Kant was concerned with the problem of objective knowledge: can I have any knowledge of the world which is not just knowledge of the world as it seems to me
Who (not specific people) did he react to the work of
He reacted to the work of both the rationalists and empiricists, ending up closer to the rationalists
What categories did he focus on the we use to make sense of the world & what did he argue about for these categories
Focused on key categories of space, time and causality that we use to make sense of world. Argued that these categories are not derived from experience but rather that they are inbuilt and that the mind imposes them on experience (e.g. we can’t prove that everything has a cause: this is something we assume - it starts as a mental concept)
What book are Kant's basic moral outlines found in
Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals (1785)
What is 'good'
What we feel morally obliged to do
What was Kant not concerned with (morally)
Not concerned with consequences of any sort. Not concerned with happiness, feelings or inclinations
What were his ethics not dependent on?
According to Kant, why is a moral duty performed
a moral action is one performed out of a sense of duty, of obedience to an internally perceived ‘ought’
What type of moral system was it- expand
Deontological system where decisions about right and wrong are made according to the nature of the actions themselves and not with regard to the consequences
Can people be held accountable for the consequences of their actions
People cannot be held accountable for the consequences of their actions, which are often beyond our control
Why did Kant reject an external authority
Rejected external moral authority: should not act because commanded to but because you believe you ought to. Where there is conflict between external command and conscience, obey conscience i.e. sense of ‘ought’
What is Kant's view on teleology
Kant is not concerned with consequences as a way of deciding what is morally right. In this sense his system is NOT consequentialist/teleological
What do rational creatures have in them and what does it do?
rational creatures have within them something which predisposes them to seek a moral end; that we progress towards the Kingdom of Ends
one done out of sense of duty or obligation: what you know you ought to do, despite personal inclination.
What is a non moral act + example
One not done out of duty, but for some other consequential reason: Person not acting morally if (e.g.) they repay a debt through fear of imprisonment or because they feel inclined to do so! Only acting morally if repay debt because recognise an obligation to do so.
Where is the essence of morality found in?
found in the motive or intention from which the action is done.
What would've meant that the Good Samaritan didn't perform a moral act
• If Good Samaritan acted as he did because he expected a reward or because he felt compassion then he did not perform a moral act
What is the only legitimate motivation for a moral act?
A sense of duty
What did Kant describe the intentions behind the acts as?
What is a maxim?
a general principle, underlying an action
What maxim would the good samaritan have been following for it to be a moral act?
"Always help those in need as it is your duty to do so.”
When is a person moral?
when they act from a sense of duty
How did FH Bradley characterise Kant's moral theory?
'duty for duty’s sake’
What did Kant recognise about acting according to duty?
it’s possible to act in accord with duty without acting from a sense of duty. E.g. repaying a debt because of fear of legal consequences Kant said this type of action is prudential, not moral.
Who did Kant argue that we give most praise to?
those who perform an action purely out of a sense of duty e.g. the soldier who risks their life in war, the person who dedicates years to the care of a sick or paralysed parent
What is duty performed at a cost to?
a cost to self. It rejects happiness as the basis for moral decision making.
The Good will. Kant saw morality as rooted in the exercise of freedom, of the good will in action: people choosing to obey the ‘ought’
Kant quote on the good will (from Groundwork of the Metaphysics of morals)
• “It is impossible to conceive of anything in the world, or even out of it, which can be taken as good without qualification, except a good will … Good will, then, like a jewel, it would still shine by its own light … ”
What is a good person?
a person of good will i.e. someone whose intentions and motivations are moral, who acts out of sense of duty.
What don't count for anything?
Abilities, talents, consequences, even virtues count for nothing.
What is the good will?
The will, Kant says, is the faculty of acting according to a conception of law. When we act, whether or not we achieve what we intend with our actions is often beyond our control, so the morality of our actions does not depend upon their outcome. What we can control, however, is the will behind the action.
What does Kant mean by good without qualification?
The only thing that is good without qualification is the good will, Kant says. All other candidates for an intrinsic good have problems, Kant argues. Courage, health, and wealth can all be used for ill purposes, Kant argues, and therefore cannot be intrinsically good. The good will is the only unconditional good despite all encroachments. Misfortune may render someone incapable of achieving her goals, for instance, but the goodness of her will remains.
Tried to produce an ethical system that would stand alone, not depending on religion or emotion, but sustained purely by the exercise of reason
How can we figure out the universal moral laws and how did they get here
Kant believed in universal moral laws created by God and believed these could be deduced by use of reason.
