Ethics revision summary

  • Created by: binaa
  • Created on: 24-04-12 19:50

Kantian Ethics

·         Kant developed his theory of religion and morality in The Critique of Pure Reason + Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals

·         He advocated a deontological approach to morality based on absolute universalisable laws

·         He believed there is an objective moral law which we know through reason

·         For Kant an obligation was something which ought to be accomplished for no other reason that that it is the right thing to do = Categorical imperatives

·         The most important obligation to humanity was to attempt to fulfil the perfect state of affairs = the summum bonum, so for Kant, morality led to God

·         ‘It is impossible to conceive of anything at all in the world , or even out of it, which can be taken as good without qualification, except a good will’

·         ‘Good will shines forth like a precious jewel’

·         Kingdom of ends – Act as though you are a law-making member of a kingdom of ends, The universal law – Act in a way that you can at the same time will that it should become universal law, Treat humans as ends in themselves – Treat others as ends in themselves and not a means to an end

·         Moral statements are prescriptive, we should not be side-tracked by feeling and inclination




Ø  Provides a powerful set of principle to enforce moral conduct

Ø  Treating people as ends in themselves underpins the idea of human rights

Ø  Idea of duty fits in with human experience

Ø  Seems fair to suggest that you cannot promote happiness if that happiness undermines another’s happiness

Ø  Gives humans intrinsic worth as the rational high point of creation

Ø  There are many situations where duties conflict and Kant’s system can’t resolve this

Ø  Kant is in favour of human freedom yet implies the categorical imperative must be obeyed

Ø  Consequences are ignored

Ø  Sometimes, for example in wars, the sacrifice of a few is needed for the majority















Natural Law theory

·         Roots of natural law are found in the ancient Greek and Roman world

·         Aristotle said that natural justice was independent and applies to everyone, no matter where they live

·         Eudemonia – Devised by Aristotle and is the belief that humans aim for some goal or purpose

·         Cicero – ‘True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting

·         Aquinas wrote Summa Theologica, His theory is absolutist and deontological so actions are intrinsically right or wrong

·         Aquinas indentified the four cardinal virtues: Prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance

·         5 Primary precepts: Preserve life, live in society, educate children, reproduce, worship God

·         Secondary precepts: Do not commit murder, do




Is there more? If not great! 5/5