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Kant's deontological ethics

Immanual Kant (1724-1804)

  • concerned with actions not conquences 
  • if a certain action is wrong it is wrong in all situations, irrespective of the concequences
  • moral virtue is conferred by virtue of the actions in themselves
  • oposition to teleological views (e.g. utilitarianism) which think that the consequences of an action determine its moral worth
  • deontological - concerned with duty
  • to act morally is to do one's duty, and one's duty is to obey moral law
  • Kant argued that we should not be side-tracked by feeling and inclination
  • moral statements are prescriptive - 'ought' implies 'can'
  • humans seek an ultimate end called the supreme good, the summum bonum (a state in which human cirtue and happiness are united)
  • it is impossible for humans to achieve this in one lifetime (immortal souls suceed)
  • Kant rejected teleological arguments, but his theory assumes God's existence and immortality
  • Kant thought that the after-life and god must exist to provide an opportunity for reaching this supreme good
  • for Kant, morality leads to God
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