Kant’s Theory of Value: the only thing of unconditional moral value is a good will.
Kant’s Theory of Right Conduct: an act has moral worth if and only if it is done from duty
(out of respect for the moral law)
o To have moral worth an act must meet these conditions:
It must be the act that the moral law (categorical imperative) tells you to do
The motive behind the act must be to do what the moral law tells you to do
Contrast with Utilitarianism:
For Kant, the moral worth of an act doesn’t depend at all on its consequences
For Kant, the motive behind the act is crucial to its moral worth
For Kant, happiness/pleasure are not intrinsically valuable
Kant’s Theory of Value
The only thing that is intrinsically and unconditionally good is a good will.
o Unconditionally good: good under any condition, circumstance, whatever the
o Intrinsically good: good in itself, independent of its relation to anything else.
Will: faculty of the mind we use to set ends (or goals) for ourselves.
o What makes a will good?
When it chooses to do what the moral law requires and does so out of respect for
the moral law.
Kant’s Theory of Right Conduct
An act has moral worth if and only if it is both
o Acting in accordance with duty
o Acting FROM duty
Acting in accordance with duty vs. acting from duty
o What you do vs. why you do it.
Honest shopkeeper: a man doesn’t overcharge a child who buys something
because it is in his selfinterest to do so.
• Acts in accordance with duty
• But acts out of selfinterest and not because he realizes it’s the right thing to
• Act has no moral worth. His will is not good.
Sympathetic philanthropist: man helps out friends because he has a strong sense
of sympathy towards them and naturally wants to help them.
• Acts in accordance with duty
• But he does not act FROM duty
Suicide: most of us are happy enough that we don’t think about suicide so we avoid
• We act in accordance with moral law
• We do not act from duty but rather from natural inclination. • Therefore refraining from suicide has no moral worth
Miserable philanthropist: someone who has lost faith in humanity but helps
another person because he believes that morality demands this of him.
• The act is both in accordance with moral law and also done from duty
• Act has moral worth
Suicidal woman: despite having suicidal feelings, a woman decides not to kill
herself because she believes that moral law forbids it.
• She acts in accordance with duty and also from duty.
• Therefore her act has moral worth.
Moral law is called the “categorical imperative” by Kant
Hypothetical imperatives: tell you how to achieve a goal (or end) that you might or might
o Ex. If you want to be a doctor, then you ought to be a premed student
If you have that goal, this HI gives you reason to act
If you do not have this goal, this HI gives you no reason to act
Categorical imperatives: commands that apply to us regardless of what we want to do.
o The demands of morality are categorical: they do not depend on our goals or wants.
o Ex. You ought not to commit suicide
For Kant, this is a categorical imperative: it applies to you without qualification (no
matter what your view on life is)
o The categorical imperative IS the moral law. It tells you what morality demands of you.
o The CI tells you what your duties are.
For Kant, people are the source of morality
o The source of morality is found in peoples’ ability to respond to reasons, and their ability
to give themselves a law to live by.
“Whether or not an agent’s will s good is independent of her actual success in achieving her
o Case of two servicemen: both agents have a good will, act in accordance with their duty
to save the President but only one is successful.
Whether an action has moral worth is not dependent on whether its goal or end is
Consequences of acting are irrelevant
The Categorical Imperative: (two formulations)
1) Formula of Univeral Law: “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you
can at the same time will that it become a universal law”
2) Formula of the Law of Nature: “act as if the maxim of your action were to become by
your will a universal law of Nature.”
What is a maxim? o A maxim is an abstract description of the action one intends to perform
o Three components:
1. Description of the physical act you’re performing (Ex. Washing my hair)
2. Description of the circumstances in which you’re performing the act (Ex. When I’m
in the shower getting ready for school
3. The purpose/motive or end of your action (Ex. To present myself in a cleanly
Formula of the Law of Nature
Act as if the maxim of your action were to become by your will a universal law.
Testing whether an act is consistent with FLN:
1. Figure out your maxim in ACE format
2. Universalize your maxim (think of a world where everyone does what your maxim
3. See if the universalization was successful.
When is universalization of a maxim unsuccessful?
o When there are contradictions:
Contradiction in conception
Contradiction in the will
A. False promise case: making a promise to secure a loan that you know you can’t repay.
1. The maxim : I will make a false promise, when I need money, to serve my own self
2. Universalize maxim: what if, as a law just like the law of gravity, everyone made
false promises, when they needed money, to serve their own selfinterst?
