• Created by: josie
  • Created on: 25-02-14 17:52


  • Rule based and absolutist
  • Certain actions are wrong in themselves regardless of consequences
  • We should follow rules/laws to prevent us performing bad actions- deontological constraints.
  • Moral laws apply universally in all situations.
  • Hypothetical imperative: what we ought to do to fulfill our wishes/how we acheive a particular result.
  • Categorical imperative: An end in itself. Act regardless of our wishes/preferences.
  • Moral commans- categorical imperatives. Expressions of absolute and unconditional duty.
  • These imperatives can be established a prior through reason and are unconditionally binding
  • Developed it in 3 ways. 1) Principle of universalisability(apply in any situation).2)the formula o the end in itself(treat everyone as intrinsically valuable).3)the formula for a kingdom of ends(act as if you are making rules for an entire kingdom).
  • categorical test-gives us deontological rules that cannot be broken e.g. do not steal.
  • Must have the correct motivation- performed out of a sense of duty- "The greatest perfection of a human being".
  • The moral status of actions should be judged solely on their nature and motivation not consequences. They are irrelevant because we cannot control the future.
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Support 1-plausible vs Against 1-universalizabilit

1)Universally binding- captures the absolute nature that many people believe morality to have. If a moral command is not universally applicable, it can be changed/manipulated/disregarded. This makes it of secondary importance to the reason for breaking it but what is good/right ought to be of the highest significiance.

2)categorical imperative- sits well with the idea that morality involves treating all individuals as equally valuable.

Against- universalizability

  • There are some maxims that can be universalized that are not moral- "never hold your fork in your left hand"/"never walk on pavement cracks". Both are consistent with the criterion but are not moral duties.
  • There is a problem with how we decided which universalized maxims are moral duties and which aren't and on what basis?
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Support 2-motives&consequences vs Against-conflict

  • Consequences are beyond our control and are not relevant- has some merit.
  • Only directly responsible for our own actions and we cannot know the consequences.
  • The motivation of one's action is morall significant- this seems correct.
  • Praise someone who acts out of duty to be good even if it decreases happiness.
  • Focusing on the action and motivation when making moral judgements is the best way to make a reliable, informed judgement.

Against- conflicts of duty and importance of consequences

  • Categorical nature of deontology leads to conflicting duties.Kant- no such thing as conflict of duties- this is implausible. We can imagine situations where moral duties collide.
  • Example: duty to act with kindness and compassion vs not too lie when asked if someone looks nice and you do not think they do.
  • Utilitraianism- provides a means for decision making for moral dilemmas.
  • To ignore the consequences seems rash, inconsiderate and immoral.
  • The consequences of our actions are relevant morally speaking even if they are not the sole criterion of moral value.
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Support 3- justice vs against 3-world a worse plac

  • Ensures that each individuals rights are respected.
  • Humans as rational agents have intrinsic worth and so cannot be treated as a means to an end.

Against- makes the world a worse place

  • Following moral principles without the possibility of felxibility is immoral.
  • Kant's example- axe murderer comes knocking and asks if your relative is upstairs. If they are, Kant would say tell the truth since lying cannot be universalized. You do not know the person will definitley be killed/ that the outcome will be one way or another. To lie would be to compromise your integrity.
  • However, our intuition is to protect the innocent victim.
  • This suggests following moral rules absolutley has harmful effects and highlights a further problem-moral integrity.
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Support 4-integrity vs Against 4-omissions

  • Deontology is based centrally on the avoidance of performing actions that are morally bad (do not conform to a categorical imperative).
  • Example of axe murderer- act of lying is morally worse than not acting to protect the victim, Agent's integrity=preserved- have not been forced to do anything morally wrong-lie.
  • Example of Jim and the indians- agent's integrity is preserved because they are not forced to kill. If one has not acted, one has not broken a moral law.
  • Strength of theory- does not force agents to perform actions that are morally wrong just because the circumstances make it desireable for some other reason- protects integrity.

Against- Acts and ommisions

  • Challenge this assumption- we are equally responsible for what we don't do (omissions)
  • No morally relevant distinction between killing and letting die.
  • Example of axe murderer- does not preserve integrity by telling turth, it damagas it by failing to act to protect the innocent.
  • This response only works if we accept the outome/consequence of acting/failing to act are morally relevant but the intuition in this is plausible.
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Support 5-inclinations and duties

  • Kant's sharp distinction between duty and inclination captures something significant about moral decision making.
  • Inclinations vary from person to persona and are subjective and therefore it is undersirebale that our feelings/inclinations guide our moral judgement
  • Contrast- Kant provides a rational basis for moralaction-universally binding- more desireable that moral decisions are based on rational deliberation & understanding not inclinations.
  • Kant is right to insist what is right/wrong should be dictated by reason. We should follow these laws once deduced ouf duty and no other reason.
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Against 5- motivation

Against-problem of motivation

  • Humans are not capable of being motivated purely on the basis of reason.
  • Hume- feelings and desires motivate us (sentiments). Any useful moral theory must take this psychological observation into consideration.
  • Bernard Williams- biggest deontological flaw is it's impersonal and don't take agent's character, emotions and interests into account. This make sit incapable of providing meaningful guidance in the real world.
  • Kants insistence emotions are irrelevant is at odds with out intuition that certain emotions have moral dimensions-guilt, sympathy, compassion. These count in favour of it being good.
  • Kant- disagree claiming only actions done out of duty are moral. Giving to charity out of compassion=immoral. Only true motivation for action is duty.
  • The motivation of actions does seem morally significant, Kant's inflexibility about the kinds of motivation is a limitation of the theory.
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