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Kantian Ethics

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Taylor Medley

on 5 December 2013

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Transcript of Kantian Ethics

Kantian Ethics
What is Kantian Ethics?
How do we know what maxims to follow?
Thought Experiment: Please turn to page 500.
Hypothetical imperative...what does this mean?
-A hypothetical imperative is a rule that tells us only what means to use to acheive a desired end
ie:"If you want good grades then study."
-basically predicting the outcome without any proof "if x then y"

Universality Maxim
Can not use someone as a means to an End
Kingdom of ends
What are Maxims
Categorical Imperative:
W.D. Ross
When do you have to follow these rules? Are there exceptions?
Kantian Ethics is a system for creating and determining which maxims should you follow in life.

Kant would say: ALWAYS and NO.
For example: The robber who asks where your family is.Kant believes you can be deceptive but cannot lie. In the case of the robber, Kant would just not say anything to the robber.
“For peace to reign on Earth, humans must evolve into new beings who have learned to see the whole first.”
― Attributed to Immanuel Kant
Imperative means: "Giving an authoritative command" -Oxford dictionary
Kantian ethics is a Deontological theory.
Deontological comes from the greek word "deont" meaning "being necessary" or "duty."
Title: Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals
is an authoritative command of what you should do ie: "Do X!", a moral command
. Kantian ethics itself is categorizing what authoritative commans you should follow.
1. Conformity to universal law:
"Act only according to that maxim by, which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."
- For example, "Whenever I'm in circumstances c, i will do x in order to achieve y."
-Principle for universalizibility :principle for choosing maxims that will establish our moral duties

John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, both advocates for utilitarianism; provide criticism for Kant's ethics. Mill criticized that Kant's theories did not make sense, saying "fails, almost
grotesquely,” to deduce any reliable moral duties from his abstract theory.
2. Persons as Ends in Themselves:
"Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only."
-basically.. we should value the other person soley for who they are and not merely use them to serve our own needs
-in daily life you cannot avoid this for example: paying a gardener for their services
Kant Ethics an Current Events

Autonomy maxim:
A will is not completely free, for it does follow some casual power without knowing, however, a
free will is not capable, unless you are a free agent.
The Free Will must be followed under a nature that ends within itself.
Human Value
“Nothing in the world – indeed nothing even beyond the world – can possibly be conceived which could be called good without qualification except the good will" Kant

the one thing in the world that has absolute, unqualified moral value

a person that has good will, acts from no motive other than the motive of doing what is right
treat every person as an end rather than a means to an end
accordance with duty
our external behavior conforms with what we ought to do
accordance from duty
the motive for acting is simply the desire to perform the action because it is right
Bentham and Mills were hedonists, believing
only pleasure had intrinsic value. They rejected Kant's ethics because it is based soley on our good will and our sense of duty. The lack of emotion and need for pleasure doesn't correlate with Mill's and Bentham's theories.
Russian born Ayn Rand, the writer of 'The Fountainhead' and 'Atlas Shrugged' and also a philosopher of objectivism (it was generally ignored or rejected completely) was not a supporter of Kant's theories. She states, “Kant’s version of morality . . . consisted of total, abject selflessness. An action is moral, said Kant [not a direct quotation], only if one has no desire to perform it, but performs it out of a sense of duty and derives no benefit from it of any sort, neither material nor spiritual; a benefit destroys the moral value of an action. (Thus, if one has no desire to be evil, one cannot be good; if one has, one can.)”
The Kingdom of Ends is a thought experiment . A Kingdom of Ends a theoretical place here rationality rules and emotions have no place. Each individual has the capacity to follow their own duty and make maxims. For such a thing to work, the maxims must be of absolute necessity.
Everyone within the kingdom of ends has the responsibilty (or duty) to make maxims that can be applied as universal laws. When the maxim becomes a universal law it is applied to ever 'citizien' of the kingdom of ends. Each individual must follow the maxims they make. (Ex. a bill is not only followed by the citiziens but by the government who wrote it as well. No one is exempt from this law.)
"In his writings on religion, Kant interprets the Kingdom of God as a religious symbol for the moral reality of the Kingdom of Ends. As such, it is the ultimate goal of both religious and political organization of human society." (Wikipedia source) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Ends
A maxim is an absolute moral statement about a universal truth
" Do unto others as you would want done to you"
A maxim goes through various steps to test and see if it can be applied as a universal truth.
the first step that Kant uses to test other maxims

This step encourages people to think about if everyone did an action to each other, would it still be acceptable
Example from last slide: Do unto others as you'd want done to you
This is the main step to check if something can be considered a maxim
1. Prima Facie: duty that is normally binding unless it conflicts with a more important duty
- there are seven prima facie duties
2. Actual duty- duty that we are morally obligated to perform in a particular situation after we have to take all circumstances into account
Born: April 1877 – May 1971 Born in: Scotland
He was known best for his book The Right and the Good (1930) Was known to critically analyze mostly work on ethics
He believed in Kantian ethics but he also believed it should be critiqued a bit. He believed some maxims were more important then others and when they conflicted you were to chose the one that you morally deemed more important.

Example: Is it a maxim to go out of your way to help people when they’re on the side of the road?

W. D. Ross believed in two different ideas that should be added to Kant’s
Another example is the trolley problem.
In the issue of pulling the leaver to save the five lives versus one, and killing the innocent man for the sick patients Kant would do nothing. Because they both violate multiple maxims. If it is universally applicable it then implies people have the ability to truly predict the outcome, when we dont know the true outcome. (hypothetical imperative). It also violates using people as a means to an end. Using the one person's death for both situations to save the five lives uses him as a means to an end.
Edward Snowden and the NSA Controversy
NSA (The National Security Agency is an intelligence agency in the U.S. government responsible for the collecting and analyzing foreign communication and foreign signals of intelligence in order to protect the U.S government communications and information systems.
Edward Snowden was a three month employee that leaked information that he had access to
phone calls for possible links to terrorists abroad
surveillance of online communication to and from foreign targets to detect suspicious behavior
Was it ethically right for Edward to do that?
This is opposed to Teleological Ethics
In Greek "Teleo" means "end"
Teleologial Ethics is determining what is morally the right thing to do based on the desirable
Intrinsic value
People set what value something has.
This in turn means that people have absolute value.
Intrinsic means "for its own sake" meaning it's by it's very nature
Immanuel Kant
Spent his whole life within 10 miles of Königsberg* which is now present day Kaliningrad in Russia
* Lewis, Rick. 2005. 'Kant 200 Years On'. Philosophy Now. No. 49.
Went to school and taught at Königsberg till the end of his life.
Works regarding ethics awakened by David Hume (empiricism) by giving Kant the puzzle of figuring out why people consider things such as "cause" and "goodwill" part of reality without actually experiencing them. Kant thought he could solve this problem through reason.
Immanuel Kant came up with his own philosophy of morality and published it within The Ground Work for Metaphysics of Morals.
The writing describes the essence and nature of moral actions.
-actions are only moral if they are done for the sake of morality alone.
-moral quality is not judged on its consequences, but rather the actions motive.
- actions are only moral if they
are committed through
moral law.
Moral Law is a general term from Kant with a common defintion that does not pertain to specific actions. It describes itself as actions are only through moral law if they are undertaken with pure motives, without consequential consideration, and for the Moral law.

David Hume was a major influence on Immanuel Kant's philosophical ideals.
-Metaphysics of Morals, 1785
Art by John Sandoval
*video of a scene from hunger games
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