The Problem of Morality Kantian ethics Problems with

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The Problem of Morality Kantian ethics

The Problem of Morality Kantian ethics

Problems with utilitarianism Utilitarianism cannot explain examples like cutting-one-to-save-five. It cannot explain why we

Problems with utilitarianism Utilitarianism cannot explain examples like cutting-one-to-save-five. It cannot explain why we morally praise real moral behavior (real honesty against hypocrite). Kant’s theory tries to avoid these problems.

 Immanuel Kant (1724 -1804) is regarded as one of the most brilliant intellects

Immanuel Kant (1724 -1804) is regarded as one of the most brilliant intellects of all time but he is also regarded as one of the most difficult of all philosophers to read. Kant spent his whole life in a small town of Königsberg in the Eastern Prussia. When he was 16 years old (in 1740), he entered the University of Königsberg. After he completed his university courses, he spent 8 years as a family tutor. • WHEN HE WAS 46 (1770), HE WAS APPOINTED TO THE CHAIR OF PHILOSOPHY. HE TAUGHT LOGIC AND PHILOSOPHY AT THEUNIVERSITY. • HE SCHEDULED HIS ACTIVITY WITH SUCH PRECISION THAT NEIGHBORS COULD SET UP THEIR CLOCKS WHEN HE STEPPED OUT OF HIS HOUSE AT 4: 30 TO WALK UP AND DOWN HIS AVENUE 8 TIMES.

 • Kant lived in the Prussian city Königsberg his entire life. He never

• Kant lived in the Prussian city Königsberg his entire life. He never traveled, and is famous for his methodic and rigorous lifestyle and high work ethics. He would begin his lecture-schedule seven o’clock in the morning (and was so popular with students that they had to arrive an hour early to secure themselves a seat). As he raised to fame, scholars from all over Europe would travel to Königsberg to see him lecturing. It is said that the lectures that preceded the work we are reading, Grounding of a Metaphysics of Morals, were so gripping to the audience that they felt they were listening to a revelation. • After work, Kant would have his famous afternoon walk, being so punctual about this exercise that the German writer Heinrich Heine once quipped that the wives of Königsberg adjusted their clocks after him passing by. • Kant was never married; nor did he have – as far as we know – any kind of romantic relationship. This methodic, monotonous, and rigorous life might indicate a rather dry personality, but apparently he was not. Anecdote has is that Kant was an entertaining, engaging, and witty conversationalist. He seems to have been popular as a guest in the better society, and seems to have had a good sense of humor – although we admittedly do not find much humor in his philosophical work.

 • • HE HAS DEALT WITH ALMOST ALL ASPECTS OF PHILOSOPHY AND EVEN

• • HE HAS DEALT WITH ALMOST ALL ASPECTS OF PHILOSOPHY AND EVEN SCIENCE. HIS THREE SO-CALLED “CRITIQUES” – CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON (1781), CRITIQUE OF PRACTICAL REASON (1788), AND CRITIQUE OF JUDGMENT (1795) – DEAL RESPECTIVELY WITH THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT BRANCHES OF PHILOSOPHY: KNOWLEDGE/MIND, ETHICS/MORALS, AND AESTHETICS. KANT’S FIRST MAJOR TREATISE ON ETHICS IS THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE METAPHYSICS OF MORALS (GROUNDWORK OF THE METAPHYSICS OF MORALS) (1785). • BESIDES THESE WORKS, HE WROTE IMPORTANT TREATISES ABOUT PHYSICS, ASTRONOMY, LOGIC, RELIGION, ANTHROPOLOGY, POLITICS, AND EDUCATION.

I. The Good Will When we explain a person’s behavior, such as bringing an

I. The Good Will When we explain a person’s behavior, such as bringing an umbrella, we take his desire into account as well as his beliefs. We also have to consider whether to act on a desire because in many cases we need to resist the desire (to take drugs for example) and not act to satisfy it. In that case, we are talking about “will power. ” We can say that a person who successfully resists the temptation of desire has will power. The person who doesn’t lacks will power. We should evaluate our desires with our reason.

1. What is a good will? What is it like to act with a

1. What is a good will? What is it like to act with a good will? The good will is a good intention to do the morally right thing. To have a good will is to act out of respect for moral law or to act from duty. To have a good will is not to act from inclination. Nelson: “A person who acts with a good will, a person whose actions have unconditional worth, is a person who endeavors to do what is right, just because it is required by the moral law. ”

2. A good will is good for its own sake. According to Kant, nothing

2. A good will is good for its own sake. According to Kant, nothing is “good without qualification, ” except for “a good will. ” Happiness cannot be good for its own sake because it cannot always make an act good. For instance, if a killer got pleasure (happiness) from his murdering, it cannot make his act better. Similarly, intelligence, reasoning correctly, courage, cannot make an act good or bad. Only can the good will do. The problem is that not all well-intended act is morally right.

II. Hypothetical and categorical imperatives Any human act implies some principle. Kant calls it

II. Hypothetical and categorical imperatives Any human act implies some principle. Kant calls it “Maxim. ” Moral principles can be viewed as imperatives. For instance, “Never lie” is an imperative. 1. Imperatives: something ought to be done or it would be good to do it.

