1 Benjamin Visscher Hole IV Phil 100, Intro to Philosophy
2 Kantian Ethics I. Context II. The Good Will III. The Categorical Imperative: Formulation of Universal Law IV. The Categorical Imperative: Formulation of Humanity
4 Immanuel Kant ( ) He s technical and complex. He s enormously influential. Look to Timmons for help! was one of the most important and influential philosophers of all time. Kant made major contributions in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, the philosophy of religion, aesthetics, and many other areas (353).
5 Bentham s source of moral salience: sentience (pleasure) Kant s source of moral salience: agency (rationality)
6 Bentham s source of moral salience: sentience Kant s source of moral salience: agency Moral Claims: empirical knowable a posteriori contingent Moral Claims: non-empirical knowable a priori necessary
7 Agents can choose what they will do; they are not amoebas pushed around by stimuli. They can make rules for themselves (call these maxims). This ability is known as autonomy.
8 HETERONOMY AUTONOMY
11 Kant s Theory of Value
12 Agency is not good without qualification Unconditional: Good without qualification / in all circumstances. Vs. Conditional: Good only with qualification / in some circumstances.
13 Kant s Theory of the Good Nothing in the world indeed nothing even beyond the worldcan possible be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a good will. By a good will, Kant means one that is motivated only by the demands of moral duty (not a will that is benevolent or generous, as the phrase is more standardly used) (353).
14 The Good The Right Good Will The Categorical Imperative
15 KANT S THREE PROPOSITIONS 1. to have moral worth an action must be done from duty 2. An action performed from duty does not have its moral worth in the purpose which is to be achieved through it but in the maxim by which it is determined. 3. Duty is the necessity of an action executed from respect for the law. From page 355
16 Persons who help or benefit others because they have a spontaneous inclination toward sympathy (or benevolence or generosity) are, like the shopkeeper, doing what they want to do and not acting out of duty; thus their actions have no real moral worth (355).
17 An act done from duty. vs. An act done merely in accordance with duty. An act done merely in accordance with duty (with sympathy/inclination). vs. An act done merely in accordance with duty (with no sympathy/inclination).
18 The person worthy of moral esteem is the one who has no desire or inclination at all to help anyone but who helps others out of moral duty alone (355).
19 Bob visits his friend in the hospital and initially the friend is very grateful until she realizes that Bob does this act because he feels that it is his duty, not because he cares for the individual in the hospital bed. Is it morally important that Bob acts out of a sense of duty? Is there something missing in his motivational set? (Adapted from Michael Stocker s Moral Schizophrenia) Huckleberry Finn helps his friend, Jim, escape slavery. As a result, Huck experiences pangs of extreme guilt. This is because he believes that he violating his duty, i.e., the racist norms of the 19 th century rural American South. Is it morally important that Huck Finn acts against his sense of duty? Is there something missing in his motivational set? (Adapted from Jonathon Bennett s The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn)
20 Kant concludes that moral value must derive from a principle of action that does not depend on any purpose or goal toward which we may have an inclination (355). Maxim: principle of volition or reason for action. Hypothetical Imperative: a maxim which assumes an end and commands an action as a means to that end; if you want x, then you ought to do y.
21 Utilitarianism Theory of value: pleasure is the only intrinsic good. Kantianism Theory of value: the good will is the only unconditional good. Right action: consequences are the sole determinate. Motivation: the agent s maxim is irrelevant to the action s moral worth. Right action: consequences are irrelevant. Motivation: the agent s maxim is the sole determinant of moral worth.
22 The Formulation of Universal Law
23 There is one categorical imperative. There are three key versions of the categorical imperative. Kant thinks that they all amount to the same thing. Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law of nature (357). An action is right if and only if one can (a) consistently conceive of everyone adopting and acting on the general policy of one s action, and also (b) consistently will that everyone act on that maxim (Timmons, 17).
24 Imperatives An imperative being a command of reason, holds for any rational being. Hypothetical imperatives depend on actual or possible desires (inclinations), while categorical imperatives do not (356). Hypothetical Imperative A maxim which assumes an end and commands an action as a means to that end. If you want x, then you ought to do y. E.g., If you want do to well on the Kant quiz this week, you should study very hard.
25 Imperatives An imperative being a command of reason, holds for any rational being. Hypothetical imperatives depend on actual or possible desires (inclinations), while categorical imperatives do not (356). Categorical Imperative A maxim demanding the performance of actions and the settings of ends without being conditional on any prior setting of an end. Don t do X, period! E.g., Don t torture puppies for fun, period!
26 Moral duties are imperative and apply to all rational beings as such. Therefore Moral principles are necessary. Moral principles are nonempirical / knowable a priori. Moral principles are universal: they must give the same kind of answer to each rational being placed in the same kind of situation. Categorical Imperative A maxim demanding the performance of actions and the settings of ends without being conditional on any prior setting of an end. Don t do X, period! E.g., Don t torture puppies for fun, period!
