Kant’s Ethics Summary

immanuel kant

Summary of Kant’s ethics

The moral of Kant reads primarily in two major works:

– The Metaphysics of Morals

– The Critique of Practical Reason

Kant sought after criticism of pure reason, to found an a priori science of behavior and morality, thus answering the question: What should I do?

Kant and the good will

Kant begins with the concept of “goodwill”. For the German philosopher, intelligence, courage, etc. are not absolutely good, because their value depends on the use made of it. It is the same for happiness: it is not a good in itself, since it can be a source of corruption that is not animated goodwill.

What is goodwill? This is not a commitment that reaches its goals is a desire whose intentions are pure. What a pure will? A will which obeys the concept of duty. Thus, goodwill is acting out of duty.

Kant distinguishes act according to duty and act out of duty. Thus, the merchant who loyally serves its clients act in accordance with duty, but his motives are those of interest, not duty. This type of action falls into one of legality, not morality. Morality refers to any action taken in seeking to fulfill its duty:

An action done from duty derives its moral value, not the goal to be attained by it, but from the maxim by which it is decided

Kant’s formalism in ethics is the idea that it is sufficient that applies a rule to be moral. This rule is universality: I universalize the maxim of my action?

So, I wonder if lying is moral, my question is: Can lying be made a universal value? The answer is clearly no, because the truth would lose all value, and then it would be useless to lie.

Kant and the imperatives

Kant wants to trace the origin a priori (not experience) the foundation of morality, because it may be that none has ever acted out in the world. Empiricism and morality are very poor household, one can not establish the second.

Hypothetical imperatives

Hypothetical imperatives represent an action as necessary to achieve a certain end. Their principle is: who wants the end justifies the means. For example: the imperatives of power, which prescribe the means necessary to get a result, are hypothetical. Like those of prudence. These requirements provide rules.

Categorical imperatives

For Kant, the categorical imperatives differ in that they pose an action as necessary and unconditional, irrespective of the end to reach. These requirements give laws, no matter the inclination of the subject.

So there is only one categorical imperative and its formula is as follows:

Act only according to the maxim that you might want at the same time it becomes a universal law

The formulas of the categorical imperative

1 / “Act as if the maxim of your action were to be erected by your will a universal law of nature”

For example, one can not attempt suicide and the act becomes a law of nature because it would destroy humanity. Suicide is thus immoral. Now, what immorality? It is regarded as an exception, agree privileges. And even when we act contrary to duty, we know where our duty. We do not respect in this case the moral law, but it remains for us respectable.

2 / “The subjective principle of desire is the motive, the principle objective is the motive of duty”

We desire things and we respect people, according to Kant. So, things have value to us as individuals have an absolute, not relative. The subject is an end in itself:

“Act in such a way that you treat humanity always as […] an end and never merely as means”

He who commits suicide is treated as a means, not an end in itself.

3 / These two options creates a third, establishing the man as the author of morality: “Morality is the idea of ​​the will of every rational being designed as will establishing a universal law”

The will is indeed independent, it gives itself its own law. We obey the moral law because we are giving ourselves the Act.

The moral law derives the dignity of the person. Because giving is its own law, the man not only has a price, that is to say a relative value, but a dignity that is to say an intrinsic value: “Autonomy is So the principle of the dignity of human nature and rational nature of all “.

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