Kant Flashcards Preview

As Ethics > Kant > Flashcards

Flashcards in Kant Deck (14)
Loading flashcards...

In what book did Immanuel Kant outline his ethical theory?

'The Critique of Practical Reason'


In what century did Immanuel Kant live?

18th century (1700s)


Was Kant a rationalist or an empiricist?

A Rationalist.


Explain the concept of 'The Moral Law Within'.

Kant believed that everybody had an innate, God-given sense of reason, which he called 'The moral law within' This is what sets humans apart from animals. It is universally understood that acts like murder and rape are wrong, which stems from 'the moral law within'.


Give a quote which illustrates 'The Moral Law Within'.

"Two things fill me with ever increasing admiration and awe; the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me." -Immanuel Kant


Define 'duty' and 'goodwill' in relation to Kant.

Kant believed that an action could only be classed as moral if it was the result of duty and goodwill. A dutiful act is not performed because of any kind of gain; it is performed simply because 'it is the right thing to do'.

We should not let kindness or compassion cloud our judgement.
For instance, if Hitler and Mother Teresa were involved in a simultaneous traffic accident, we should prioritise either person, or act out of pity or compassion, instead we should try to save both because it is our duty to do so.


"Kant's theory is teleological." - True or false?

False. It is deontological, as it is based on intention and not outcome. Actions are either intrinsically right or wrong, no matter what the consequences.


Define 'free will' in relation to Kant.

An action is only moral if we are free to make a choice. We cannot be blamed for circumstances which are beyond our control.

'Ought' implies 'can'.
Eg: A paralysed person would not say 'I ought to walk more' as it implies that they are in a situation where they can walk more often if they choose to do so.


Define 'summum bonum'.

Summum bonum is the highest good.
It is when duty and happiness combine Doing one's duty should come first, and if happiness arises as a result, then this is a bonus.
Realistically, we cannot achieve 'summum bonum' in this lifetime as doing one's duty does not often lead to happiness. Kant thought that this pointed to the existence of God and the afterlife.


What is 'the hypothetical imperative'?

It is contingent and based on consequences.
Eg: IF I do my homework THEN I will get good grades is an example of a hypothetical imperative.


What is 'the categorical imperative'?

The categorical imperative claims precedence over a hypothetical imperative.
Ultimately, it is what we SHOULD do, not what we WANT to do.


Describe the 3 maxims of the categorical imperative.

To decide whether an action is moral or not, it must be weighed up against the 3 maxims of the categorical imperative:

1. UNIVERSALISATION- Would you want everybody to act in this way?
*For an action to be moral, it must be applicable to everyone in society. Would you want everybody to mirror your actions? Is it feasibly possible for them to do so?
Eg: Dropping litter. It might seem okay for someone to throw a small sweet wrapper on the floor, but what if everyone did this?

2. HUMAN ENDS- Are you using somebody as a means to an end?
For an action to be moral, people must be treated respectfully as an end in themselves rather than as a means to an end. It is wrong to sacrifice people for 'the greater good'.
Eg: Borrowing money whilst knowing that you will be unable to pay it back. Even if this means that your children will not be fed, you are using the financier as a means to an end, which is morally wrong.

3. LAW MAKER- Act as if you were 'a legislator in The Kingdom of Ends'
You must be prepared to be on the 'receiving end' of your own action.


What is Kant's ethical theory NOT based upon?

'The Greater Good'


Identify the strengths and weaknesses of Kant's ethical theory.

*It treats human beings with the intrinsic respect that they deserve by stipulating that they must be treated as a means to an end and not an end in themselves.

*Kant's theory is rigid and consistent, thereby providing a strong moral framework.

*Kant's ethical theory is based on reason not religion and so is therefore available to all.

*Kant's theory is deontological, and we do not have the ability to predict the future.

*Outcomes ARE important. If a drowning man is saved because a lifeguard wanted to impress his girlfriend, does it really matter? A life is still being saved.

*Not everybody is capable of acting rationally and logically. Kant's theory excludes the mentally ill and disabled- although arguably, this is a weakness of ALL ethical theories.

*Motives are seldom pure. People bring 'emotional baggage' to situations. Eg: Most people volunteer for a charity because it makes them feel good, not because of duty. It is impossible to divorce our emotions from everything.