Foundations of the Metaphysics of
Kant was a towering figure in modern
He had an extraordinary influence on
many areas of philosophy: metaphysics,
epistemology, ethics and aesthetics
Some say he could be justly called the
‘father of modern philosophy’
Deontology: is an ethical perspective
which holds that it is the PRINCIPLES of
duty that determine the moral value of
Kant was a Deontologist.
◦ Deontology: comes from the Greek word ‘deon’, which
means ‘duty’, or that which is obligatory.
◦ Deontologists try to discover the moral duties that ALL
people in ALL situations should follow.
◦ So for example, if we suppose that ‘telling the truth’ is a
universal duty, that means that ALL people in ALL
circumstances should follow it.
Kant was certain that moral values needed to be
based on using our rational faculties to
discover moral laws that would be
universally binding on all people.
What else could we base it on if not on our
No, says Kant! These
inclinations are too
subjective, they will vary
from person to person,
culture to culture. We can’t
base universal moral
principles on these!
Really?? What do YOU think?
What we need, according to Kant is: a
GROUNDING for morality that is BEYOND the
everyday experience of personal inclinations.
We need to develop a metaphysics of morals that
can stand independently of any particular moral
belief or custom.
There is only ONE way to discover this: through
the faculty of REASON.
Nature of human will: people should not only
understand what their moral obligations are, but
they need to CHOOSE to respond to these moral
(there are many times when you know what the
morally right thing to do, and still simply don’t do
We should act according to principles and not out
of concern for the consequence of our actions.
Wow! Think about this!!
To fulfill your potential as a moral person you
1. Develop a clear understanding of the necessary and
universal moral laws that apply to all people in all
2. Develop the ‘good will’ to actually follow these laws.
It’s the human ability to reason and reflect that
makes it possible to create moral ideals, which
then function as moral commands/moral
These imperatives create a sense of obligation,
which determine the direction of our actions.
The reason has the moral clarity in a situation, but
the will is often a reluctant partner.
There might be a conflict between our feelings of
moral obligation and our lack of will power to fulfill
We need to strengthen our will power (or good
There are two kinds of moral imperatives:
1. Hypothetical imperative
(A moral maxim which does not express a value which one should pursue
independently. Instead, the action being commanded by the maxim is seen only as
MEANS to something else.)
2. Categorical imperative
(A maxim which commands moral obligation independently of experience or
consequences. It is derived from pure reason and always carries overriding
If you want to be charitable then you should help those who are less fortunate.
This is a hypothetical imperative. Because if you take such and such action (helping those
who are less fortunate), then you will gain such and such benefits (become more charitable).
You do it as a means to something else, not for its own sake.
There is one supreme Categorical Imperative:
Act only on that maxim whereby thou
canst at the same time will that it should
become a universal law.
Kant’s Categorical imperative mandates that we ask,
and try to answer the following question in order to
determine what to do: “Is it logically consistent to will
that all people in all comparable circumstances … do
The second stage of the imperative states:
◦ Act as to treat humanity whether in thine own
person or in that of any other, in every case as
an end withal, never as means only.
We should never treat people as means to an end. But
always as ends in themselves. It’s not OK to manipulate
people, even if you think it’s in their own interest. You must
give each person the opportunity to reason through the
situation and make their own choices.
What should we do when there are more than one
Do emotions not matter at all? For example
sympathy, compassion, love, kindness?
Should morality be based only on human rationality
Does Kant include all humans in his ‘moral community’
equally (think of children, women, physically and
mentally impaired adults)?