does this on the same rational grounds. 3. Either we are ends in ourselves, or none of us are. 4. I am an end in myself. 5. It s false that none of us are an end in ourselves, since I am an end in myself. 6. So, we are each an end in ourselves. 14

8 End in Itself Support for premise 4: Only a good will is an end-in-itself End-in-itself = good without qualification = reason, rational will All rational beings are ends-in-themselves For Kant, our humanity is contained in our being rational beings When Kant talks about our rational humanity he means an agent who not only picks effective means but who acts for interpersonally justifiable reasons. That is, the rational agent is reasonable and acts on principles of practical reasoning 15 People are Ends-in-themselves People are not tools or objects without dignity People have a dignity which raises us above other things Formula of ends says we should never act in such a way that we treat someone as a slave, tool, or merely a means The second formula requires that one act in a respectful manner toward another Acting in a respectful manner to another means that one is acting on maxims that person would think acceptable, assuming they are reasonable They would accept the maxim as reasonable because the Categorical Imperative is itself a test of reasonableness 16

9 Limits on Action The Second Formulation places constraints on one s behavior. Respecting humans as ends-in-themselves constrains the types of actions we can pursue in seeking our goals. It s okay to want to get out of debt but not okay to lie as a means to that end We should also respect ourselves as ends-in-ourselves and strive to develop our rational capacities, since these capacities are the basis for that which is good without qualification--the good will Our respect for humanity demands that we consider other s ends in our actions 17 Why Adopt Another s Ends? Why help others and adopt another s ends? We should help others because from the point of view of reason and morality no one s ends are any more important than another s Our ends and another s ends ought to be pursued equally Since we are all rational beings at core, we ought to pursue our and other s ends because they are all the same, namely pure rationality and a perfectly good agent We are all intrinsically valuable and ought to treat others with this value in mind rather than as just tools to our own end 18

10 Mere Means Kant is not terribly clear about what treating another as a mere means includes Bob treats John as a mere means Bob treats John in such a way that if John knew Bob s intentions, then John wouldn t want Bob to treat him that way John has a goal which Bob could help John achieve, but Bob refuses to help John 19 Human Love and Sexual Love Kant distinguishes between human love and sexual love Human love: good-will, affection, promoting the happiness of others and finding joy in their happiness Sexual love: love arising from sexual desire treats the other person as an Object of appetite Sexual love may be combined with human love But, taken alone sexual love "is nothing more than appetite" 20

11 Sex Subordinates Human Nature Human nature is valuable in and of itself, it is an end in itself Sexual desire of another does not treat others as ends, but as means "The desire which a man has for a woman is not directed towards her because she is a human being, but because she is a woman; that she is a human being is of no concern to the man; only her sex is the object of his desires." (140) 21 Isn't Sexuality Part of Human Nature? Kant considers counter-arguments: Isn't sexual desire part of human nature? Isn't sex okay as long as no one is harmed? Isn't consensual sex okay? Kant uses these questions to argue for a context in which sex is permissible 22

12 A Person is Not One's Own Property and Cannot Be Owned 1. A human is a subject, an end in itself. As such, a subject owns property. 2. If a person were his own property, then that person would be a thing over which he could have ownership. 3. But, a person cannot own himself--a person cannot be both a subject and object, an owner and that which is owned by himself, an end in itself and a means to an end. 4. So, a person is not his own property. 5. If one were to make oneself into an Object of another's appetite, then one would be treating one's sexuality as a means to some end, and not an end itself. 6. Treating oneself or another as a means to an end and not an end in itself is to violate the moral law. 7. Thus, "[a hu]man is not his own property and cannot do with his body what he will." (141) 23 Vaga Libido Vaga Libido = sexual lust 1. The body is part of the self. 2. Together, the body and self are a person. 3. A person is not a thing. 4. Vaga libido treats the person as a thing. 5. Treating a person as a thing violates the moral law. 6. Thus, vaga libido violates the moral law. 24

13 Concubinage Concubinage = the mutual, consensual satisfaction of a pair's sexual desire. The argument against concubinage uses parts of the vaga libido argument 1. In concubinage, one surrenders part of one's self to the satisfaction of another's sexual desire. 2. But, surrendering part of one's self is to surrender the whole of one's self (since a human being is a unity and no part stands separate from the whole). 3. So, it is not possible to have the right to the use of part of a person without also having the right to use the whole person. 4. But, concubinage does not give one rights over the whole person but only rights over the organa sexualia. 5. So, concubinage treats the person as a thing because it uses a part of the person and not the whole person as an end in itself. 6. Treating a person as a thing and not an end in itself violates the moral law. 7. Therefore, concubinage violates the moral law. 25 Whole Person Kant thinks that the right to use our sexual desire with another is morally justifiable only if one treats the whole person as an end in itself. How does one gain the right to use the whole person and have rights to that person's organa sexualia? Marriage -- only in marriage does one have full rights over another because one has relinquished one's own rights to that person Marriage is the mutual transfer of rights with another. Only in this mutual surrendering of rights is the exercise of sexual desire morally justified. 26

14 On Polygamy, Incest Polygamy = marriage to more than one partner Polygamy is not morally permitted because on partner must split in two (ex) two wives get only "half a man" but each wife has to give all of herself Incest = sexual relations with relations Parent/child incest is prohibited by the moral law because the relationship between parent and child is not equal--children must submit to their parent but not the parent to the child Sibling/sibling incest is not not morally impermissible because early society may have required such relationships at times, although there is a general propensity to not engage in such relationships. 27

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