Deontology - Kant

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  • Created by: Maegan
  • Created on: 04-06-13 15:59

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Kant - Pietist Christian - Philosopher Enlightenment (18th cent) believed in emphasis of duty & valued reason

Deontological - actions - intrinsic value - consequence of action do not affect moral value

Deon - Greek - duty - teaches - do / avoid particular actions

Absolutist - no exceptions

A priori - opposite of telelogical

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Demonstrate - laws of nature and morality - grounded in human reason alone

Our innate human reason, it alone - formulate moral statements and solutions

Autonomous - self law

Reason - know our duty - must follow it

Quote: "impossible to conceieve of anything in this world, or even out of it, which can be taken as good qualification except good will"

We exercise good will with others - put others needs first - good will is good in its self

Linked good will and duty - to have good will is to do ones duty

Human reason - recognise moral imperatives - do good and avoid evil

We must do right thing for right reason - not for pleasure etc...

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Kantian ethics - based on categorical imperatives

Categorical imperatives - moral commands - absolute

Opposite - hypothetical imperatives - Kant sees as immoral - followed because of the conseqeunce they achieve

Categorical - circumstance is not important as same action should be applied in all similar circumstances

Hypothetical - subjective and relative - ethical obligations relative to situation & without objective moral content

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Categorical imperatives - four formulations

1) Formula Universal Law: act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law 

- Means: all moral laws should be applied universally - all rational beings and similar situaitons. If an action is right for ___ it is right for ___. Therefore acting on same principle of action.

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Kant created Universalisability test - allow moral agents decide whether a maxim can be universalised or not.

1) Find agents maxim

2) Imagine possible world - everyone in similar position - followed maxim

3) Decide whether in contradictions/irrationalities arise due to this maxim

4) Contradictions/irrationalities arise = acting on maxim not allowed in real world

5) No contradictions = acting on maxim - permissible & some instances required

Two types contradictions

1) Conception - maxim contradicts self / existing law of nature

2) Vollition - logically applied but as rational being does not make sense to

E.g. Person breaks a promise = all promises can be broken

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2) Formula of humanity: act in such a way that you always treat humanity whether in your own person or in the person of someone else, never simply as a means to an end but always at the same time as an end

- Means: never treat another human being for the sole purpose of our own

Also never use human being to satisfy own needs - must honour and respect others 

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3) Formula - Kingdom of ends: every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxims always a law-making member in the universal kingdom of ends

- Means: moral choices should be made fee & free of autonmous beings - intention should be act only on maxims that conform to principles of categorical imperative

4) Formula of autonomy

- Means: moral decisions should be a free choice 

By use of reason people can formulate moral laws for themselves

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AO2 Strengths and weaknesses (1)

Universal law

Weakness: does not permit lying - sometimes tempting to lie - murder example (looking for victim) - could've aided death


Strength: Kant - always causes harm to lie - a universalisation of law 'I can lie under certain circumstances if morally unacceptable' 

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AO2 Strengths and weaknesses (2)

Formula of ends

Weakness: interpreted as wrong to use services of GP & hairdressers

  • technically treating others for 'sole purpose of our own'
  • different - way out world works today
  • needs to specify - avoid contradictions


Strength: acting according to this principle - person accepts freely they are autonomous agent acting according to their duty

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AO2 Strengths and weaknesses (3)

Good will

Weakness: acting out of good will - sometimes lead to disaster

E.g. giving money to homeless - depressed - uses money to buy drugs - overdoses = disaster 

Not always good outcomes

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AO2 Strengths and weaknesses (4)

Cold and unnatractive

Weakness: not practical - barely shows emotions of what is morally right / wrong


Strength: shows danger - acting on emotions to determine right from wrong

  • same situation could have various outcomes depending on emotion
  • anger/sadness - disaster?
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My conclusion

  • Theory doesn't work
  • Adjustments needed e.g. lying example
  • Agree - we act on emotions a lot of time specially anger / sadness - Kant's theory prevents this
  • However we are humans - unnatural to live without emotions therefore theory doesn't work


Teleological theory - better - each situation is realtive and judged on its own merit

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