Philosophy & Ethics 2013 – 2014

Kantian deontology

§  An absolute view.

§  Deontology – the mean justifies the end.

§  Maxim – a general principle underlying the action.

§  The right action is the action that is performed because it is required by the ‘moral law’ which is embedded in human nature, the universe and pure reason.

Immanuel Kant

§  He was a nationalist who believed that moral law is something we should purely know by working it out through reason and that moral statements are always synthetic a priori.

Animal nature vs human nature

§  Animals are dominated by instincts and desires and humans, like animals, also have these instincts and desires, such as sex and food. However, humans are unique in that we are rational.

Motivation and inclinations

§  Kant reasons people may do good but it’s not good; doing something because you benefit from it or doing something because of authority.

§  1st proposition – “For an action to have genuine moral worth it must be done from duty” Duty should always be on top of inclinations for action if the action is to have moral worth.

§  2nd proposition – “An action that is done from duty doesn’t get its moral value from the purpose that’s to be achieved through it but from the maxim that it involves” An actions moral value doesn’t depend on the outcome, it depends on the principle of the will from which the action is done.

§  3rd proposition – (consequence of first two) “To have a duty is to be required to act in a certain way out of respect for law.”

The Good Will

§  “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 good will”

§  Good will = good intentions, will = faculty of choosing the practically necessary good – good will is good in itself, regardless of consequences.

§  The only good thing in this world is good will as mental talents (intelligence and courage) and gifts of fortune (richness and health) can become very bad if the use of them is not good. For example “a villain’s coolness makes him far more dangerous and more straightforwardly abominable to us than he would have otherwise seemed”

§  Kant proposed the idea that good will is goodness in itself. So while someone may act morally and be perceived as good, if the will behind their action isn’t good then they are not worthy of happiness.

The Three Postulates

§  The tree postulates are subjects that are implied in our sense of moral obligation, worked out through practical reason.

§  Freedom – we feel we have free choice so if it wasn’t possible for us to do something, we wouldn’t feel like we ‘ought’ to do it.

§  God –


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