3. Universalization successful?: Kant argues that we run into a contradiction
• In the world we’re imagining: 1) it must be possible to make promises but 2)
promises cannot be made (universalizing false promise maxim makes the
practice of promising collapse)
• Contradiction in conception: we can’t even conceive such a world without
hitting a contradiction.
Therefore, it is morally wrong to make the false promise.
B. Suicide: you are considering killing yourself because you’re depressed. You think it will
be in your own interest to kill yourself.
1. The maxim: I will kill myself, whenever the burdens of life are too great, out of self
2. Universalize maxim: Everyone kills themselves when the burdens of life are too
3. Universalization successful?:
• For Kant, the purpose selflove is selfpreservation
• Contradiction in conception: it is impossible to imagine a world in which the
motive of selfpreservation leads to selfextermination. C. Nonbeneficence
1. Maxim: I help nobody, under any circumstance, to avoid being burdened by others
2. Universalize: a world where no one helps anyone else
• We can conceive such a world so no contradiction in conception
• Kant says that everyone at some point will need the aid of someone else (each
of us must will that others help when we need help)
o Contradiction of the will: contradiction between willing nonbeneficence as
a law of nature and willing that other help us when we need help.
Narrow duties vs. Wide duties
Narrow duties: no leeway in deciding when, how and in what circumstance the agent
complies with the duty
o Ex. Duty not to make false promises, duty against suicide from self love
Wide duties: latitude in deciding when, how and in what circumstances the agent complies
with the duty.
o Ex. Duty not to waste one’s talents, duty not to never be beneficent
If there is a contradiction in conception, the duty is narrow
If there is a contradiction in willing, the duty is wide.
Objections to FLN
1. Problem of false negatives
Ex. You like to collect (but not trade) model trains. Universalizing this maxim
yields a contradiction and this implies that it is morally wrong to collect trains.
2. Problem of relevant descriptions: there is no nonarbitrary way to determine how I
should state or describe my proposed maxim:
Ex. Two different maxims can be stated from one action
a. I will rob a bank, when in need of cash, to satisfy my self interest
b. I will get some money from a bank, when in need of cash, to satisfy my self
Autonomy, Reason and Morality
People who live according to a law they imposed on themselves are autonomous or free.
Acting on inclination or selfinterest is not freedom for Kant
o Only by acting in a way that is not governed by your desires can you be autonomous.
Categorical Imperatives tell you what you have reason to do independent of your desires.
So to choose to act in accordance with CI is to act autonomously
To act from CI is to act as morality requires
Basically: acting morally is acting rationally (act guided by good reasons), and acting
morally is acting autonomously.
The Formula of the End in Itself Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the
person of any other, never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end.
Means and ends
o If you treat/use someone as a means then you are involving them in your plans
o If you treat someone as a means and also treat them as an end, then you respect their
choice (allows autonomy)
o If you use someone as a mere means, you treat them as if they have no free will and
autonomy. Treat them as a thing and not as a person.
o If they consent, it’s not mere means but if they don’t it is mere means.
o When is it ok to use someone as a means?
When the person could in principle consent to the maxim on which the act is
The other person is given the opportunity to dissent from going along with the way
in which you are using them (as a means)
• Ex. The cashier in the store sells you gum. He chose to work there and
therefore agreed to sell goods to whoever comes in the store with da money.
o Using someone as a mere means
Person cannot provide their agreement or endorsement of what you are doing
Deception: consent is impossible because the real nature of the act is hidden from
the other person
• Ex. You promise Jane you’ll repay a loan, but you know you can’t
Coercion: forcing someone to do what you want them to do
• Person knows the plan for them and the maxim but they have no option but to
o TA Case: The paper deadline passed yesterday and you still haven’t written your paper
because you forgot. You go to your TA for an extension, telling a false story about how a
dog ate your paper.
You are using your TA as a mere means.
It doesn’t matter whether he would have agreed to an extension if you told the truth.
What matters is that you don’t give him the chance to make a decision based on the
In order to treat others as ends in themselves, you must not only avoid using them as mere
means but also treat them as rational and autonomous beings with their own maxims.
o How do we do that?
