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Kant & W.D. Ross

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Dominique Bourdon

on 17 April 2015

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Transcript of Kant & W.D. Ross

Kant's Deontology
from modernity
Ross (1877-1971) England
Incorporated aspects of
aspects of Kantian deontology w/ utilitarian philosophy (which we will discuss later)
Though he introduces
the (newer) concept of human INTUITIONISM
Ross' Incorporation of Kantian Deontology:
We are supplied with certain moral rules
& duties to which we must abide...
It is never the consequence
of some action that makes an action right
or good
Differences from Kantian Deontology:
Our moral rules & duties are never "perfect" duties, and thus can be broken at times
Our moral rules & duties stem from intuition - and not from reason alone...
Our "intuitive sense" stems from, and depends upon our early human-experience with the world of cruelty, lying, selfishness/compassion, reliability & generosity
Ross's Moral duties include
(but are not limited to)
duties of fidelity*
duties of reparation
duties of gratitude
duties of justice
duties of beneficence*
duties of self-improvement*
duties of non-maleficence*
(*) symbolizes similarities with Kant's
list of duties
Ross's Duty-Distinctions:
Prima facie duties: "one that dictates what
I should do when other relevant factors in
a situation are not considered (when nothing
interferes with, or conflicts with the situation
at first glance)."
Actual duties: "Simply what my real duty happens to be in a situation; it is the action,
after deliberation, that I ought to perform"
To distinguish Prima Facie from Actual Duties:
Use 2 Principles:
1) When there are two conflicting prima facie duties, "that act is one's duty which is in accord
with the more stringent prima facie obligation"
2) When there are MORE than two prima facie
obligations at stake, "that is one's duty which has
the greatest balance of prima facie rightness over prima facie wrongness"
Some Huge Assumptions:
Humans can (and will) make use of
some "moral perception" / intuition
when differentiating prima facie duties
from actual duties
Two people will have similar beliefs
about what is right and about what their duties are
Cultural relativism & seemingly
arbitrary deliberations render
Ross's theory weak in terms of:
1) accepting "universal" duties
--> some duties are present to
his list that should not be there
--> some duties are not present
that should be on his list
2) when disagreeing about one's
"actual duties" it does not matter:
to each his own...
Strengths of Ross's theory:

1) Ross' listed duties may serve as an important function in the moral education of professionals (physicians, researchers, teachers)

2) Ross' ethics, unlike Kant's ethics, encourages us to show sensitivity to unique situations (particular circumstances)
Natural Law & Ross's Ethics:
- Since natural law offers an explanation
for "moral intuition" Ross is able to support
his assumption that humans are capable of
moral perception
-Natural law theorists provide a potential solution for deciphering between potential
courses of action
Two Principles of Natural Law:
1) The principle of the Double Effect
"When the performance of an action
will produce both good & bad effects, an action should be performed only if the intention is to bring about the good effect and the bad effect will be an unintended or indirect consequence"

2) The principle of Totality
"An individual has a right to dispose of his/her organs or to destroy their
capacity to function only to the extent that the general well-being of
the whole body demands it
Fulfilling the 4 Conditions of the Double-Effect:
Page 887

Know Some Important Applications of Natural Law
Page 888-890

Understand the Assumptions of Natural law
Page 890-891
ABC News report on Alabama state laws prohibiting the sale and purchase of sex toys.
Categorical verses Hypothetical
hypotheticals posit: "IF this, THEN that" and necessarily require foresight into potential (either desired or undesired) outcomes

Ex: "
If you want a really yummy ice cream sundae, then go to Kimball's dairy farm
Ex: "
If you have a right to control your own body, then you reserve the right to decide to have an abortion

a categorical imperative has no "ifs" and does not look to the nature of any outcome - it is simply A COMMAND, A DUTY TO ACT in a defined way.

Ex: "

be honest in your dealings with others
Ex: "
always preserve your own life before someone else's

Kant's Given Categorical Imperative:
Kant gives us 1 command or sure principle w/which one is able to test his/her maxims.
His imperative is derived from his reason/rationality alone & is independent from emotion, pleasures, outside-authorities or religious doctrines!
It is unconditional; i.e., always & absolutely
holds, without the interference of "hypothetical"
situations, "ifs, and's or buts..."
is modeled after Sir Isaac Newton's 3 laws of physics (hence 3 ways of phrasing/expressing it)

Kant's 1 Categorical Imperative,
With 3 Ways of phrasing/expressing it:
"always act in such a way that you could
will that your act should be a universal law
"always treat persons as ends in themselves
and never as a means to our ends"
"all persons are entitled to be respected as
rational beings who are capable of knowing the
truths of morality and living by them; anyone who has that special capacity is a moral equal, a member of the kingdom of ends and (therefore) cannot be reduced to a mere means, merely a tool, for someone else's goals"

According to Kant, there are inconsistences and contradictions in our actions & our (animal like) desires & inclinations
Example: Page 74 - 2nd paragraph
Example: Page 75 towards bottom..."Given the exalted..."
Rational beings are to act in line with the
Imperative at all times
In this way, our every action involves a rule;
Our own personal rules or maxims sound a lot like this: "ALWAYS & WHENEVER I AM IN CIRCUMSTANCES LIKE THESE, I WILL...."
For a maxim to become a COMMAND, or IMPERATIVE, it MUST pass the TEST of the 3 phrasings of the categorical imperative
Testing a personal Maxim before Creating a New Rule for your Actions:
you must be willing to see your rule adopted as a maxim by everyone who is in a situation similar to yours (in order to fulfill the first phrasing)
you must be willing to confront contradictions; if your maxim creates logical contradictions, it cannot be formed into a rule
Suppose I try to generalize my maxim to become a universal law/rule; "whenever any physician has a healthy patient, she will lie to him and say he has an illness"

Every patient will be told that has has an illness. Trust in the diagnostic pronouncements of physicians will be destroyed - EVEN THOUGH -

My scheme DEPENDS on my patient's trust in me in their accepting the 'truth' of my (false) diagnostics

It's like willing 2 contradictory maxims: I am willing there to be a rule of truth-telling such that peple can assume that others are telling the truth, but there also be a rule that physicians may lie to their patients when it is in the interest of the physician to do so.

