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Transcript of Kant 2015
"A good will is good not because of what it effects or accomplishes, nor because of its fitness to attain some proposed end [teleological]; it is good only through its willing, i.e. good in itself...
The Categorical Imperative
Through the categorical imperative, Kant seems to deny any consequentialist role to his theory.
This means that the end is not to be considered; only what is right.
Our duties (remember that this is duty bound morality) then lie in respecting this moral law, even if it leads to bad effects rather than good ones.
This comes about through REASON.
What makes an action wrong then is not the bad it produces but something else, as in the kind of action it is.
Reason and rationality:
For Kant, reason is what makes us capable of morals to begin with; animals have no reason and therefore no morals.
Morality holds not just for our people, our time, but for all time, to all rational creatures.
Four Principles of Medical (bio) ethics
Respect for autonomy
Hypothetical is contingent and begins often with an if, as in "If you want to stay, be polite"
Categorical Imperative binds
us no matter our desires; it is
an imperative, a command, and is "objectively necessary of itself, without reference to another end."
Same for the right. What makes it right
is not its end result, but instead its
impetus, its imperative.
Morality is unconditional and not dependent on our desires.
Emotions however are not bad; when calculating morals they simply have no moral "worth."
"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."
The Categorical Imperative can be tested in two ways;
"the Contradiction in Conception"
"the Contradiction in Will."
The "Contradiction in Conception" describes self-contradictory maxims.
We cannot will the universality of lying because a lying society always contradicts itself
The "Contradiction in the Will" describes maxims which result in states which no rational being would want to exist in.
The Formula of the End in Itself
Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means.
"How" we act is where the "right" comes from, not the end effect.
It is an imperative, a command, that every
being must accept.
Before committing any act, we must ask ourselves "What principle (maxim) governs this act?" and further, "Would a world governed by this principle be a consistent world?"
Our government, our society, the U.N. are governed in many ways by this idea of the "principle."
A good will is different than a mood; it is not a "feeling" of good. A good will is it's own force, and lies, for Kant, in the "
principle of the will without regard for the ends that can be brought about by such an action.
By categorical is meant explicit. Not what the action is and what the result will be (that would be hypothetical or contingent) but "
from the form and principle from which the action itself follows."
"The categorical imperative acts in such a way that it is itself of necessity, that an action is of itself evil, and not evil because it might result in another outcome."
Did you act the way you did because you were seeking something else, a reward perhaps or recognition? Or did you act because, as you formulated it, the act itself was right (to and only to itself.)
Whenever we act intentionally, we have at least one maxim and can, if we reflect, state what it is.
To use someone as
is to involve them in a scheme of action to which
they could not in principle consent.
Mere Means &
In contemporary times, the principle of
is a modern Kantian ethic.
In analyzing business or political rights, a version of Deontological ethics is called
This view seeks to justify principles of justice by showing that these are principles which would be accepted or agreed to by persons who are not
instrumentally rational but can use certain reasonable procedures.
The Importance of the Purity of Motive
Ends in themselves—treating stakeholders as persons
Kingdom of ends—the firm as a moral community
Kant in the Real World
In the field of bio-ethics, this is seen in the quandry over euthanasia and the right to life.
Morality can't simply rest on the wants, desires, and preferences of ordinary people.
So what is freedom?
For Kant, when we merely seek pleasure and the avoidance of pain,
we are acting as slaves to our desires
, like mere animals.
To act freely is to act
Away from the demands on our desires, cravings, aversions and fears. It is to act
dependently, not relative to something other than my
reasonable and rational
acting independently or having the freedom to do so
When we act
everything we do is in
to something else,
A good will is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes…it is good in itself, whether or not it prevails. Even if…this will is entirely lacking in power to carry out its intentions; if by it utmost effort it still accomplishes nothing…even then it would still
for its own sake as something which has its full value in itself.
In our contemporary world, are we ever
acting in accordance with one's desires rather than reason or moral duty.
Freedom (and thereby morality), to Kant is the
to act beyond external thirsts and hungers, desires and even needs.
means, or refers to duty...
of its own accord
The idea of the
to Kant is
important; is a child rational, is an insane
person rational? Can you ask a child to make
—Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
Whereas recognition of the
and of the
of all members of the human family
foundation of freedom
in the world,
disregard and contempt for human rights
have resulted in barbarous acts which have
conscience of mankind
, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy
freedom of speech
freedom from fear
has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that
human rights should be protected
by the rule of law...
