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Lecture 7

PHLA11H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Universalizability, Kantianism

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Julia Nefsky

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Unit 1: Moral Theories
-according to Kant, morality is not about improving wellbeing or bringing about the most
happiness, what morality has to do with is fairness and respect for each individual as a human
-Kant had different proposals for the fundamental principle of morality and regarded them as
equivalent, seemed to think that they got the same verdicts about which acts were permissible and
which were impermissible
-Principle of Universalizabilityan act is right if and only if its maxim is universalizable
-a maxim is universalizable if and only if it is possible to act successfully on the maxim, in the
world in which everyone acts on the same maxim
-a maxim is a principle of your action, principle you’re acting on when you act: what you are about
to do and why you are about to do it
-maxim is intended action + reason you’re doing it
-Kant believes every action has a maxim, we do not always consciously formulate our maxims but
we act on it regardless
-when we are not doing maxims, we are doing mere bodily movements, such as sneezing
-Kantianism says whether an act is permissible or not depends on its maxim, on what you are
intending to it and why
-for utilitarianism only the consequences are important, the motive has nothing to do with the
morality of the action
-however, for Kantianism the morality of an action depends on its maxim, rather than its
consequences that is because our maxims are within our control but the consequences of our
actions are not
-if your act is not universalizable then in the real world, the only reason you can act successful on
it is because others are not acting in the same way, this shows that action my wrong
-when maxims are not universalizable we are acting unfairly because we are relying on others to
follow certain rules while excepting ourselves from doing so and therefore this is wrong and
-Kant thinks that if one acts on a maxim that is not universalizable then one is being inconsistent
and therefore irrational
-one is treating oneself as if one is more important than everyone else, without any relevant
grounds that hold you as more importantthis amounts to being inconsistent
-immoral action for Kant is irrational action, if you are rational you will always do the morally
right thing
-the amoralist is someone who believe in right and wrong but doesn’t care about morality—they
see things are wrong but don’t see any reason to act morally, they think that you can be moral if it
helps you get what you want otherwise it is perfectly rational to act immorallyKant disagrees!
-hypothetical imperativesif there is something you want, then there is a sense in which you
ought to take the steps necessary to get what you want, take rational steps to get what you want, if
you want X then you must do Y
-but Kant says that there other kinds of rational requirement: categorical imperatives
-categorical imperatives are requirements of rationality that apply to everyone simply in virtue of
being a rational agent, you out to Y (not in consideration of X)
-moral obligations are categorical imperatives, they are binding on us regardless of what we
happen to desire
-they apply to us regardless of our subjective wants and desires