Kant's Categorical Imperative

Kant's Categorical Imperative

Two things fill the mind with wonder and awe: the starry heavens above and the moral law within. Kants Categorical Imperative revision Immanuel Kant

The Enlightenment - a European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition Born 1724, Died 1804 (lived through three wars) An enlightenment philosopher from Prussia A creature of habit. Professor of Logic and Metaphysics. Interested in a priori knowledge.

Believed in an objective right and wrong based on reason. Famous works Critique of Pure Reason (1781). Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and the Critique of Practical Reason (1788) Key Belief We cannot know the world as it is in itself, only the world as it appears to us. Our minds are the key to understanding the world.

Duty & Kant Understanding what we mean by duty is essential to understanding Immanuel Kants ethical theory Kant believed in an objective right and wrong based on reason (i.e. not based on feelings) We should do the right thing just because it is right- our decisions should not be based on our feelings, emotions or desires We can work out what is the right thing for us to do in each situation through the use of reason Kants approach to ethics was deontological- morality is judged

on the will of the agents rather than the goals they achieved Morality is understood independently of human experience A priori The meaning of ideals like justice is: i. a priori, i.e. independent of and prior to human knowledge ii. transcends human experience. Kants ethics: i. Kant claimed statements can be either a priori or a posteriori

ii. However, Kant argued ethical statements have to be a priori iii. Kant rejects EMPIRICISM, the idea that morality can be found through observation. Statements can be either analytic or synthetic a. analytic saying something that is necessarily true E.g. All bachelors are unmarried We call this an a priori analytic statement b. Synthetic need to be tested before confirming they are true.

e.g. Jack is a butler. This statement is also a posteriori. So it is a posteriori synthetic. Kant claims that moral statements are: A PRIORI SYNTHETIC i.e. we cant prove what people should do by looking but through the use of reason therefore a priori moral statements can be right or wrong therefore synthetic.

Kantian Ethics: Key words Reason: Rationality which is universal and not clouded by emotion. Moral law within: An objective moral law that everyone is aware of. We have an obligation to obey it because it is the right thing to do. Good will: Is being selfless and the only pure motive for doing anything. Duty: Using your reason to do your duty for duties sake and no other motive.

Summum Bonum Kant maintained that humans seek an ultimate end called the supreme/highest good (Latin: summum bonum) A state in which human virtue and happiness are united. It is impossible for humans to achieve this during their lifetime Therefore there must be an afterlife and we must have immortal souls to succeed reaching this goal! Kant believed that God must exist to provide an opportunity for reaching the summum bonum. For Kant morality leads to God!

Where is God in Kantian Ethics? He talked about the summum bonum which he said it impossible to achieve in this lifetime This means his theory assumes immortality and Gods existence Kant said that morality led to God However, he said that our obligation to be moral is independent of religion Part of Kants approach to morality was that individuals should act as if there was a God but this is

not the same as saying that there is a God. Peter Vardy, The Puzzle of Ethics What are the Categorical and hypothetical imperatives? Hypothetical- based on if. For example, if the action is good only as a means to something else. (If you want to get good exam results, you have to revise!!) Categorical- based on must. If the action is good in itself then it is categorical. (I ought to work hard- regardless of the outcomes!!)

Imperatives Hypothetical Imperatives are not moral commands They do not apply to everyone They always begin with If You only need to obey them if you want to achieve a certain goalKant wanted moral absolutes- so he rejects hypothetical imperatives Categorical Imperatives- commands that should always be obeyedthey are universal!! They are based on an objective, a priori use of reason. TASK: Write 6 statements of your own- three of them should by hypothetical, and three should be categorical.

Categorical Imperative For Kant the categorical imperative contains no uncertainty or dependence on other factors. Quite simply it says: You should do this Here Kant has a universal principle that could apply to everyone at all times. Kant broke the categorical imperative down into smaller rules, which he called maxims to further define it Three Formulations of C.I.

1. Universal Formula- Act only according to that maxim by which you can will it should become universal law 2. Humanity Formula- 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. 3. Kingdom Formula- Universal kingdom of ends Kants understanding of Maxims Kant defines maxims as rules or principles

If the maxim can be universalised, then do it. If it cant, then dont Kants Three Maxims Test: Is it a categorical imperative or not? 1. Formula of the Law of Nature- Can the maxim be universalised? 2. Formula of ends in itself- Never treat human beings as ends in themselves 3. Formula of a Kingdom of Ends- Act as if you are a member of a universal kingdom of ends

Kants theory is both deontological (based on duty) and has teleological aspects (consequences ARE important, and summun bonum) Kants theory is non-naturalist Postulates of practical reason A presupposition, or assumption which you must have accepted in order to make sense of your moral choices. For Kant, the postulates of practical wisdom are God, freedom and immortality he

assumes God exists, we are free to make our own more choices, and that there is an afterlife. The GOOD WILL shines forth like a precious jewel (Kant) Sole intrinsic good No need of qualification Autonomy Freedom of will

Based on Reason Motive of duty Duty for dutys sake The Good Will chooses to follow the moral law BECAUSE IT IS THE MORAL LAW. TASK: In pairs, split the statements so you have five each. Create a poster to explain the 5 statements you have- 20 words max 1. Kant believed knowledge was a priori as a posteriori knowledge can be

wrong 2. He thought ethics should also be a priori and aimed to establish a universal moral law 3. The only thing which is universal is rationality and therefore reason should be the basis of morality 4. Reason excludes emotions and desires: therefore these have nothing to do with morality 5. You cannot know the consequences of an action: only the motives 6. The only motive which is not subject to abuse or wrongdoing is good will this means doing duty for dutys sake 7. Any other motive is irrelevant to ethics and should be disregarded 8. There will be a reward in the afterlife: the moral law within us suggests a

God exists and that justice will be done, but not in this life. 9. This is called the summum bonum but must not be our motive for good action 10.In order for an action to be moral you must have made the choice: without this you do not have the correct intention of duty for dutys sake. Place the

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