Skip Ribbon Commands Skip to main content
Chap 22 SG
Kantian Ethics SG
Chapter 22, pp. 365-72
I. Kant’s objections:
1. to the idea that we can measure morality be results (as Bentham would have us do.) 366-67
2. to the idea that feelings can be the basis for the moral law (367)
II. the good will – “the only thing that is good in itself”  why? (366-7)
III. maxims
1. maxims are general policies or rules for behavior, for instance "In order to stay healthy I will eat more salads."
2. Some maxims become laws when you cannot rationally avoid them, for instance, "In order to get a college degree I will enroll in classes." (If you WANT a college degree, you MUST enroll in classes.)
IV. imperatives – laws which command us
1. hypothetical imperatives (many - 367-8)
2. the categorical imperative (only one)
a. first formulation of the categorical imperative (368) “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”
How is this related to maxims?
b. second formulation (369) “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, [or rational nature] whether in your own person or that of another, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.”
V. Perfect and Imperfect Duties
To self
To others
Perfect duties
The duty not to commit suicide
The duty to make no lying promises
Imperfect duties
The duty to develop your own talents and virtues
The duty to help others
VI. Persons as Moral Legislators (370)
Why does Kant equate morality with freedom?



VI. Three Postulates of Morality (370-1)
What does Kant mean by a “postulate?”

The three postulates are


  1. Freedom - Kant thinks we cannot know for certain that we have free will because it is not something we can experience directly. The world of experience is, for Enlightenment thinkers, governed by the rules of cause and effect, and there is no reason to think this does not also apply to human decisions. So why is freedom necessary as a postulate?
  2. Immortality - why does he think this is necessary?
  3. The existence of God - again, Kant thinks we cannot know this, since none of the arguments for His existence are fireproof, and God is not actually in our experience (like, in a room down the hall...) So why is th postulate necessary?


VII. Objections to Kant's ethical theory
Do results really never count as important for moral evaluation of actions?
Is sentiment really unimportant for morality?
Is the categorical imperative too abstract to really guide us?  (Do duties really follow from it as Kant thinks they do?)  See Hegel’s complaint, pp. 397-98


© 2014 Irvine Valley College