Kant's Moral Philosophy

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1 Kant's Moral Philosophy I. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (178.5)- Immanuel Kant A. Aims I. '7o seek out and establish the supreme principle of morality." a. To provide a rational basis for morality. 1. The correctness of our moral principles is provable by reason. 2. Purpose of moral philosophy. a. To determine the fundamental principles that lie as the basis of any morality. 1. To provide a test which would.prove which moral principles are correct. 3. Correct for everyone, everywhere, by reason alone. a. It does not depend upon particular societies/circumstances. b. Nor on individual feelings/desires ("inclinations"). c. Being a moral agent means guiding one's conduct by "universal laws" that are exceptionless. b. To establish the presuppositions of morality. I. i.e., those conditions without which there could be no morality. B. Rule Deontology 1. The ethics of duty a. An action or type of action is justified in showing that it is right. 1. Not by showing that it has good consequences. b. Moral worth is measured by the agent's intentions to obey moral laws. c. Morality consists solely of rational principles. 1. What makes an act right/wrong is the principle (or"maxim") which guides the action. IL The Highest Good: the Good Will A. "Nothing...can be called good without qualifications, except a Good Will." 1..1 has good will df.1 acts out of respect for moral laws. a. A good will subjects itself to rational principles (i.e.. moral laws). 1. To act out of respect for a law we must decide on the basis of reason alone what to do. a. Without reliance on our inclinations or desires.

2 2. It is good without qualification a. i.e., there are no situations in which its addition to a situation makes it worse. I. As opposed to happiness, intelligence, etc. b. Having a "good will" means 1. Acting with right intentions a. In accordance with the right principles. I. One must have the moral principle "in mind" as the basis for action. b. An action's moral worth is judged by the intentions and principles which lie behind it. 1. Only what we 'will' (what we try to do) is solely within our control a. e.g., I can, if I choose, make certain that my maxim is in accordance with the requirements of morality. b. A person is moral insofar as s/he trigs to be moral, to do one's duty. 2. Consequences aren't as important because whether or not I attain my ends often does not depend upon me alone. 2. Doing "duz for duty's sake." a. Kant distinguishes a. What lies beyond ones will falls outside the domain of moral responsibility. 1. It makes no sense to blame/praise a person for their character/abilities insofar as they are based upon wit, intelligence, upbringing, heredity. 1. Acting in conformity with duty. a. i.e., factors not of personal choice. a. Acting from inclinations (desire, emotions, etc.) 1. e.g., doing ones duty for personal gain. b. Morality must be grounded indep personal inclinations (even the desire to be happy) for they are. 1. variable and undependable 2. not necessary and universal 3. A matter of "nature" rather than of free and rational will. 2. Acting for the sake of (or respect for) duty a. To do one's duty just because it is one's duty. b. Only this makes a person morally worthy.

3 W. The Categorical Imperative A. Hypothetical vs. Categorical Imperatives 1. Hypothetical imperatives a. Make non-moral use of the word "ought". I. Here directives are contingent on the agents's desires. They are possible a. e.g. if you want to x, then do y. because we have 2. Much of our conduct is governed by such "oughts". desire 2. Categorical Imperatives a. Rules that command a type of action regardless of any desires. They are possible because we have reason I. e.g., "You ought to do x, period." b. An imperative = an order or command. Categorical "universal and without qualification." c. Categorical "oughts" are binding or rational agents simply because they are rational. 1. Because they are derived from a principle that every person must accept: the categorical one rule which will provide guidance in all moral situationsfimperative. V. Formulations of the Categorical Imperative.. They provide the necessary and sufficient criterion for determining the more concrete rules by which we should live. Formulations.: "Act only on that maxim [intention) whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." A. What the devil does it mean? 1. This principle summarizes a way for judging whether or not an act is morally permissible. a. When one voluntarily acts one alway acts an a rule (a maxim) that can be articulated. b. One is judging from a moral point of view only if one is willing to see ones rule acted upon by everyone similarly situated, c. An action is morally right iff one can consistently will b. An action is wrong iff one cannot consistently will b. B. The procedure for testing a maxim. 1. Formulate the maxim of your action. 2. Universalize it as a law for everyone. 3. Ask yourself whether the intended action would still be logically possible after such a universalization. a. ifs, the rule may be followed and the act is permissible. b. if no, the opposite.