What is reason
Reason = universal human quality. Thus will yield principles that are universally applicable
What did Kant believe we can use reason for
Believed use of reason would produce guiding principles of behaviour
What was immoral for Kant?
For Kant, what was irrational or contradictory was immoral: strikes at very basis of our nature as rational human beings
What are contradictions in the law of nature?
used this term to refer to maxims that were not universalisable because irrational e.g. “Come first in examinations.” (Not everyone can do this!)
What are contradictions in the will
term used to refer to maxims that must be objectionable to all rational people, since to act on them would be to act against own interests e.g. “Lie when it is convenient to do so”, “Take what you want”.
He believed that the summum bonum (highest good) would be achieved when two different ends were brought together i.e. good and wellbeing
What is good and what is wellbeing
Good = moral goodness/righteousness; wellbeing = contentment
When is a person truly moral
A person is truly moral when they are both good and happy i.e. happy that they live a praiseworthy life.
When did Kant conclude the Summum Bonum was reached and why then?
• Most people do not manage to be entirely happy about being good (if they manage that!) in this life. Kant argued, therefore, that the summum bonum is not reached until after death when happiness and moral goodness will work in tandem
What form would the hypothetical imperative take, what is the problem with it?
If you want to lose weight then you should eat less’. What follows the ‘then’ is the imperative. BUT - nothing absolute/categorical about it: eating less is not something good without qualification but only if you want to achieve the hypothetical end (of losing weight)
What type of good could you say eating less is in regard to losing weight?
An instrumental good i.e. it is good in that it will allow another end to be achieved
What isn't the categorical imperative concerned with?
What does the categorical imperative deal with?
something that is an intrinsic good e.g. don’t steal, don’t tell lies
What is part of our experience of moral obligation
what we feel we ought or ought not to do
How can you test for a categorical imperative?
ask if it could be universalised i.e. if you would be prepared for everyone to act in this way at all times
How could the Categorical Imperative be formulated?
Believed it could be formulated in 3 different ways: universalisability; do not treat humans as means to an end only as an end in themselves; act as if you were a member of a society of a kingdom of ends
Kant quote on 1st formulation
“Act only according to a maxim that you can at the same time want to become a universal law”
What is the basic summary of the first formulation
Only do something if you are prepared for everyone else to do it as well. NOTE: this formulation gives no content to morality; does not spell out detail of moral obligations; merely argues that for moral obligations to be genuine they must satisfy the test of being universalized!
What is the role of reason
The role of reason is to distinguish right maxims from wrong ones
What were Kant's examples of things that should/ shouldn't be universalised?
Committing suicide; Promise-keeping; Using gifts/talents; Contributing to another’s wellbeing
Kant quote on 2nd formulation
“Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.”
Basic summary of 2nd formulation
Every individual must be treated as an end in themselves and never just as a means to an end; To use anyone as a means to an end is an attack on their autonomy i.e. rule/authority over their own life
How does the 2nd formulation view everyone?
As equals- everyone is worth EXACTLY THE SAME
3rd formulation Kant quote
"Act as if you were a law making member of a Kingdom of Ends”.
What does the 3rd formulation do?
This combines and reiterates the other two. Act as if every other person is an ‘end’ i.e. a free autonomous agent
What does it mean to be an autonomous person?
This means they have the ability to understand appropriate moral maxims and follow them.
Why must reason's laws apply to everyone?
Reason is impartial and so its principles must apply to everyone i.e. the laws made are universal
Just as space, time & causality are built in to structures of the mind, similarly do we experience an inbuilt sense of moral obligation. Feel that we ‘ought’ to behave in certain ways
What did the inner sense of moral obligation imply?
Freedom, existence of God, immortality
Why does ought imply freedom?
to feel an ‘ought’ implies a choice is available. People are free to choose whether they obey the ‘ought’ or not
Why does ought imply existence of God
felt sense of obligation carries implication that world would be better place if obligation met. God’s existence becomes necessary as only being who can He ensure that obeying the ‘ought’ will eventually lead to fulfillment/happiness.
Why does ought imply immortality?
necessary so that the good a person seeks may eventually be achieved, even if it can’t be achieved in this life.
What are the three ideas derived from the inner sense of moral obligation called?
necessary postulates of the moral law - they are implied in the human sense of moral obligation.