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  • Note: moral goodness can only come from a good will doing its duty.


  • 1. Kant
    • Are there absolute moral laws that we have to follow regardless of consequences?
    • First we want to know what Kant has to say about what moral rule we ought to follow.
  • 2. 2 Types of Commands or Imperatives
    • Hypothetical Imperatives – “If you desire Y, then you ought to do X”
      • Hypothetical imperatives are conditioned on your actually desiring some outcome.
      • The imperative only has motivational force if you do desire the outcome that the action promises.
  • 3.
    • Categorical Imperatives – “You ought to do X”
      • Morality does not depend on our having certain desires.
      • Categorical imperatives are commands that we follow regardless of our personal end or desires.
  • 4. Fundamental Principle of Morality is a Categorical Imperative
    • 1. Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
    • 2. Act as though the maxim of your action were by your will to become a universal law of nature.
    • 3. Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or that of another, always as an end and never as a means only.
  • 5. Application of the C.I.
    • Application of the categorical imperative results in moral rules that are absolute, i.e., admit of no exceptions
    • Applied to the judgment of specific actions: If action could become universal law, then it is morally correct.
    • Examples: suicide; borrow money knowing you can’t repay it; charity; indolent man
  • 6. Justification of the Categorical Imperative
    • 1. Nothing is intrinsically good but a good will: all other goods, such as happiness, intellectual eminence are worthless or positively evil when not combined with a good will.
    • 2. A good will is one that habitually wills rightly.
    • 3. The rightness or wrongness of a volition depends wholly on its motive.
  • 7. Implication of the C. I.
    • Does not depend on consequences.
    • To do something right requires that we do it for the right reason.
    • An action can have a proper outcome with out it being moral. (Amoral, Immoral, Moral actions)
    • Any action which is right or wrong in a given situation must be wrong for any rational being.
  • 8. Primacy of Rationality in Kant’s Theory
    • Because people have desires and goals, other things have value for them – we give other things value.
    • Human beings are valuable in and of themselves.
      • They have their own “ intrinsic worth” i.e., “ dignity” that is “ above all price”
      • Value of human beings stems from the fact that they are rational agents : free agents capable of making their own decisions, setting goals and guiding their conduct by reason.
    • We cannot treat individuals as things because they are the source of moral goodness.
    • To treat a person as an “end in themselves” means respecting their rationality.
  • 9. Problems with the Kantian Approach
    • Anscomb: proper way to construct moral maxims.
    • Conflicts between absolute moral rules: Dutch fisherman example.
    • Are all categorical imperatives actually hypothetical.
    • Mill’s criticism of Kantian ethics – Kant himself is appealing to consequences in evaluating which maxims to accept.
  • 10. Kant on Retributive Justice
    • Utilitarianism
      • Punishment increases the amount of suffering in the world.
      • Punishment may be justified if it:
        • Helps prevent crime
        • Well designed punishment may help rehabilitate criminals
      • Utilitarian rationale is close to our current notions of crime and punishment
    • “ prison” = “correctional facility”
    • “ guard” = “ corrections officer
    • educational programs/counseling/work
  • 11.
    • Kantianism
    • Punishment is acceptable because it is what the criminal deserves.
    • Punishing prisoners as a way of preventing crime is using people as a means to an end.
    • Rehabilitation is a violation of the autonomy rights of the individual to choose what sort person they want to be.
    • People should be punished simply because they have committed a crime.
    • Punishment for crime should be proportional – seriousness of the crime determines the penalty.
  • 12. Justification of Punishment
    • 1. We must treat people as an end-in-themselves
    • 2. To treat someone as an end is to treat them as a rational being
    • 3. To treat someone as a rational being is to treat a person as capable of reasoning about his or her conduct and freely deciding what he or she will do.
    • 4. When we decide what to do to those who do wrong to us we look to the categorical imperative they have endorsed by their own actions.