Certain actions are wrong and right in themselves
(regardless of consequences). Rule based and
absolutist. Rules: Deontological constraints. Moral
laws apply universally, in all situations and are
binding on all moral agents.
Hypothetical imperative: Tells us how to achieve a particular end/result - what to do to
fulfill our wishes. Categorical imperative: an end in itself; we ought to act a certain way
regardless of our wishes. Moral commands are categorical imperatives as they are an
expression of our absolute and unconditional duty to behave always in a certain way. If
moral rules were hypothetical they might not lead to universality; 'be kind to people if
you want to make friends' only applies if you want to make friends.
Categorical imperative can be established a priori through human
reason. Unconditionally binding for all moral agents. 1) Principle of
Universalisability 'act only according to that maxim by which you
can at the same time will that it should become a universal law'. 2)
The formula of the End in Itself 'act always that you trat humanity,
whether your own person or that of another, never as a means only
but always as an end'. 3) The formula for Kingdom of Ends; every
action should be undertaken as if the individual agent were 'a law
making member of a kingdom of ends;.
Cannot simply conform to categorical imperative; right
action must have the correct motivation. Moral actions are
performed out of a sense of duty. So the Moral status of
actions ought to be judged solely in terms of their nature
and their motivation, rather than consequences. They are in
the future, we can't control the future, so we are only
responsible for what we do.
1) TWO CENTRAL IDEAS WITHIN DEONTOLOGY SEEM PLAUSIBLE.
Moral commands = universally binding captures absolute nature that
many believe morality to have; we should respect what is good and right,
and prevents morality from being abused. Categorical imperative -
everyone is equally valuable.
2) AH BUT WAIT WHAT IS THIS RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN UNIVERSALISABILITY AND MORALITY?
Lots of maxims can be universalised that are not duties.
Never hold a fork in your left hand is universalisable but
not a moral duty. How do we decide which universalised
mazims are moral duties and which are not? On what
3) MOTIVES VS CONSEQUENCES. The
consequences of our actions are out of our control,
and it seems wrong to morally condemn someone
who did the right thing, even if it leads to a decrease
in happiness. Focusing on an action itself and the
motivations seems to be the most reliable way of
making an informed judgement.
4) CONFLICTS OF DUTY AND THE IMPORTANCE OF CONSEQUENCES.
Kant says no duties clash, but what if a fat chick asks you if she looks hot in a
bodycon dress? Honesty vs Kindness here. No way of getting out of 'moral
dilemmas'/ & To ignore the consequences of one's actions can be rash,
inconsiderate, and occasionally immoral. The consequences of our actions
are at least relevant, morally speaking, even if they are not the sole criteria.
5) SOLVES THE PROBLEM OF JUSTICE. The second formulation of
the categorical imperative does ensure that each individual's rights are
respected. Humans (as rational agents) have intrinsic worth and so
cannot be treated as a means to an end. This seems to solve the
problem of justice faced by utilitarianism.
6) DEONTOLOGY COULD MAKE THE WORLD A WORSE PLACE.
Sticking to moral rules with no flexibility seems excessive; Kant's own
example of an axe murderer at your door - surely telling the truth isn't
morally right? Kant would say tell the truth, because lying cannot be
universalised and you can't be certain of the outcome. To lie would be
to compromise your moral integrity.
7) THE INTEGRITY OF THE MORAL AGENT.
Kant's theory is based on avoiding morally bad
actions. An agent's integrity is preserved if they
are not forced to do something morally wrong (lie
in the case of the axe murderer). Jim & the
Indians - agent's integrity is preserved because
they are not forced to kill (which is morally
wrong). Deontology's strength is that it does not
force agents to perform actions that seem to be
wrong just because the circumstances might
make this a desirable action for some other
reason, and it therefore protects the integrity of
8) ACTS AND OMISSIONS: Are we not responsible for
what we do not do as well as what we do? Is there
really a morally relevant distinction between killing and
letting die? Then in the axe murderer scenario, the
integrity of the moral agent is not preserved by telling
the truth but rather damaged by failing to protect an
innocent person. This only accepts if we accept the
moral relevancy of consequences, but this intuition is
in fact a plausible one.
9) INCLINATIONS AND DUTIES. Kant makes a
sharp distinction between inclination and duty.
Inclinations are subjective, so undesirable that our
feelings etc. are allowed to guide our moral
judgments. Kant provides a rational, universally
binding basis for moral action. Kant is right that
right and wrong should be dictated by reason, and
once this has been deduced, we should follow the
moral law because this is our moral duty, and for
no other reason.
10) PROBLEM OF MOTIVATION. Kant believes that human beings are capable of
being motivated purely on the basis of reason. However, Hume suggests the only
thing that can possibly motivate us to act is feelings and desires; our sentiments. A
plausible moral theory would take this into considerations. The impersonality of
Deontology makes it incapable of providing any meaningful guidance. If emotions are
irrelevant, then so are emotions that have moral dimensions (guilt/compassion). If an
action is motivated by compassion than this counts in favour of the action being
morally good. Kant would disagree; only duty is a respectable and truly moral
motivator. Giving to charity out of compassion is not truly moral because it's an
emotion, and not duty. Although the motivation of actions does seem morally
significant, it seems that Kant's inflexibility about what motications can be moral is a
limitation of this theory.