Im facing this logical contradiction, I must reject this maxim
Kant's Duties to resolve conflicting maxims
Kant creates a duty, a law, against lying for this very reason & he calls this duty a "PERFECT DUTY"
A perfect duty is one that always must be followed
Examples of his perfect duties include:
--> not making false promises, not to lie, steal or cheat
--> not to commit suicide, or cause great harms to oneself
Kant's Imperfect Duties:
Kant does allow for SOME circumstantial rules to be applied, saying that "if you create a maxim that is sound with the categorical imperative, but you could not reasonably EXIST in a constant state of performing that maxim/rule, it is still permissable to create a law out of it, but it is then not perfect."
This is an coined an IMPERFECT duty, one that you must follow WHEN you can
His examples include:
--> Adding to the general welfare of others by developing or contributing to their happiness
--> Self-improvement/develop one's talents
Perfect VS Imperfect:
When faced with a situation to choose, you must always perform your perfect duty before performing your imperfect duty!
Kant, who?
* Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from the modern period (1724-1804)

Deontology, what?
* "Deon" means duty
(in Greek of course)
* Deontology is the ethical view that moral value is determined by fulfilling one's duty.

* Deontologists, like Kant, seek to discover, with reason, those moral duties that all people in all situations should follow, regardless of the consequences.
Kant rejects inclinations and subjectivism!
- Subjective 'gut feelings' cannot serve as
one's moral guide because of inconsistency
- Kant supposes one ought to go beyond the everyday experienced feeling/inclination in search of a grounded, consistent, 'a priori' law of moral conduct
"A priori" refers to something that is PRIOR to EXPERIENCE, often used to describe a proposition, argument or value that we can be certain is true without relying upon empirical verification; in other words, it is something derived from pure reason.
Categorical Maxims = Moral laws, a.k.a.
When the 'will' successfully creates maxims (in complete accordance with reason) one has created a reasonable command; this provides us with the insight & authority to determine what we ALWAYS ought to do, before being confronted by a difficult moral scenario (IN THE SAME WAY THAT ISAAC NEWTON GAVE SCIENCE PREDICTABLE LAWS)
Scenario Example:
The general form of the trolley scenario is this: Person A (with shovel) can take an action which would benefit many people, but in doing so, person B (solo man) would be unfairly harmed. Under what circumstances would it be morally just for Person A to violate Person B's rights in order to benefit the group?
A "hypothetical imperative"
is a command that says an action is good for some purpose, and a person ought to follow it sometimes

Refers to the rules we create for ourselves when shaping our moral choices; a maxim is a moral "law" that is either hypothetical or categorical...
An a priori, hypothetical maxim may go something like this:
"If and when I am faced with an obligation
to protect one or more human lives, I ought to protect as many lives as possible, given that all persons are rational and autonomous beings."
Compare this to alternative principles!
<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/a4n5H3YxHuU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Absolute, WHY?

Some things are just "right" while some things are just "wrong," simply
From 1932-1972, experiments were conducted in Tuskegee, Alabama in which 390 poor & illiterate African American men who had syphilis were followed in order to determine the progress of the disease (whether it was always fatal & how it spread). In the 1972 the study ended & became a huge source of controversy: the men had not been treated with respect but had been used for the purpose of obtaining info.
According to utilitarian thinking, the Tuskegee experiments could have been justifiable; if the harms done to the participants was minimal, and if the knowledge gained was valuable in reducing overall suffering, it was "good."

Since the post-World War II trials of Nazi war criminals (in Nuremberg Germany), standards for treatment of human research subjects have been widely accepted; for instance, "the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential." Consent must be informed & un-coerced. Implied in this principle is the underlying belief that persons are autonomous, and this autonomy ought to be respected & protected even if this means that we cannot do certain types of research/discover certain things.
We hold certain things to be "self evident," such as...?
Morality "is not properly the doctrine of how we are to make ourselves happy but of how we are to become worthy of happiness." In different words, morality is not a "doctrine of happiness," or set of instructions on how to become happy; rather, morality is the "rational condition of happiness."
Terms to consider:
- Deontology/deontological ethics
-Established using
pure reason
-Established independently,
-By creating & testing our
for their
worth (using the
categorical imperative

To a large extent, his philosophy is a challenge for, and critique of utilitarianism (the other modern ethic)
A shopkeeper chooses, per her own will, to charge her customers a fair price & charges all persons the same fee.
Humans have control over their motives, rules & actions because they're autonomous...therefore, one must examine one's maxims AND motives:
1) her intentions may be self-serving; it may be in her best interest to do business in this manner.
2) her intention may be the result of sympathy; she's naturally inclined to do nice things for people because it makes her feel good.
3) she did the right thing because she judged it, using a priori reasoning, to be the right thing.
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