2. Hypothetical imperatives The imperative is hypothetical if the action is good only as

2. Hypothetical imperatives The imperative is hypothetical if the action is good only as a means to something else. For instance, “If doing A promotes happiness of society, then doing A” or “attend class regularly if you want to get an A with this course. ” Thus, a hypothetical imperative is the one that should be obeyed under certain conditions.

3. Categorical imperatives The imperative is categorical if the act is good for its

3. Categorical imperatives The imperative is categorical if the act is good for its own sake. Thus, a categorical imperative is the one that must be obeyed under all conditions. According to Kant, all moral principles are categorical imperatives. Thus, his theory of morality is known as the Categorical Imperative. There are two formulations of the Categorical Imperative.

III. The first formulation of the Categorical Imperative The relation between his theory of

III. The first formulation of the Categorical Imperative The relation between his theory of the good will and his theory of the first formulation of the categorical imperative is that the will provides the motive and the motive for a rational being should be a maxim or principle. The theory of the categorical imperative will provide a theory of how we can determine a principle is appropriate.

1. First formulation According to Kant, if it is morally permissible for someone to

1. First formulation According to Kant, if it is morally permissible for someone to perform a certain action in a certain situation, then it is morally permissible for anyone else to perform that action in a similar situation. Here is his first formulation: Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

 Whenever you act, you act on some maxim or principle. Whether your act

Whenever you act, you act on some maxim or principle. Whether your act is morally right or not depends on whether the maxim or principle you act on is universalizable or reversible.

2. Universalizability criterion A principle is universalizable if everyone could act on it. Not

2. Universalizability criterion A principle is universalizable if everyone could act on it. Not all principles are universalizable. For example: Borrow money on the basis of a false promise whenever you need it. Whenever I need money and have to lie, I can borrow money on a false promise. (Maxim) Whenever anyone needs money and has to lie, he or she can borrow money on a false promise. (General principle)

 Why can this principle not be universalized? The reason is that it involves

Why can this principle not be universalized? The reason is that it involves a contradiction: on the one hand, it assumes that everyone will lend money on promises but on the other hand, it assumes everyone can break their promise whenever they feel like it. If everyone acted on it, no one could be trusted to pay back a loan and then no one would like to loan any money in the first place. Therefore, the principle above is not universalizable. Therefore, it is not morally permissible to act on that principle.

3. Reversibility criterion A principle is reversible if the agent who acts on that

3. Reversibility criterion A principle is reversible if the agent who acts on that principle would be willing to have everyone act on it. It is similar to the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ” Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and determine what is right to do.

 Difference between the reversibility criterion and the Golden Rule is that the former

Difference between the reversibility criterion and the Golden Rule is that the former focuses on the principles but the latter focuses on people involved. If you would be willing to have everyone act on that principle, it is reversible. Not every principle is reversible. For instance, cheating on the exam is not reversible because you do not want the others cheat on you. The case of the son-father may pass universalizability criterion but may not pass reversibility criterion.

 Thus, An according to the first formulation, act is morally right if and

Thus, An according to the first formulation, act is morally right if and only if everyone could act on the principle implied by that act, and the agent would be willing to have everyone act on it.

4. Advantages (1) Over utilitarianism: Kant’s theory can avoid the problems that utilitarianism has.

4. Advantages (1) Over utilitarianism: Kant’s theory can avoid the problems that utilitarianism has. For instance, according to utilitarianism, whenever the act can produce greater happiness, then killing, lying, and breaking a promise could be morally permissible or even required in some situations. Kant’s theory never sanctions such acts. (2) Kant’s theory fits our notion of justice (fairness of distribution and retribution), because according to the first formulation, as long as no one wants to be treated unfairly, unjust principles of distribution, etc. , are not reversible.

 If you slander another, you slander yourself, if you steal from another, you

If you slander another, you slander yourself, if you steal from another, you steal from yourself, if you kill another, you kill yourself. This can explain why Kant sanctioned capital punishment.

 When 5. Problems with the first formulation we apply the first formulation, it

When 5. Problems with the first formulation we apply the first formulation, it yields some incorrect results. (1) It makes some immoral acts become moral. Hare’s Nazi Fanatic: “Kill all the Jews” can pass the first formulation because it involves no contradiction (everyone can act on it and so it is universalizable), and if the Nazi fanatic were willing to have himself killed even if he were a Jew, the principle is reversible. Kant’s first formulation is too subjective. Anyone can make an immoral principle to pass the test by adding something to the antecedent like this: “the agent has such and such a genetic code (the agent’s genetic code). ”

 (2) It makes some innocent acts become immoral. Suppose someone does not want

(2) It makes some innocent acts become immoral. Suppose someone does not want to become a doctor. Obviously, he cannot will the maxim of not becoming a doctor be a universal law because he would not be willing to have everyone act on it. (3) Kantian ethics cannot explain exceptions of duties. There are no perfect duties. Every duty has exceptions.