Deontology & Kant Revision Notes

All of my notes regarding Kantian ethics (one of my favourite topics, in case you care). Should be plenty to revise from - hope you enjoy them.

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Deontology ­ Immanuel Kant
Duty and prescriptive ethics
o The term `deontological' is derived from the Greek word deon,
meaning `duty'
o So, deontological systems are concerned with describing our moral
o By contrast with consequentialist systems, deontology is concerned
with the intrinsic properties of actions ­ whether they are good or bad
in their own right
Kant Introduction
o The most famous moral deontologist is the German philosopher
Immanuel Kant
o Sought to establish real ethical duties over and above typical human
desires (contrasted with Bentham's psychological hedonism)
o Kant thought that our morals should not be influenced by feelings
(`inclination'), but instead we should be concerned with fixed
statements of duty (I ought to...)
o This makes Kantian ethics `prescriptive'
o It's important to remember that Kant was a rationalist ­ he thought he
could find a rational and universal basis for ethics and sought to
demonstrate that being moral is rational behaviour
Good Will & Duty
o "Good will shines forth like a precious jewel. It is impossible to
conceive anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be
taken as good without qualification, except a good will" ­Kant, 1785
o "[Kant] argues that the highest form of good is good will. To have a
good will is to do one's duty. To do one's duty is to perform actions
that are morally required and to avoid actions that are morally
forbidden. Doing one's duty is doing the right thing, not the wrong
thing. Why do we do out duty? Because it's our duty to do it!" ­Robert
Goodness and the Summum Bonum
o Kant maintained that humans seek an ultimate end called the
supreme good, the summum bonum
o This is the state in which the highest virtue and the highest happiness
are combined
o While Kant was not interested in arguments for God's existence, his
theory of ethics assumes God
o Kany thought that reaching the summum bonum must somehow be
o So, he thought it must be reasonable to assume that God exists to
support the idea that we can reach the highest good
o But what is goodness? Kant thought he had found it in the idea of
moral law...

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Moral Law
o "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and
awe...…read more

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So act that you treat humanity, both in your own person and in
the person of every other human being, never merely as
means, but always at the same time as an end" ­Kant (1785)
Others cannot be used to achieve anything
This means that everyone must be treated fairly and have the
same moral protection
o Act as if you live in a kingdom of ends
"So act as if you were through your maxim a law making
member of a kingdom of ends"…read more

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Justice for Kant would always be safeguarded for individuals,
who are always "ends in themselves". He avoids the Utilitarian
flaw of allowing the minority to suffer for the benefit of the
Kant's appeal to reason and universal values is sane and
constructive.…read more


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