• Theory based on reason/ logic (a priori)
• Kant is a Rationalist
• Not clouded by emotion or sense
• Ethical dilemmas based on intention, not
unknown future outcomes = Deontological
• Doing what is right for no other reason than because it is good/
the right thing to do.
• Doing duty for duty’s sake.
• No emotions, ulterior motives, or authority command
• “ Duty involves freely choosing the action”
• As long as you do your duty you are morally blameless.
• Duty is discovered through the categorical imperative.
• Act only good if its an act based on the sense of good will.
• A moral action is one performed with goodwill, wanting to
benefit others – good intention.
• “Goodwill shines forth like a precious jewel.”
• Goodwill is the highest form of good.
Kant used example of shop keeper:
• A shop keeper might be pleasant but it is basically because
s/he wants the customers money, in order to make profit.
• “it is impossible to conceive of anything at all in the world, or
even out of it, which can be taken as good without qualification,
except good will.”
• All other qualities e.g. kindness can be misused.
Moral lawMoral law
• Duty + goodwill = moral law.
• To act morally is to do one’s duty and one’s duty is to obey the
• All moral life strives for the summon bonum.
• “The moral law within” meaning that everyone can reason how they
ought to behave in a situation.
• Free to choose to act towards moral law or not.
• Humans seek an ultimate end called the supreme good,
• Not achievable in this life, therefore must be an afterlife and a God/
Deity to guarantee this.
• Imperatives – essential acts/ must do’s
• In “The Groundwork for the metaphysics of morals.”
Two types of imperatives:
• Hypothetical: “If I want x I must do y.”
• E.g. if I want to go on holiday, I must save up for it.
Kant did not agree with this imperative because:
1. There is no obligation to obey this imperative unless you want to
achieve the outcome = teleological.
2. No good as a absolute moral rule
3. Deals with any situation rather than ethics focused
• Categorical: “You should” “You must” “You will” = absolute/ objective
Formulation 1: Universalisability
“Act only according to that maxim by
which you can at the same time will
that it will become a universal law.”
•The action is right if the maxim
(general rule) can be universalized.
•E.g. if everyone had an abortion
universally: they are breaking their
duty to reproduce but human race
would also die out.
Kant’s four examples:
3.Neglecting one’s talents
4.Refraining from helping others
Means to an
being exists “ as
an end in
himself and not
merely as a
means to be
by this or that
•Do not use
people as a
means to your
should act as
Categorical Imperative: 3 Formulations
Can we switch off emotions?
Is there any such thing as an action that does not have an ulterior
motive (personal gain)?
Ethics based on culture –cultural relativism e.g. china/ abortion is part
of the law of the land which cannot be universalised.
Cold and inhuman basis for morality: morals based on love and
compassion not classed as moral?
Meant to be deontological but isn't the question “what happens in
everyone did this universally” looking at end results?
What if your duty cannot be universalised?
What happens when duties conflict?
What happens if your duty leads to a bad outcome – Hitler?
Axe Murder WeaknessAxe Murder Weakness
• Axe murderer story
• Kant would argue it is
your duty not to lie.
• So even though you
know the outcome will
be the person dies, it is
your duty/ action to tell
the truth so you are
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