Kantian Ethics

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  • Created by: Tom123
  • Created on: 07-04-11 23:20

Kantian Ethics

Emmanuel Kant - 18th Century philosopher whose ethics are derived from the larger theory of transcendental idealism.

The theory that humans construct knowledge by imposing universal concepts onto sensory experiences, concepts and ideals exist with a universal meaning the meaning of which is a priori.

Human reason alone allows humanity to understand moral truth. Kant rejects both relativism and empiricism.

Happiness should not be the basis of morality, it is subjective and morality is not. For Kant moral truth was objective and based on reason not feeling.

Kant believed that human beings are not by nature moral creatures, they do however have the capacity to be moral and they discover this through reason. Kant believed that by his method humans could discover moral laws which, if learnt and implemented, would set humanity free to be autonomous individuals.

For Kant there are universal moral laws which are created by God, these however are not those revealed by revelation. Human reason must uncover them.

Maxims- subjective moral principles that can be deduced by all rational human beings and then turned into moral laws to govern society. For these laws to develop good will is required between all human beings, a sense of trust and good will to others. If we live like this we can turn the subjective ethical maxims into moral laws.

Trust, the will and good will

  • struggling will, natural instincts leading to selfish acts and rational thought leading to maxims and control of their behavior, this results in uncertainty over the right moral decision. 
  • This is resolved by trust, trusting your moral decision making. One must not allow their thoughts to be clouded by emotion even if these seen to be morally good.

Categorical Imperative

Solves the problem of knowing whether a subjective maxim is morally right.

Three tests that show whether a moral maxim is to be accepted as law

  • Universal law principle

"act only on that maxim whereby which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law"

  • Humanity as an end not a means

 "treat humanity...never as a means only"

  • Kingdom of ends

Pursue a state of being where all conflict is removed and human beings realize their common aims. Unrealistic but should be aimed for.

Hypothetical Imperative

If I want X then I ought to do Y.

Those moral issues not determined by the tests of the Categorical Imperative can be determined by the Hypothetical Imperative. 

While the Cat Imp must be obeyed the Hyp Imp should be obeyed to achieve a certain aim. 

Conditional to the practicality and desire of the aim, if the moral agent does not want the aim/decides it…


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