Allow them to choose whether to endorse how we plan to use them
Duties of justice in dealing with others, do not treat people unjustly (do not lie, do
not kill, do not harm, etc)
Autonomy requires: a) absence of deception and coercion and also b) basic
necessities of life (food, water, health,etc) o Duty of beneficence: duty to help others
Derives from FEI because treating others as ends requires that we do something to
help others whose lack of basic necessities places their capacity to act
autonomously in jeopardy
Duty is wide (we can’t help everyone) but O’Neill says the duty is quite demanding.
Maxims can be formulated for policies and activities as well as acts
A maxim is the underlying principle of an action
o To act on a maxim is to act on a principle or rule. Whether or not I think about it, in
acting a certain way it is as if I were following a rule or principle
o The underlying principle of my action (or maxim) may be consistent or inconsistent with
Cloning: the creation of a genetic copy of a sequence of DNA or an entire genome
(genetic makeup) of an organism.
SCNT (somatic cell nuclear transfer): An identical genetic copy of an individual is
created in the laboratory using the nucleus of a somatic cell and an egg cell from which
the nucleus has been removed.
o Somatic cell: any cell in the body other than then two types of reproductive cells.
Possible uses of human cloning:
o Therapeutic cloning: for research and therapy
Embryos not transferred to womb
Used to extract stem cells
Helps replace diseased cells or organs
o Reproductive cloning: to create fullgrown human adults.
Cloned embryo would be transferred into womb and develop like any other
o Cloning yourself to survive death
o Multiplicity: there are more of you to help out with family, career, etc.
o Clones could make compliant workers
o Clone army: no more problems with recruitment
o Recreating famous historical figures
o Philip Kitcher cases
Case of the dying child: clone a brother so the dying child can get a kidney that
would save his life.
Case of the grieving widow: a woman and her family are in a car crash, the
husband dies and the daughter is in a permanent coma. The woman wants to
clone her daughter through surrogate motherhood.
Case of the loving lesbians: a lesbian couple wants to have a baby with both
their DNA. They want to put one of their eggs with the other one’s nucleus.
Moral status of acts vs. moral status of laws
o There are acts that are both a) morally wrong and b) ought not to be illegal.
Examples: adultery, lying.
Kant’s Formula of the End in Itself
Kitcher’s definition of FEI: “treat humanity whether in your own person or in that of
another, always as an end and never as a means only.”
When is cloning morally wrong?
o Kitcher says reproductive cloning is bad when done in the hope of generating a
specific type of person whose standards of what matters in life are imposed from
without. o Imposing standards of what matters in life from without interferes with a person’s
autonomy – therefore is using the person as a mere means.
Kahn’s formulation: “The principle demands that an individual–and I would extend
this to read human life should never be thought of as a means, but always as an end.
1) Case of the Dying Child
− Is this treating someone as a mere means?
− Kitcher’s answer: it depends on the intentions of the parents.
− Intentions that violate FEI:
o The parents have no desire for another child and would be glad if they could
find another donor.
o In this case, the cloned brother is being used as an instrument (being used for
his organ to achieve parent’s goal without regard for him.)
− Intentions that may not violate FEI:
o The parents want another child anyway and are committed to loving him for his
o In this case, although they are using the child as a means, they are also caring
for the cloned child’s wellbeing.
− Arguments against:
o It would be hard to know the parents’ true intentions
o The clone child could go through psychological damage wondering whether his
parents only had him to save the older child.
2) Case of the Grieving Widow
− Intentions that violate FEI:
o Widow is motivated solely by her desire to forge a link with a happy past
− Intentions that don’t violate FEI:
o Widow is motivated by her desire for another child that is biologically the same
as her comatose daughter.
− Arguments against:
o The intention is unclear and therefore the moral status is in doubt
We use others as a mere means if what we do reflects some maxim to which they could not in
− First case: objectionable intentions
o Maxim A: I will clone my child, when she is dying, in order that the clone
provides a kidney for my dying child.
o Child could not in principle consent
To consent would mean to agree to being used as an object which is
inconsistent with respecting one’s own personhood. − Second case: acceptable intentions
o Maxim B: I will clone my child, when I wish to have a second child, in order to
produce a second child.
o Child could in principle consent
It is not objectionable to come into existence
o Does it make sense to refer to what a person would consent to prior to existing
o Would it not be rational to prefer to be treated as a mere means rather than not to
exist at all?
o Isn’t the important thing how the parents treat the kid after they’re born rather
than before it was conceived?
