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Kantian ethics - Introduction

>Kant was an important German philosopher of the 18th century
>There is a universal, objective moral law that we can access through reason
>Kant believed in acting in accordance with good regardless of the consequences


Kantian ethics - Duty and good will

>Deontological - focus on the idea of morality
>The only thing that can be called good without any qualification is the good will.
>Purity of motive is important.
>Morality should not be driven by emotion


Kantian ethics - Kant's examples of duties

>Doing good to others
>Recognising the right to private property
>Avoiding drunkness
>Not making false promises
>Not destroying or limiting other human beings
>Not destroying ourselves
>Pursuing the greater good


Kantian ethics - understanding of moral knowledge

1. Knowledge that comes from sense
2. Knowledge that we have first hand
>Moral knowledge is apriori - we do not need experience to know what is right and wrong, moral knowledge comes from within
>Knowledge is sympathetic - we cannot tell if something is right or wrong by looking at it, because we bring additional knowledge when we are making judgements it must be synthetic


Kantian ethics - Imperatives

Kant understood moral law in terms of imperatives, moral law is categorical, not hypothetical.
>Hypothetical imperative - rules we must follow if we are to achieve particular results, to achieve X, I must do Y.
>Categorical imperative - Rules that must be followed with no 'ifs'. Must be followed regardless of what we hope to achieve


Kantian ethics - Three principles of formulae in the categorical imperative

1. Universal law of nature - Our moral rules must be capable of being universal (universalisable) Apply to everyone at all times in all cultures
2. The end in itself - people should not treat others as a means to an end
3. The kingdom of ends - people should act as if their behaviour is setting laws in an ideal kingdom


Kantian ethics - Kant's three postulates (assumptions)

>Freedom - We are all free to make moral decisions, if we weren't free then we couldn't be blamed
>Immortality - good people should be rewarded with ultimate happiness (summum bonum) There is an afterlife where justice is given
>God - There must be a God to bring about an afterlife. Human reason cannot know God but his ethics imply God


Kantian ethics - Strengths

>Moral absolutes can be appealing
>Human moral reasoning gives autonomy to people to act thoroughly rather than blindly following commands
>Categorical imperative does not leave people wasting time. Rules are rules.
>Recognises dignity and worth of other human beings


Kantian ethics - Weaknesses

>Cold and lacking in compassion
>Fails to recognise the importance of human emotion
>Seems to recommend sticking to rules even when it is clear that such actions will lead to terrible consequences
>Doesn't tell us what to do when duties conflict
>Gives more importance to human reason in morality than God