Kant's Moral Argument

Kant's Moral Argument

Remember: Kant didn't regard the moral argument as an argument for the existence of God; he believed that God's existence could only be established through faith!!

Kant said that people universally agree that some actions are right and wrong. No matter what the culture/time (e.g. murder and **** are always bad). This shows proof of an objective moral law that everyone knows about. 

  • Not only do we know about this, but we feel an obligation towards it, because its the rational thing to do 
  • Finding the right action we need to apply moral reason, this reveals the moral law and gives us the categorical imperative (making a moral decision from a sense of duty without any consideration of the outcome) which we should obey. 
  • Duty is doing a good thing for no other reason because we know it is our duty. 
  • If someone acts because they are forced to, it would not be a virtuous action. Virtue can only be for duty's sake. 
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Kant's Moral Argument

  • When we do virtuous actions, we expect happiness out of it, but we don't always get it.
  • Yet, it is logical for a virtuous action to be rewarded by happiness eventually. When virtue and happiness do come together this is called the Summum Bonum (the greatest good)
  • However, because this cannot be achieved in this world, it is logical to think that there is an afterlife to fulfil this. 
  • Kant said that if he accepts that there is an objective obligation then this implies belief in the Three Postulates of Morality:
    • Freedom - an action is moral if one is free to do it 
    • Immorality - actions aren't always rewarded by happiness but this is fulfilled in the afterlife 
    • God - If there is an afterlife then there must be a God that connects the virtuous behaviour with the Summon Bonum 
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Kant's Moral Argument


  • It is logical for perfect virtue to be rewarded by perfect happiness
  • Humans cannot get the Summum Bonum without God and an afterlife 
  • God must exist to provide the Summum Bonum 
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Kant's Moral Argument: Freud's Argument Against


  • The conscience as described by Kant, is in fact a product of the unconscious mind 
  • Ego - the conscious self, the personality that everyone sees 
  • Super-ego - the subsconscious set of moral controls given to us by outside influences like the rules of society
  • These two aspects of psychological activity represent the moral decision-making mechanisms 
  • Moral values are not objective, but come from our subconscious or super-ego. If this is true than Kant's MA fails 
  • This is a pyschological development that results from the Oedipus complex. The super-ego is the "inner parent" which rewards good behaviour and punishes the bad
  • The conscience is a result of the super-ego
  • Life has a lot of challenges, and if not resolved this causes neurosis - religion is included
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Evaluation of Kant's Moral Argument


  • Freud argues that morality doesn't come from God, but there is no proof that morality comes from the super-ego
  • Perhaps God uses the super-ego to give us morality 
  • Just because different people have slighty different rules doesn't mean there isn't an objective moral law 
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Evaluation of Kant's Moral Argument


  • This argument is one of probability, not certainty, we'll only know if the Summum Bonum is achieved after we die 
  • There is no logical reason why our sense of right/wrong comes from God 
  • Moral behaviour doesn't have to be rewarded by happiness 
  • If having a sense of morality is part of average life then there is no need for God 
  • Kant says that we all agree on some things as right/wrong, but different societies have different ideas about what is right and wrong 
  • There is no link between God and the afterlife. There could be a natural migration of souls as in Hindu reincarnation 
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