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Lesson 2

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Lesson 2

  1. 1. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals Kant was a towering figure in modern philosophy 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 actions. Kant was a Deontologist.
  2. 2. ◦ 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.
  3. 3.  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 rational faculties? ◦ Feelings? ◦ Impulses? ◦ Desires? 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?
  4. 4.  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.
  5. 5.  Nature of human will: people should not only understand what their moral obligations are, but they need to CHOOSE to respond to these moral laws.  (there are many times when you know what the morally right thing to do, and still simply don’t do it)  We should act according to principles and not out of concern for the consequence of our actions. Wow! Think about this!!
  6. 6.  To fulfill your potential as a moral person you need to: 1. Develop a clear understanding of the necessary and universal moral laws that apply to all people in all circumstances 2. Develop the ‘good will’ to actually follow these laws.
  7. 7.  It’s the human ability to reason and reflect that makes it possible to create moral ideals, which then function as moral commands/moral imperatives.  These imperatives create a sense of obligation, which determine the direction of our actions.
  8. 8.  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 this obligation.  We need to strengthen our will power (or good will)
  9. 9.  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 value.) Example: 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.
  10. 10.  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 this?”
  11. 11.  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.
  12. 12.  What should we do when there are more than one conflicting duties/principles?  Do emotions not matter at all? For example sympathy, compassion, love, kindness?  Should morality be based only on human rationality and reasons?  Does Kant include all humans in his ‘moral community’ equally (think of children, women, physically and mentally impaired adults)?

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