Kantian Ethics Crib sheet

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  • Created by: Meg8
  • Created on: 27-04-16 16:04

Kantian ethics

An absolute, deontological moral theory (meaning it is duty bases and rule following). It is the intention that makes an action right or wrong, not the consequence. Based on reason for the grounds of morality. Kant was influenced by Descartes.

Moral law

Kant believed that within us, we all have the moral law. The moral law is the highest form of good and God wants us to have it. The moral law is innate (born within us).

The moral law cannot be doubted, meaning it is indubitable.

‘Two things fill my mind with ever increasing certainty; the starry skies above me and the moral law within me’- Kant

(Meaning Kant was as certain as the stars that the moral law existed within oneself).

Moral law       +       Reason      =      Good moral actions

Free will

Kant saw that we are free to make choices- we are autonomous (control over our body). But, you have to truly choose to do actions. If someone forces you to do an action, it is no longer moral. When you act in this way, you act out of a sense of duty and your action becomes known as a categorical imperative or action. This is an action performed out of duty.

Kant rejected heteronomy: acting in accordance with ones desires rather than reason or moral duty. He favoured autonomy of the will: acting in accordance with one’s moral duty, rather than ones desires.

Universal rules

Because humans have the moral law which is intrinsic (the highest form of good) and reason, every single being has the capacity to make universal rules. We can all be universal law makers. Universal- a law that is applicable to all people in all times.

Reason + moral law tells you what you ought to do. This should be your motivation for all moral decisions. When you act from this ‘ought’ feeling, you are acting with a ‘good will’. A good will is a measure of a good person. We should all do the good will. We can exercise our will, but should all want to do the right thing.

‘The good will shines forth like a bright jewel’- Kant

Your reason tells you what you ought to do, but before you do it, you must check whether it would be acceptable to turn into a universal law. You must make sure you think it’s acceptable for everyone to do it without causing a contradiction in the way things are supposed to work.

The commands; categorical and hypothetical:

Kant argued there are 2 types of commands that people follow:

The hypothetical imperative: This is where you do something to get an end result. e.g./ working hard to get good exam results. This is not moral. Kant would not have liked utilitarianism because you perform actions to Gain the greatest good.

The categorical imperative: This is an action which is performed out of duty. A moral obligation to do the right…


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