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Lecture 7

Lecture 7

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Julia Nefsky

Lecture 7 – Jan 30 Kantianism Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) Morality is not – as Utilitarianism says – fundamentally about improving well-being or overall human happiness Morality has to do, most fundamentally, with fairness and the respect owed to each individual as a human being Example: Tax Evasion Suppose Tim cheats on his taxes, reasoning as follows: “If I cheat, I will be able to afford a vacation with my family. So, we will get a lot of happiness. And it would just be a few thousand dollars – just a drop in the government’s giant bucket. No one will suffer if I don’t pay all the money I owe.” According to Utilitarianism: If Tim is right that no one will suffer in virtue of his not paying all his taxes, then it seems he has acted rightly. But intuitively: There is something wrong with cheating on your taxes regardless of whether or not doing so harms anyone. What is wrong with Tim’s Actions? Proposal: He is acting unfairly • We all rely on the tax system to pay for crucial services • So, Tim is relying on others to contribute their shares, while excepting himself from doing so • Kantianism: something like this is common to all permissible actions The Fundamental Principle of Morality according to Kantianism The Principle of Universalizability: an act is right if and only if its maxim is universalizable • SL, “The Kantian Perspective”, p. 147) An Act’s Maxim “The principle of action you give yourself when you are about to do something” (p.147) Two parts: 1. What you are about to do. (Your intended action) 2. Why you are about to do it We do not always consciously formulate our maxims But whenever we act, we are acting on a maxim • A maxim is what distinguishes action from more bodily movement (ex. sneezing) Utilitarianism vs. Kantianism Utilitarianism: • Whether an act is permissible or not (i.e. right or wrong) depends on its consequences Kantianism: • Whether an act is permissible or not depends on its maxim – on what you are intending to do and why Example of Pinky: Pinky adds poison to Aunt Mildred’s water, intending to kill her and inherit her fortune. Instead, the poison interacts with Mildred’s medication and cures her of her illness Utilitarianism Mill: “motive has nothing to do with th
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