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Kantian Ethics

Kantian Ethics

Slides for an Introduction to Philosophy course at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada. These slides discuss the first form of the Categorical Imperative as well as Kant's notion of the "good will.

Philosophy
Kant
Ethics

Christina Hendricks

February 26, 2018
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  1. Immanuel Kant’s ethics
    Philosophy 102, Christina Hendricks
    Spring 2018
    Except parts noted otherwise, this presentation is licensed CC-BY 4.0.
    Icons not attributed were purchased from The Noun Project.

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  2. Moral scenarios from Mill doc
    • Breaking a deathbed promise to
    a friend for sake of greater
    happiness
    • A company donating to charity
    because they want more
    business

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  3. A little about Kant
    o Kant: 1724-1804
    • Mill: 1806-1873
    o Königsberg, Prussia
    • now Kaliningrad, Russia
    Painting of Kant by Becker, 1768,
    public domain on Wikimedia Commons
    Map of Kaliningrad, licensed CC BY-SA 3.0
    on Wikimedia Commons

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  4. The fundamental principle of
    morality
    How you determine which actions are morally right

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  5. Mill’s fundamental principle of morality
    GHP:
    Are acts sometimes morally good even regardless of consequences?
    If so, what might their moral goodness be based on?
    Good consequences: happiness
    Acts are right
    because

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  6. Kant’s fundamental principle of morality
    The “Categorical Imperative”
    Several forms (we’ll look at two)
    First form, CI(1):
    o Act only in such a way that you could will your maxim to be a
    universal law (Kant, Early Modern Texts, p. 4)
    o “An act is morally acceptable if, and only if, its maxim is
    universalizable” (Schafer-Landau, p. 157)

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  7. What is a maxim?
    A kind of rule you’re following
    1. What you intend to do
    2. Why you will do it; your
    reason for doing it
    Maxim for
    my action

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  8. Example of a maxim
    “When I could make a false
    promise to get myself out of
    difficulty, to avoid harm to
    myself, I will do so.”
    -- e.g., gambling debt
    Your view on morality of this?
    Lying promise
    maxim

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  9. Is this maxim universalizable?
    Ask:
    Can the goal of my action be
    achieved if everyone acted on
    my maxim?
    Lying promise example: No!
    (Kant, Early Modern Texts p. 5)
    Lying
    promise
    Lying
    promise
    Lying
    promise

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  10. Why does universalizability matter?
    Unfairness:
    • If maxim can’t be universalized, you are doing
    what couldn’t will others to also do; you are
    unfairly making an exception for yourself (Schafer-
    Landau p. 161)
    Inconsistency:
    • If you have a good reason to do something, it
    should be good for all; if you can’t will it for all,
    then you’re being inconsistent in saying it’s a good
    reason for you but not for others.

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  11. How to tell what’s morally right?
    Use the fundamental principle of morality:
    oCategorical Imperative; CI (1): can you universalize the
    maxim?
    oImportant because of fairness and consistency
    How do we act morally rightly?
    oAct with a “good will”

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  12. How do we act morally rightly?
    Don’t just do what the Categorical Imperative requires, but do it in the right way

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  13. Unconditional good
    Is there anything
    unconditionally good?
    • good in itself and in all
    circumstances, never bad?
    (Kant text p. 1)
    What about happiness?
    Only a “good will”…
    Children image from pixabay.com, licensed CC0

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  14. A good will
    • Intending to do the morally right thing, because it’s morally right
    oIntention: to do what morality says, to do your moral duty
    oMotive: because that’s your moral duty
    • Always good; can never be bad (even
    if bad consequences)
    • This puts morality in our control;
    consequences out of our control
    (Schafer-Landau 159)

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  15. Acting from duty/merely according to duty
    • Acting from duty: because that is the morally right thing
    • Acting merely according to duty: doing the right thing but for
    some other reason/motive
    Kant pp. 2-3

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  16. Some questions that may be coming up
    • Why is it important to act from
    the motive of duty?
    • Is Kant saying we can only be
    acting morally if we dislike
    doing our duty but do it
    anyway?
    No! Morally good!

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  17. One more question
    Are acts done merely
    according to duty
    morally wrong?
    No!
    They just aren’t morally
    praiseworthy in the
    same way
    Morally
    wrong?

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  18. Some differences from Mill
    Not consequentialist
    o
    Focus is on intention and motive—
    good will is good even if bad
    consequences
    Happiness is not the highest good, the
    most good thing
    oInstead, it’s a “good will”

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  19. Summary so far
    How do we tell what acts are morally right?
    • Use the fundamental principle of morality, the Categorical
    Imperative (several forms)
    • CI (1): can you universalize the maxim?
    How do we act morally well?
    • A good will: do your moral duty, from the motive of duty (act
    from duty, not merely according to duty)

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  20. Categorical and hypothetical
    imperatives
    Why is Kant’s fundamental principle called the “categorical imperative”?

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  21. Hypothetical imperatives
    Statements about what you ought to do if you want something
    else (if-then statements):
    If you want then you should
    goal action(s)
    Stop
    smoking
    Avoid lung
    disease
    Only required if
    you want the
    goal!
    (Schafer-Landau 162)

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  22. Hypothetical imperatives, cont’d
    Actions recommended are good only instrumentally, as a
    means to something else (Kant 6).
    Action good
    b/c goal is
    good: you
    want the goal
    Action Goal

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  23. Categorical imperatives
    Tell you what to do just because it’s intrinsically good, good in
    itself, not because it leads to some other goal (Kant 6).
    Action good
    in itself
    What actions could be intrinsically good, always
    good no matter what else they lead to?

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  24. Moral rules are categorical imperatives
    Apply to everyone (not just those
    who want certain goals)
    Strong obligation: outweighs our
    individual desires, goals
    Why is Kant’s fundamental moral
    principle the categorical
    imperative?
    Africa & Europe from a million miles away, image by NASA.
    Not copyright restricted.

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  25. Applying the CI (1): Kant’s
    examples
    Universalizing the maxim for each one leads to a contradiction of some kind

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  26. Suicide, lying promise examples
    Suicide maxim: "For love of
    myself, I make it my principle to
    cut my life short when
    prolonging it threatens to bring
    more troubles than
    satisfactions." (Kant 7)
    ocontradictory to use the feeling of
    self-love to destroy that self
    “When I can make a
    false promise to get
    myself out of
    difficulty I will do so.”
    Contradiction?

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  27. Developing talents
    • I will not develop my talents
    because I want to just indulge
    myself in pleasure (Kant 7)
    • Contradiction if universalized:
    willing both that no one
    develop talents and that people
    do so:
    o we need people to develop
    talents to get many things done,
    including what’s needed for
    pleasure
    Photo by Anthony de Kroon on Unsplash

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  28. Helping others
    • I will not help others when they are in
    need, even if I have the means to do so,
    because I want to keep my money and time
    to myself.
    • Contradiction if universalized: willing both
    that no one help others and that someone
    help you when you need it (Kant 8).
    o we require some things to continue to exist as
    rational beings and so must will we get help
    with those when needed.

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  29. Overall summary
    • CI (1): how to tell if an act is morally right is to see if its maxim
    can be universalized
    o Is the goal of the action still achievable?
    o Is there a contradiction if the maxim is universalized?
    o Kant gives four examples to illustrate.
    • In order to be acting morally well, we not only have to act
    according to what the categorical imperative says, we have to
    do so with a good will:
    o Do our moral duty, from the motive of duty.

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