We hold these
, that all men are created
, that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable Rights
, that among these are
the pursuit of Happiness
secure these rights
, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the
Right of the People
to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its
and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their
—Declaration of Independence, 1776
Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.
—Jean Jacques Rousseau
It remains a constant, though we—our moods, our loves, desires, etc.,—never do...
—United Nations Charter on Human Rights, 1948
of an action, then, is to be judged not by its
but by the
nature of the maxim
or principle (think rule) that motivated the action.
are not necessarily those with a "good" or favorable outcome; rather a right action is in accordance with
The difficulty lies then in finding the "correct" thing to do...
According to Kant, the only
maxims are those that can be made into
, that is, laws which are
applicable to any people in any epoch.
from the world of
How do we
Not through commandment, nor laws but through something more permanent, more imperative.
Desire then is what imprisons us.
How do we step out of it?
Only what is connected with my
will merely as ground and never as effect
, what does not serve my inclination but outweighs it it or at least excludes it altogether from calculations in making a choice—hence the mere law for itself—
can be an object of respect and so a command.
"Duty is the necessity of an action from respect for law."
If the action is represented as in itself good...as its principle, then it is categorical.
Now, if the action would be good merely as a means to something else, the imperative is hypothetical;
"Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means."
"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
The Two Formulations
The Debate over
Kant's Argument Over Suicide
The principle behind suicide might be that whenever continuing to live will bring me more pain than pleasure, I shall commit suicide out of self-love.
Can this be a universal law?
If it cannot be a universal law, then no one can
it as a universal law.
An act is right if an only if the agent doing it can consistently
that the action be a universal law.
Therefore, suicide is not ethically right.
Suicide is wrong in and of itself even for the ill
It is incompatible with the healing goals of medicine given appropriate palliative care, it is unnecessary
Requests for death are induced by poor care and/or unrecognized psychological needs
The practice damages physicians by desensitizing them to human needs
It leads down a slippery slope to indiscriminate killing of the ill, weak, and disabled, among others
Standard Arguments against Physician-Assisted Suicide
Standard Arguments in favor of Physician-Assisted Suicide
It protects people who do not want to suffer lingering, painful deaths
It is in keeping with respect for patient autonomy
It is defensible as policy because it respects social diversity
It protects against physician paternalism and unwanted treatment
It protects against debilitating conditions not easily managed by medicine
The state has no interesting in forcing the prolongation of life of someone in pain who wants to die
Mr. Giovanni Mangioni, 81, has Alzheimer's disease and has lived in the same nursing home for the past 7 years. At this point he can no longer talk or walk, is incontinent of urine, and requires round-the-clock nursing care. Because of his general neurological dysfunction, he has virtually stopped eating and has begun to lose a significant amount of weight. The staff at the nursing home make the decision to feed him by inserting a thin, nasogastric tube known as a Dobhoff. Most patients tolerate this type of tube quite well, but a few find it quite uncomfortable. Whenever this tube is inserted in him, Mr. Mangioni repeatedly and vigorously attempts to pull it out, and he is usually successful. As a result, he is physically restrained and his hands are covered with mittens. He subsequently groans and struggles constantly against the restraints. Finally, a tube is surgically placed through his skin into his stomach (a gastrostomy tube) in the hope that he would be more comfortable and not require any kind of restraint. Unfortunately, he also dislodges that tubing.
Mr. Mangioni has no known family or friends. Faced with the challenges of caring for him, the health care team begins to think that they should no longer attempt to replace the tubing and that he should be allowed to die.
Case for Discussion
Time for an End to Treatment?
Coercion: The act of restraining or controlling by force, or some other means
Deception: a false trap or trick meant to control someone.
Kant Believes that we are rational beings,
and that moral duties are themselves requirements of rationality.
Requirements of Rationality:
Do not hold contradictory beliefs
Form beliefs according to evidence
In other words, we are rational beings and rational beings do not hold contradictory beliefs; to believe otherwise is to be irrational.
