PHLA11H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Universalizability

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Published on 12 Apr 2013
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PHLA11 WEEK 4 LECTURE 8
1
Unit 1: Moral Theories
-the principle of universalizability: an act is right if and only if its maxim is universalizable
-a maxim is a principle of action of two parts, what you are going to do and why you are about to
do it
-a maxim is universalizable if it is possible to act successfully in a world where everyone has the
same maxim
-can break the principle of universalibility into three step test: 1) identify the maxim (what am I
doing and why), 2) imagine a world where everyone is acting on the same maxim, 3) in in this
imaginary world is it possible for me to act successfully on my maxim
-if yes then the act is universaliable and is morally permissible and if it is not universalizable then
it is not morally permissible
-if the maxim of my action is not universalizable this means that I can only act successfully in the
real world because others are not acting on it and in doing this we are acting unfairly because we
are relying on others to follow certain rules while excepting ourselves from following them
ourselves
-universalizability is testing for fairness
-but Kant also says acting in a not universalizable way is behaving irrationally, contrary to reason
-the amoralist is somebody who believes in right and wrong actions but just don’t care and don’t
think there is any reason to act morally unless it gets you what you want
-Kant disagrees and says that morality is independent of our desires, it has power on us as rational
agents which is why immoral actions exhibit irrationality
-there are some cases that even though the maxim is universalizable, the action is morally
impermissible
-there seem to be cases where maxims do not pass the test, but the action is permissible
Principle of Humanity
-the principle of humanity: “always treat a human being (yourself included) as an end, and never
as a mere means,” so an act is right if and only if it treats human beings as ends and not as mere
means
-treating someone as a means is to use of someone to get what you want or need
-treating someone as a mere means is treating someone as though they are only there to help you
get what you want, not treating them as valuable in themselves but as only having instrumental
value
-there is nothing wrong treating someone as a means, but its wrong to treat someone as a mere
means; we use people as a means all the time and this part of the society we live in but you can’t
treat them as their only value is this instrumental value to help you get what you want
-treating someone as an end is to treat them with the respect they deserve, it is intrinsically value,
has value in and of itself
-treating someone as a end is compatible with treating with a means, but not compatible with
treating them as mere mean
-human beings Kant means agents with rational and autonomous capacities, and these capacities
make us human
-these capacities make us ends in themselves, treating human being with respect (as an end)
requires respecting their rationality and autonomy
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Document Summary

The principle of universalizability: an act is right if and only if its maxim is universalizable. A maxim is a principle of action of two parts, what you are going to do and why you are about to do it. A maxim is universalizable if it is possible to act successfully in a world where everyone has the same maxim. If yes then the act is universaliable and is morally permissible and if it is not universalizable then it is not morally permissible. But kant also says acting in a not universalizable way is behaving irrationally, contrary to reason. The amoralist is somebody who believes in right and wrong actions but just don"t care and don"t think there is any reason to act morally unless it gets you what you want. Kant disagrees and says that morality is independent of our desires, it has power on us as rational agents which is why immoral actions exhibit irrationality.

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