Immanuel Kant

Rule Deontological Ethics

Immanuel Kant
  1. The Foundations of Deontological Ethics -

    1. The Attempted Reconciliation of Rationalism and Empiricism

      1. Knowledge comes from empirical experience, but
      2. The mind imposes organizational categories on its experiences

    2. Duties and Rules -

      1. obligations ("I ought to do x.") arise from practical reason -

      2. since moral laws imply universal obligations they must be derived through reason alone

    3. The Will and Reason -

      1. The only thing good in-itself is a Good Will

        "A good will is good not because of what it performs or effects, not by its aptness for the attainment of some proposed end, but simply by virtue of the volition. . ."

        1. the Good Will
        2. the Neutral Will
        3. the Bad Will

        The good will chooses or wills to act in accordance with obligation according to its own nature, not in accordance with what it receives; the neutral will acts in accordance with whatever is beneficial, sometimes doing right sometimes wrong; the bad will acts against obligations. So how does the good will know to ignore benefit and act on its own nature? It is guided by reason.

      2. Reason is the necessary guide of the Will -
    • P1. Nature only chooses the best designed faculties for any purpose
    • P2. If happiness were Nature's objective it would have made the will instinctively guided by the desire for happiness
    • P3. Nature has, in fact, equipped us with the practical (i.e., will ordering) factual of reason which does not always choose happiness.
    • C. Therefore, it must be the case that Nature chose Reason to guide the will for some purpose other than securing happiness.
  2. Three Basic Moral Propositions -

    1. The rightness of an action is derived from the obligation or duty which motivated the action.

      We can call an action 'right' only if it is an action we do out of obligation.

    2. The rightness of an obligatory action is derived from the rational principle (i.e., maxim) which prescribes it.

      We can call duties 'right' only because they are determined by reason alone, not by the consequences which follow from the action.

    3. Duty or obligation is the rational necessity of acting out of respect for law.

      We can call an action a 'duty' only if it is an action performed because we understand (via reason) we ought to do it (i.e., that it is a law). Morality thus consists in recognizing and obeying laws, which is only possible for a rational creature.

  3. The Categorical Imperative -

    1. The Distinction between Hypothetical and Categorical Imperatives

      1. Hypothetical - an action is necessary to achieve some end

      2. Categorical - an action is objectively necessary in-itself

    2. Three Formulations of the Categorical Imperative:

      1. Always act according to a moral principle which you would desire to be a universal law.


      Note: Kant includes four useful examples -

      • Suicide
      • The lying promise
      • The undeveloped talent
      • Disinterested prosperity

    1. Always treat persons, whether yourself or others, as ends in themselves (never as means to an end).

    2. The will of every moral (i.e., rational) agent can be conceived as a universal legislature.


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PHI 105 Page | Notes Index