27 The Formulation An action is right if and only if one can (a) consistently conceive of everyone adopting and acting on the general policy of one s action, and also (b) consistently will that everyone act on that maxim (Timmons, 17). How does it work? Step-one: Take a maxim. Step-two: Universalize it. Step-three: Run a consistency test. Contradiction in Conception Can you conceive of a world in which this maxim is universally followed? Contradiction in Will Can you rationally will for this world to exist?
29 A universal law is a sentence that is always true or always followed by everyone. When you will your maxim to become universal law, formulate it is as rule or general principle, which is law-like such that any rational agent can act on it. Consistency test: you may not be able to will your maxim to become a universal law if it entails a formal contradiction A formal contradiction: holding P and not-p (e.g., a round-square). How does it work? Step-one: Take a maxim. Step-two: Universalize it. Step-three: Run a consistency test. Contradiction in Conception Can you conceive of a world in which this maxim is universally followed? Contradiction in Will Can you rationally will for this world to exist?
30 For my lie to work, I need other people to believe my lie. I thus need lies to be exceptional, and most people to tell the truth.
31 1. That most people keep their promises (so the institution of promise making exists). 2. That I don t have to keep my promise (so the institution of promise making does not exist).
32 1. You should only do those actions that conform to rules that you could will to be adopted universally. 2. If you were to make an insincere promise, you would be following the rule: when I believe myself to be in need of money, I shall borrow money and promise to repay it, even though I have no intention of repaying it. 3. This rule could not be adopted universally, because it would be self-contradicting. 4. Therefore, you ought not to make lying promises.
33 Group Exercise I eat a meal at a restaurant. After I finish, I wait until the waiter s attention is distracted, and leave without paying. I am not caught. What reasons would a Kantian give to explain why my action is morally wrong? In your answer, be sure to explain the maxim this action exemplifies, the universal law, and how the universal law entails a formal contradiction. How does it work? Step-one: Take a maxim. Step-two: Universalize it. Step-three: Run a consistency test. Contradiction in Conception Can you conceive of a world in which this maxim is universally followed? Contradiction in Will Can you rationally will for this world to exist?
34 Perfect Duties A perfect duty is one that strictly requires certain specific actions, with no choice or leeway (358). Determined by the contradiction in conception test. E.g., The lying promise Imperfect Duties an imperfect duty is one that can be fulfilled in several different ways, among which the agent may choose, and thus no one of which is strictly required (358). Determined by the contradiction in will test. E.g., The duty to render mutual aid.
35 1. You should only do those actions that conform to rules that you could will to be adopted universally. 2. If you were to refuse to aid others in need, you would be following the rule: when I believe others to be in need I will not aid them. 3. This rule could not be willed universally, because it would defeat the rational will s wider purposes. (A universal law would imply that others not help you when you are in need.) 4. Therefore, you should accept the (imperfect) duty to aid others in need.
36 The Formulation of Universal Law
37 The CI prescribes absolute moral duties and nothing else. Absolute Duty: a moral obligation that cannot be overridden. Prima Facie Duty: a moral obligation that can be overridden. Problem: You have Nazi s at your door asking, Do you know where any Jews are? Does Kant give us the right answer?
38 The Sneaky Maxim Maker Objection MacIntyre: the Categorical Imperative imposes restrictions only on those insufficiently equipped with ingenuity (A Short History of Ethics, 198). Is universalizability vacuous and conservative?
39 [Kant] fails, almost grotesquely, to show that there would be any contradiction, any logical (not to say physical) impossibility in the adoption by all rational beings of the most outrageously immoral rules of conduct All he shows is that the consequences of their universal adoption would be such as no one would choose to incur (Utilitarianism, Ch. 3). Is Kant guilty of covert consequentialism?
40 The Formulation of Humanity
41 Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only (380). An action is right if and only if (and because) the action treats persons (including oneself) as an ends in themselves and not as a mere means (Timmons, 16).
42 Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only (380). An action is right if and only if (and because) the action treats persons (including oneself) as an ends in themselves and not as a mere means (Timmons, 16). Clarifications mere means? Humanity = df Agency
43 Agents can choose what they will do; they are not amoebas pushed around by stimuli. They can make rules for themselves (maxims). This ability is known as autonomy.
44 HETERONOMY AUTONOMY
45 All other things in the world can be used as tools. They can be valued through their price. Agents are to be valued in a different way: they are not mere tools, and can t be valued by money. Dignity vs. Price
48 Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only (380). Negative Aspect: never as a means Positive Aspect: always as an ends
49 Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only (380). Negative Aspect: never as a means Standard violations: Deception Coercion Paternalism
50 Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only (380). Positive Aspect: always as an ends Respect the ends of others!
51 Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only (380). Interpretations: 1. Personal Tone 2. Actual Consent 3. Hypothetical Consent 4. Possible Consent *From Onora O Neil
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