4 4 C. Universalizability > perhaps the most important feature of Kant's ethical theory. I K's conception of a moral principle is such that it is always the type of action that is in question, e.g. "a case of lying." 2. The test of a moral principles rationality is its universalizability. a. i.e., its capacity to be generalized for everyone, everywhere, for all time. 1. One and the same principle applies to everyone regardless of any particular circumstances a. morality is something more than the customs/ethics of a particular society. b. K points out that if the "maxim" contradicts itself- it has logical inadequacy. 1. The universalizability of the "maxim" makes the action in question incomprehensible. e.g., what would count as lying, in a community in which no one could ever be expected to tell the truth. c. Kant seeks to show that morality is the same everywhere. I. it is built into the structure of the human mind. a. every human being has the faulty of reasons. 1. Kant wants to assist people to cultivate this fact by you better. D. There are rational as well as moral constraints on what a good person may believe and do. I. A moral judgement must be backed by good reasons. a. if it is true that you ought to do. b. then there must be a reason why you should do it. 2. If you accept those reasons in one case, you must also accept them as reasons in Queer cases. Moral reasons, if they are valid at all, are binding on all people at all times. 3. This is a requirement of consistency a. no rational person could deny it, 4. Its implies a. a person cannot regard oneself as special, from a moral point of view, i.e., one cannot consistently think that one is permitted to act in ways that are forbidden to others. b. it implies that there are not constraints on what we may do. I. but we recognize that we cannot consistently do it. a. because we cannot at the same time accept its implications. E. An example: making false promises I. A person needs money and is forced to borrow, falsely promising to repay when he knows he cannot

5 2. His maxim would be: "If I need money, I will make a false promise to repay it" 3. Universalized it becomes: "Anyone who needs money can make false promise to get it, even knowing that repayment is impossible." 4. Kant: "No one would consider that anything was promised to him, but would ridicule all such statements as vain pretenses." 5. The universalized maxim is logically inconsistent. Formulation 2: Act as of the maxim of thy action were to become by they will a universal law of nature. 1. versus "a universal law" as in 1st formulation a. The law of nature formulation is thus concerned. 1. not with the maxim of action but with 2. the actual results. 2. it is one thing to ask: "What is everyone tried to do that?" vs. "What if everyone actually did that?" 3. Kant: "nature does nothing in vain." a. everything in nature has a purpose or reason. Kant's Examples A. Suppose a man is miserable and contemplates suicide. 1. The Maxim of his intended action a. "for my own sake, I will end my life if I'm going to be miserable." B. Could this be a universal law of aanne K argue: No 1. Since nature could not maintain life, ifliving things were unwilling to endure hardship. IhEtt Note: it's unclear how Kant's first formulation applies to this case. A. A person who has natural talents, but in comfortable circumstances prefers to indulge in pleasure rather than to take the pains in improving his natural capacities. B. His maxim: "1 may neglect my natural gifts, given my tendency to indulgence at any time." C. Universalize: Everyone may neglect their natural talents, given their tendencies for self-indulgence. We Qarinsa. Why?

6 D. K: Our talents have been given to us for a purpose. It contradicts nature's purposes. Eau A. Maxim: "I have made my own way and am able to try to be as happy as possible without expecting help from others." B. Universally: Everyone should make his/her own way in to world and be happy as he/she can be, but without expecting help from others. C. Note: it is primarily the law of nature formulation that is involved here. D. K's argument: I. None of us no matter how well off would be willing to universalize the attitude because 2. One never knows when s/he might need the help of others, a. i.e., one might oneself claim just the help that this attitude now derives to others and thus contradict oneself. K: All of us desire that someone help us when we are in trouble so that that desire for help conflicts with our willing the original universabiliry. Formulation 3: We should always treat people as ends, never merely as means, a. i.e., don't "use" people b. the basis for this categorical imperative is I. the concern for happiness in eeneral a. the happier we are, the better able we are to do our duty. 2. What follows? a. We have a strict duty of beneficence toward others. I. We must strive to promote their welfare. 2, We must respect their right. 3. Avoid harming them. 4. and generally endeavor to further the ends of others. b. We must never manipulate people or use people to achieve our purposes (no matter how gzgi those purposes are). 3. The four e.g.'s A. A man who commits suicide is "using' himself B. It is "using" someone in an immoral way to make false promises. C. It is "using" humanity not to "advance" oneself. D. Kant again involves the principle of harmony. 4. Take as an e.g., the e.g. of a. X needs money and so you want a loan from '1, but you know you will not be able to repay it.