This suggests that what is wrong in the first case is not the cloning but the
fact that the child was treated wrongly later on.
People conceive children for selfish reasons, without taking the child into account in any way.
Not planning to at all (just fucking)
Wanting a kid to keep the genetic line going
Wanting a kid so there can be an heir to the family fortune.
Objections to Reproductive Cloning
1) Violates FEI
− Incompatible with human dignity, using a human as a means.
− Harris’ Response:
o Kant’s formulation would forbid:
− Blood transfusions: the recipient of blood doesn’t usually know or care about who their
blood donor is. Uses the person strictly as a means for blood.
O’Neill’s interpretation of FEI: whether or not the person can in
principle consent to being a means to your goal determines whether or not
you violate FEI.
According to O’Neill, blood transfusion doesn’t violate FEI since the
blood donor chose to give blood and knows what it will be used for.
− Abortion performed to exclusively save mother’s life: human life is being treated as a
means only to save the mother’s life.
For Kant, the Categorical Imperative only applies to person/beings with
the capacity for self government. Therefore Kant probably would have
been okay with abortion since the fetus isn’t a person.
2) Cloning violates a right to an open future
− In some cases, cloning imposes a plan of life upon someone and therefore interferes
with their autonomy
− Harris’ Response:
o Your genes alone do not determine your fate. o Differences in environment, culture, when they are born will mean that the
future of a clone will not be closed.
3) Cloning threatens the security of genetic material
− Allowing cloning in the lab would threaten the security of genetic material
− Harris’ Response:
o Genetic material is no more secure when spread around by men.
o We shed genetic material (hair, skin cells) all the time, but no one says that this
violates protecting genetic material.
4) Cloning will reduce genetic variability
− Human cloning will reduce genetic diversity with catastrophic results
− Harris’ Response:
o There is only danger if there were too much cloning taking place. We could
limit the amount of cloning taking place
o We cannot object to limited use on the claim that it would undermine genetic
variety because this would suggest that we prevent identical twins from
naturally being born.
− Cloning violates a principle of equality since it allows a eugenic and racist selection of
the human race.
− Harris’ response:
o There are other things that we don’t object to that involve eugenic selection
Choosing sexual partner
6) Genetic Identity:
− Each individual has a right to his or her own unique genetic identity
− Harris’ response:
o If true then someone violates this when they have identical twins
o Our genetic identity is not essential to who we are (personal
identity/individuality) and therefore it is not clear why it is something that ought
to be protected.
− The idea of cloning human beings is repugnant to some. It just seems/feels morally
− Harris’ response:
o Our moral feelings are not a very reliable guide to what’s really right or wrong. Virtue Ethics
Virtues recognized in Aristotle’s Athens:
Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics
The highest good is eudaimonia
Aristotle’s main question: what is the highest good for human beings?
Mill and Kant think that what is morally good differs and can be apart from what is good
for the individual
Aristotle thinks that there is no distinction between what is morally good and what is
good for an individual.
Highest good: some good that all human activity aims at
o Features of the highest good:
It is desirable in itself
It is not desirable for the sake of some other God
All other goods are desirable for its sake
o Happiness is the highest good!
A good life is a happy, flourishing life.
Aristotle’s Function Argument
An argument Aristotle uses to discover what happiness consists in.
For Aristotle, the good of a thing resides in its function (what it is for)
A good X has an excellence or virtue that is appropriate to X’s
o There is a close connection between the good for X and a good X
o Example. A good eye has the virtue or excellence of seeing well.
What is good for an eye is to see well
So, if we can find out what is the function of man, then we can find out what is the good
for man (what is happiness)
Possibilities for the function of man:
o A life of nutrition and growth
o A life of perception
o A life of reason
Aristotle divides the soul into parts
o Irrational parts: nutritive soul, perceptive soul o Rational parts: part engaged in reasoning and thinking, part that followed but did
not engage in reason
Two parts of t