Chapter Eight: Kant and Deontological Theories For Deontological theories it is not the consequences that determines the rightness or wrongness of an act but certain features in the act itself or in the rule of which the act is a token
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Absolutist and a Rationalist
His Parents’ Pietism
Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s work on human freedom
The debate between rationalism and empiricism
Natural law intuitionist theories
Rationalism and Empiricism
Rationalism : pure reason could tell us how the world is, independent of experience.
Empiricism : denied that we have any innate ideas and argued that all knowledge comes from experience. Our minds are a tabula rasa , an empty slate, upon which experience writes her lessons
Act- and Rule-Intuitionism
Act-intuitionism : each act as a unique ethical occasion and holds that we must decide what is right or wrong in each situation by consulting our conscience or our intuitions or by making a choice apart from any rules
Act- and Rule-Intuitionism
Rule-intuitionism : must decide what is right or wrong in each situation by consulting moral rules that we receive through intuition.
The Categorical Imperative
A command to perform actions that are necessary of themselves without reference to other ends.
It contrasts with Hypothetical Imperatives which command actions not for their own sake, but for some other good.
Moral duties command categorically.
Actions are only morally valuable if done by a good will.
The Principle of the Law of Nature
Act as though the maxim of your action were by your will to become a universal law of nature.
The Principle of Ends
So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end and never as merely a means
The Principle of Autonomy
So act that your will can regard itself at the same time as making universal law through its maxims
The Principle of the Law of Nature: Four Examples
Making a Lying Promise
Neglecting One's Talent
Refraining from Helping Others
Counterexamples to the Principle of the Law of Nature
Counterexample 1: Mandating Trivial Actions
Counterexample 2: Endorsing Cheating
Counterexample 3: Prohibiting Permissible Actions
Counterexample 4: Mandating Genocide
The Problem of Exceptionless Rules
Kant's categorical imperative yields unqualified absolutes. The rules it generates are universal and exceptionless
Ross and Prima Facie Duties
Kant and the Prima Facie Solution
The Problem of Posterity
Kant with his strong emphasis on particular rational people would have a particularly difficult time generating principles that would require duties to future agents
Kant seems to require identifiable people as the objects of our duties