Kantian Ethics

Kantian Ethics

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Kantian Ethics
Immanuel Kant sought to discover a rational basis for one's sense of duty, and
from this devise a principle by which one can distinguish between right and
Kantian ethics is deontological ­ actions are intrinsically right or wrong
Kantian ethics is absolute ­ the morality of an action takes no regard of the situation it
is in. Kant thus subscribes to the belief that morality is universal
Kant's starting point for moral philosophy was his observation that we all have
experience an innate moral duty ­ our conscience and feelings of shame and guilt tell
us when we violate this. A good action therefore is one that fulfils our sense of moral
duty. Kant thus concluded that moral duty can be revealed through reason objectively.
"To act morally is to perform one's duty, and one's duty is to obey the innate moral
Kant posits that we are in constant in battle with our inclination. We should not act out
of emotion, such as love or compassion. We should act in accordance with the
GOOD WILL = The highest form of good. To have good will is to perform one's duty ­
the intrinsic good for the sake of duty and for no other reason.
"A good will is not good because of what it affects or accomplishes... it is good
through its willing ­ that is good in itself"
It is not our duty to do what is impossible for us to do ­ moral statements are
prescriptive they prescribe an action. `I ought to do x' implies `I can do x.'
Kant said there are two types of statement:
A priori analytic: Statements that are knowable without external research, they
contain the predicate within it e.g. `1+1=2'
A posteriori synthetic: Statements are knowable by only by empirical examination
­ it may be verified or falsified e.g. `it's raining today'
However Kant reasoned that statements about moral law are different, they are a
priori synthetic:

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Morality can be known using reason ­ a priori
Morality can be verified or falsified ­ synthetic
An imperative is something you are obliged to do. There are two kinds of imperative:
1. Hypothetical imperatives
Have `ifs' ­ `if you want to pass this course you have to work'
Have instrumental value
Are a means to an end ­ they are not obligatory if the end is not desired
2.…read more

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There are no exceptions ­ you cannot alter your behaviour because you anticipate
others not following laws or in a particular situation e.g. killing in warfare
Summum Bonum
Latin phrase meaning "highest good." Hence, that which is intrinsically
valuable, the ultimate goal or end of human life generally. Kant believed that
reason was never wrong, yet it tells us to act in ways which are counter to our
interests (e.g. not lying when everyone else is).…read more


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