Kant's Moral Argument

HideShow resource information

Kant's Moral Argument

  • A priori - knowledge gained prior to experience
  • Criticsed Teleological, Cosmological and Ontological Arguments
  • God is beyond our understanding so we can't understand him
  • 3 postulates of pratical reason - Immortality, existence of God and free will
  • God is a postulate of pure reason
  • "Two things fill the mind with ever new increasing admiration and awe... The starry heavens above me and the natural law within me"
1 of 6

Key ideas of Moral Argument

  • Autonomy of morality --> all moral actions must be freely chosen. Kant rejects the idea that God is a divine lawgiver who orders us to follow rules
  • What is morally right? --> Doing your duty. 'Ought implies can'. We have an obligation to do what is morally right.
  • How do we know what our duty is? --> worked out through reason. Goodwill is best thing to do. A goodwill act meets the Categorical Imperative.
  • Summon Bonum --> achievement of moral goodness and happiness together. 'perfect virtue crowned with perfect happiness'
  • Moral action is about doing one's duty to achieve the Summon Bonum but in this world you can follow duty and not achieve anything due to wickedness in the world. Highest good must be achievable therefore we can postulate God's existence.
2 of 6

The Argument itself

1) Everyone seeks the Summon Bonum

2) Whatever we sought must be achievable becaue the Universe is fair

3) The Summon Bonum can't be achieved in this life

4) Must postulate an afterlife where the Summon Bonum can be achieved

5) Therefore it is necessary to postulate that God exists in order to guarantee that the Universe is fair so that the Summon Bonum can be achieved

Kant is not proving God's existence but that morality is ordered in a moral way. IF the Universe is fair and IF the Summon Bonum can be achieved then God and the afterlife are necessary postulates

3 of 6

Strengths & Criticisms of Kant's Moral Arguments


  • Impossible to prove
  • Kant argues that God can bring about the Summon Bonum. 'Why not a pantheon of angels?' argued Brian Davies - This can be replaced with anything. Also God is not logically required
  • The argument only helps believers to act moral
  • Peter Cole - Why should virtue be rewarded with happiness?
  • Kant claims the argument is deontological but the Summon Bonum is teleological as happiness is an end goal or purpose
  • Life tells us that good does not always triumph evil
  • Example of a teacher and student - Kant claims that we ought to do our duty. A teacher prepares students for exams but even if they fail the exam it doesn't make the teacher meaningless
  • Most people are aiming for good in their lives e.g. Aim for a family or owning property
  • Societies have similar moral codes e.g. stealing is wrong
  • 'Ought implies can' is valid because you ought to be kind to others
4 of 6

Sigmund Freud

  • Famous psychologist
  • Founder of psychoanalysis
  • Believed that religion is an obsessional neurosis meaning traumas that are repressed in the mind and develop as a problem later in life
  • Belief in God or an afterlife is just this obsession neurosis
  • The Mind is made up of ID, Ego and Superego.
  • ID - Human instincts, desires and appetites
  • Ego - Shaped by external influences and trauma due to upbringing and education
  • Superego - part of ego, human reason. This is your conscience. People feel as if God has given them conscience but this is just their upbringing. E.g. Mum says 'Don't fight'. It is recorded in your mind. As you go to punch someone the recording of your mum saying 'Don't fight' comes back to you.

The Oedipus Complex (and Electra Complex) - idea that boys fall in love with their mothers and are sexually attracted to them. They feel guilt for father which projects an idea of God and supresses them

5 of 6

Criticism of Sigmund Freud


  • Clear that parents/environment affect our morals with evidence of this in modern psychology
  • Explains why morals can change e.g. over time, culture and society has a huge influence on our parents


  • Description of religion as an obsessional neurosis meaning it causes fear and anxiety is unconvincing as many believers would describe their religious experience differently
  • Most societies have similar moral codes
  • Ockham's Razor - Freud adds scientific language in an attempt to sound more plausible with ID, Super Ego and Ego terms. 
6 of 6


No comments have yet been made

Similar Philosophy resources:

See all Philosophy resources »See all Morality resources »