7 I. Treating Y as a means, you make a false promise to repay. b. Treating Y as an raid 1. you tell the truth, that you need the money fora certain purpose but will not be able to repay it. a. then Y could make her own mind about whether to let you have it. 1. consuhing her own values & wished. 2. and make a free, autonomous choice 3. if she did decide to give the money for this purpose a. s/he would be choosing to make the purpose her own b. thus you would not merely be using her as a means to achieve your goal. Formulation 4: Always act as if to bring about and as a member of the Kingdom of Ends. [i.e., avoided community in which everyone is always moral] 1. what is "perfect" about the kingdom of ends? a. not just that everyone wills and does what is right but b. that, everyone rsussis everyone else - "dignity" I. it has no "price." c. "human life and dignity so not have a price. They are absolute and have intrinsic worth" Kant says: 1. It is human ends that give other being their value a. other things have value for human beings. 1. in relation to link projects. Kant and Respect for Persons 2. Human Beings have an "intrinsic worth" because they are rational agents. a. i.e., free agents capable of making their own decisions.. setting their own goals and 2. guiding their conduct by reason. a. because the moral law is the law of reason I. rational beings are the embodiment of the moral law itself. b. the only way that moral goodness can exist at all in the world 1. is for rational creatures to apprehend what they should do, and acting from a sense of duty, do it. a. this is the only thing that has moral worth.

8 3. Further, truce I recognize that other people are morally in the same position as myself a. and that we belong to the same moral community I. that I can legit pursue those of my purposed that do not conflict with the moral law. 2. and that I also have a duty to facilitate the like pursuit on the part of my fellows. A. Punishment should be governed by two principles: VI Kant's Retriblitivism 1. People should be punished simply because they have committed crimes, and for no other reason. 2. It is important to punish the criminal proportionately to the severity of the crime. But these merely describe the limits on what punishment can justly involve. B. Hence, Kant endorses capital punishment. Why? C. Kant regarded punishment as a matter of justice. I. By punishing a person. we are showing due respect to him/her. 2. We are holding them responsible for their actions. i.e., as people who have freely chosen their evil deeds. D. Autonomy A. The source and justification of moral principles is ultimately ourselves. 1. One accepts moral law for oneself by oneself. a. On the basis of reason alone. 2. Each of us has the ability to reason and decide the right way to act. a. by ourselves b. without appeal to external authority B. Yet, morality is not merely a matter of "personal opinion". 1. our moral reason is a. objective b. prescribes universal and ner*k.nry moral laws and duties.

9 What would Kant say about the following examples? Essay Questions on Kantian Ethical Theory 1. You're sanding outside a movie theater on a typical Portland rain-drenched day. You're waiting to see a movie that you've wanted to see for nearly a month. A friend who works at the theater sees you in line and discreetly invites you to sneak in a side-door. What should you do? Why? (according to Kant) 2. While walking on the bluff one afternoon you find a wallet which belongs to Donald Trump. It has roughly three days of his current allowance in it, i.e., $45,000. What should you do? Why? (according to Kant) 3. You've discovered a way to steal an expensive textbook from the bookstore. You reason: tuition is so outraeeously high at U.P., I figure it owes it to me. What should Kant say? Why? 4. You've been partying all semester and have failed all of your classes (except Askay's class, which you enjoy). You know that your parents are (almost) literally going to 'kill' you. (Passing one philosophy class won't cut the mustard!). You happen to be a skilled computer 'hacker'. You break into U.P.'s computer system and change your grades to 'B+'s (you reason, that you ought not to be too greedy, after all). What would Kant say about your action? Why?

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