Kant's moral argument


Introduction: What is the moral argument?

  • show existence of God through sense of morality
  • existence of morality= existence of God
  • there is a clear moral law suggesting there must be a source of this moral law which is God
  • Hnery Newman also contributed 
  • Corinthians 'conscience is in the heart of all men'
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Introduction to Kants Moral Argument

  • most famous argument part of his ethical theory
  • set out in his book 'Critique to Practical Reason' 
  • a posteriori 
  • claims humans are rational, autonomous, moral-decision makers
  • morality= doing one's moral duty
  • Kant rejects that Gods commands are the basis of morality - reason= basis of morality
  • morality can be derived from rationality - rationality is universal therefore morality is too 
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Kant's rejections

  • rejects arguments that prove God's existence
  • God's existence is a matter beyond human knowledge - rejects cosmological or design argument
  • 'It is morally necessary to assume the existence of God"
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'God as a postulate of Pure Reason'

  • by rational moral reasoning we have to put forward the idea that God exists as an explanation of morality
  • 'postulate' means something which is thought of and put forward to solve a problem
  • Kant rejects pure reason and develops practical reason - coomon sense approach based on reflections
  • to explain morality you have to include the belief in God
  • explains why being moral is also being rational, Morality is reason made practical
  • 3 postulates of practical reason ; we are immortal (recieve SB life after death), God exists and we are free beings
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Summum Bonum

  • highest good is the achievement of moral goodness and happiness together
  • acting in accordance to good will is doing an action because it is the right thing to do and it achieves summum bonum
  • this is the Categorical Imperative
  • duty is something you should do because CI states you 'ought to do' 
  • if your action is virtuous it should lead to happeness and fulfilment 
  • avaliable in the afterlife  and awarded by God by acting out of duty
  • necessary reward otherwise it wouldnt be rational to act morally
  • EXAMPLE: Hitler did terrible things but killed himself before punishment, while morallly good actions go unrewarded and unnoticed such as heroes dying in war - it ensures justice 
  • Is Summum bonum actucally acheiveable? - Mackie has discussed this
  • can you be good without believing in God?
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Autonomy of morality

  • action is only moral if chosen freely 
  • moral if you choose to do it
  • humans are autonomous decision makers
  • rejects that God is a divine law giver who gives orders for teh fear of punishment
  • what if you are incapable of making moral decisions freely?
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Doing your duty

  • univeral basis of morality - moral duties are the same universally
  • can be worked out thorugh reason
  • all humans impose moral duties on themselves 
  • intrinsically good reason for moral action is good will
  • do an action because it is good in itself- doesnt look at consequences 
  • duty can lead to moral goodness and happiness 
  • duty not emotion - emotional responses vary, but morlaity needs to be universal - Plato has argued this 
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WOW factors

  • 'two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me' 
  • 'It is morally necessary to assume the existsnece of God'
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  • Moral action is about doing one's duty, reason to do one's duty is to achieve the Summum Bonum. 
  • Sometimes there is too much evil in the world to achieve summum bonum even if you have followed your duty
  • highest good must be achievable; otherwise moral goodness is pointless 
  • what could make the highest good acheivable? 
  • GOD 
  • Kant's moral argument is only convincing if you are already a believer in God
  • Wont persuade you to believe in God - suggested by Mackie and Brain Davies
  • aiming for summum bonum doesnt make it achievable 
  • psychoanalysis raises questions about the the origins of our moral values 
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