I can't believe that
today is Friday,
that I have arranged to have a date tonight with a friend, and that
I am free tonight.
One of these must be false—I
believe all of them. (I may be mistaken however, but thinking through each scenario
will show me the error.)
This could also be called:
The Law of Non-contradiction
Whereby contradictory statements cannot be both true and not true at the same time and place, i.e., if
cannot also not
Kant believes we can say the same thing about morality.
Moral requirements are just rational requirements.
They can be stated as
Keep Your Promises
Don't commit murder!
Do Not Lie!
Moral requirements cannot be hypothetical imperatives;
moral requirements apply to everyone, inescapably
. Moral requirements must therefor be
This is an issue of
Kant asserts that we must never treat a human being as mere means, but only ever at the same time as an end.
This means, we must never just use someone, but we must respect that they have, by being human, a SPECIAL DIGNITY which is unique and inherent
To find the "correct" or "right" thing (a permissable action) Kant proposed using the
. This can be stated in at least two ways:
Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.
Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.
For Kant, the way we come to attain knowledge of the Categorical Imperative through what he calls a "
here means something akin to
here means a
rather than a criminal law.
is a virtue which is intrinsically good, not good for something else.
Other virtues (like strength or wisdom) are good only in relation to other things (as they may be used to do good things or bad).
of its external relations.
Respect for the rights of a person to rationally (freely and independently) choose for themselves what life they will lead.
Law here means "natural law", or a law which is
, and has nothing to do with civil law.
A civil law may be a bad thing (think Jim Crow), but the law that Kant (and the U.N Declaration) are describing
is—rather, it is based on a being's ability to
freely and independently
(rationally) come to an absolute truth.
free & autonomous?
—The Universal Declaration on Human Rights
For Emmanuel Kant,
If the answer is
to either of these actions, then I may not perform the action; Kant believes that these questions are equivalent.
(ii) Does my action respect the goals of human beings rather than merely using them for my own purposes?
(i) Can I rationally will that everyone act as I propose to act?
For Kantians, there are two questions that we must ask ourselves whenever we decide to act:
According to Kant's theory, the
of actions does not depend on their consequences but on whether
they fulfill our duty
Kant believed that there was a supreme principle of morality, and he referred to it as
The Categorical Imperative
The Categorical Imperative
what our moral duties are.
An imperative is a command.
Pay your taxes!
" is an imperative, as are "
Stop kicking me!
" and "
Don't kill animals!
Morality must be based on
the categorical imperative
because morality is such that
you are commanded by it
, and is such that you
opt out of it or
that it does not apply to you.
pg.102, Exploring Ethics
"All imperatives command either hypothetically or categorically...if the action would be good only as a means to something else, the imperative is hypothetical; if the action is thought of as good in itself and therefore as necessary for a will which of itself conforms to reason as its principle, then the imperative is categorical..."
"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law."
Crudely, this states that we must always act according to a principle which, if adopted by everyone, would result in a better world and not a worse one.
How I act in a rational world must be able to be universalized; if I can't universalize it, it is impermissable; if I can, then it is permissable.
"Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end."
This special dignity must be respected at all times, as a universal, absolute right.
Kant argues that a person is good or bad depending on the
of their actions and not on the
goodness of the consequences
of those actions.
We are able to act "in a right way" only if we are
(i.e., is good for itself without reference to another.)
If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs.
Approaches to a changing world....
if we feel intimately united with all that exists,
then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. [This is] no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.
As examples, I will point to the
between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that
everything in the world is connected
critique of new paradigms
and forms of power derived from technology, the call
to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress
value proper to each creature
human meaning of ecology
, the need for
forthright and honest debate
of international and local policy, the
the proposal of a new lifestyle.
We can only find the right thing when we are
to exercise our
, and not captured by selfish desires.
An action is not judged by what it does, by its consequences; it is judged by the
, the maxim, which stems (always) from
an application of
the two formulations of the
These are not mere prescriptions; they are what you
understand to be right.
"Let us remember the Golden Rule:
"Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Done Onto You."
"This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us."
Though deeply conservative, Kant begins to think in an age of
Law in this case comes after rights, and is there to protect one's inalienable rights against infringement.
...It is to be treasured as incomparably higher than anything it could ever bring about in order to satisfy some inclination..."
—Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals