Kantian Deontology

Revision cards for Edexcel's Philosophy and Ethics AS Course.

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Kantian Deontology - Introduction

  • What is deontology?
  • Name another deontologist (Thomas Aquinas)

Kant's deontology is based on reason, duty and moral law.

Thomas Nagel: Intuition alone can identify the moral value of an action, not the consequence. "right not to be mistreated"

Objective morality 

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Kantian Deontology - Main Body

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) Metaphysics of Morals

  • To act morally is to do ones duty > ones duty is to obey moral law.
  • We should not act out of love or compassion.
  • Aught implies can. I aught to > I can > I must

Summum bonum

  • We must have immortal souls because the ultimate end can't be achieved in one lifetime.
  • God must exist to provide the opportunity for S.B.
  • Kant: "The starry heavens above me and the moral law within me."

Moral knowledge is a priori synthetic. Knowledge is gained before experience but may need testing.

Humans have the freedom to rationalise - animals don't.

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Kantian Deontology - Categorical Imperative

1. Principle of Universalisability

  • "Do not act on any principle that cannot be universalised."
  • Absolutist stance to avoid erroding impact on society.
  • "Treat others as you would like to be treated" - Mark 4

2. Treat humanity never merely as a means but as an end in themselves.

  • Humans have intrinsic value.
  • "Humans were made in the image and likeness of God. - Genesis
  • We have a duty to develop our own perfection and the perfection of others.

3. Act as though you are a law making member in a kingdom of ends.

  • What is the best course of action for future humanity.

Morally obligatory Vs Desired Ends - "Which of the two incentives he conditions"

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Kantian Deontology - Conclusion

(WD Ross, Prima Facie duties) - Fidelity, beneficience, justice.

WT Stace: "There is nothing which has always been regarded as morally good by all men."

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Kantian Deontology - Arguments In Favour

  • Motivation is valued over consequences. A good motive in itself, is worthy or value.
  • Humanitarian - men are treated equally. - NHS.
  • Justice is always an absolute, regardless of time or culture.
  • Provides objective guidelines for making moral decisions.
  • WD Ross - Prima Facie duties free up moral deadlock. "Prima Facie right is self evident"
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Kantian Deontology - Arguments Against

JS Mill: When there are conflicting duties, no guidance is given.

Bentham: The unchanging principles are really a matter of subjective opinion. Where does objective morality come from?

William K Frankena: "There is more to moral POV than being willing to universalise ones rules."

  • Are we content to know we should do our duty without understanding why?
  • How far can a good will mitigate a disastrous outcome?
  • Kant makes no allowance for compassion or sympathy as motivation (La Follette)
  • Jesus criticised the Pharisees for going by the exact letter of the law.

Against WD Ross > How can you rank Prima Facie duties? Ross thought you could solve this by relying on intuition.

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