Lecture 12 Deontology. Onora O Neill A Simplified Account of Kant s Ethics

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1 Lecture 12 Deontology Onora O Neill A Simplified Account of Kant s Ethics 1

2 Agenda 1. Immanuel Kant 2. Deontology 3. Hypothetical vs. Categorical Imperatives 4. Formula of the End in Itself 5. Maxims and Intentions 6. Comparisons with Utilitarianism 7. Criticisms of Deontology 8. Killing and Letting Die: Trolley Problems 2

3 Immanuel Kant German Enlightenment philosopher Wrote three critiques: Critique of Pure Reason Critique of Practical Reason Critique of Judgment Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals is the first mature work by Kant on moral philosophy

4 Deontology Deontology: a kind of moral theory that evaluates which choices are morally required, forbidden, or permitted. Deon = duty Deontological theories are generally non-consequentialist. They do not think consequences are the only morally relevant features of an action. 4

5 Hypothetical vs. Categorical Imperatives Hypothetical imperatives apply to you if you have certain desires or goals. You should floss your teeth. Only applies to you if you want healthy gums. 5

6 Hypothetical vs. Categorical Imperatives Categorical imperatives apply to you independently of your particular desires and goals. They are necessarily binding. What sort of imperative is morality? Why? You should be honest. You shouldn t steal. You shouldn t harm others. 6

7 Hypothetical vs. Categorical Imperatives Kant thought there was one supreme principle of morality. It is The Categorical Imperative. He thought we can come to know The Categorical Imperative through a priori reason, meaning independently of experience. He gave different formulations of The Categorical Imperatives. He thought all of these formulations were ultimately equivalent. Formula of Universal Law Formula of the End in Itself Formula of the Kingdom of Ends 7

8 Formula of the End in Itself Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end (2). 8

9 Maxims and Intentions Maxims = principles on which one sees oneself as acting. In practice, maxims = intentions. Doesn t mean Kantian ethics does not care about consequences at all. Intentions take into account at least the immediate consequences of one s actions. 9

10 Formula of the End in Itself What does it mean to use someone merely as a means? O Neill: To use someone as a mere means is to involve them in a scheme of action to which they could not in principle consent (2). The point is to respect persons who are rational agents with their own maxims and therefore ends in themselves. 10

11 Formula of the End in Itself It is not wrong to use someone as a means. For example, bank teller and customer use each other as means but both consent to it so it s okay. It is not even necessarily wrong to use someone to benefit oneself. For example, children benefit a lot from their parents but this is okay because parents consent to it. Deception, coercion, and manipulation are paradigmatic cases of using someone as a mere means. 11

12 Formula of the End in Itself Duties of Justice: Never use someone as a mere means to an end. Perfect duties, not selective Duties of Beneficence or Charity: Sometimes help others to achieve their own maxims and be happy. Imperfect duties, selective 12

13 Comparison to Utilitarianism 1. Kantian ethics has less scope than utilitarianism. 2. Kantian ethics is more precise than utilitarianism. 3. Kantian ethics and utilitarianism value life differently. 13

14 Less Scope: Comparison to Utilitarianism Kantian ethics can t judge actions with maxims that are not fully known. Kantian ethics can t judge actions that cannot be regarded as the maxims of any person or institution (e.g. political movements). Kantian ethics cannot rank acts in terms of their merit. Utilitarianism allows all actions to be judged and compared against each other in terms of which better maximize utility. 14

15 More Precise: Comparison to Utilitarianism It is easier to evaluate intentions and determine when an act uses others as mere means. It is harder to know when an act maximizes happiness, especially when one lacks data about the consequences. 15

16 Comparison to Utilitarianism Kantian ethics and utilitarianism value life differently. For utilitarianism, life is only valuable in terms of maximizing happiness. People can be used as mere means and lives can sacrificed for the greater good. For Kant, life is valuable because people are rational agents and thus ends in themselves. 16

17 Criticisms of Deontology 1. No concern for agents that are not rational 2. Overemphasis on right intentions? 3. Conflicts of duties 4. Murderer at the door 5. Problems with consent? 17

18 Criticisms of Deontology 1. No concern for agents that are not rational, such as infants, mentally disabled, or animals. 18

19 Criticisms of Deontology 2. Does Kant overemphasize having the right intentions and acting from a sense of duty? What if we do the right thing out of instinct, habit, or sympathy? 19

20 Criticisms of Deontology 3. How should we weigh between duties when they conflict? 20

21 Criticisms of Deontology 4. What if a murderer comes to your door and asks where your friend is? You know the murderer wants to kill your friend and your friend is inside. Should you lie? 21

22 Criticisms of Deontology 5. Can we treat someone immorally even if they consent to it? 22

23 Trolley Problems 23

24 Trolley Problems 24

25 Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas Dominican Friar and Catholic Priest Synthesized Aristotle s Philosophy with Christianity Doctrine of Double Effect Intended versus Foreseen Consequences

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