Philosophy 2700F/G Chapter Notes -Consequentialism, Hypothetical Imperative, Deontological Ethics

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Published on 16 Jun 2012
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Notes on Kant:
- The fundamental philosophical issues must be addressed a priori, that is, without
drawing on observations of human beings and their behavior. Once we “seek out
and establish” the fundamental principle of morality a priori, then we may consult
facts drawn from experience in order to determine how best to apply this principle
to human beings and generate particular conclusions about how we ought to act.
- The following are three considerations favoring a priori methods that he
emphasizes repeatedly
- The first is that, as Kant and others have conceived of it, ethics initially requires
an analysis of our moral concepts. We must understand the concepts of a „good
will‟, „obligation‟, „duty‟ and so on, as well as their logical relationships to one
another, before we can determine whether our use of these concepts is justified.
Given that the analysis of concepts is an a priori matter, to the degree that ethics
consists of such an analysis, ethics is a priori as a well.
- The ultimate subject matter of ethics is the nature and content of the principles
that necessarily determine a rational will
- Fundamental issues in moral philosophy must also be settled a priori because of
the nature of moral requirements themselves, or so Kant thought. This is the third
reason for an a priori method, and it appears to have been of great importance to
Kant: Moral requirements present themselves as being absolutely necessary. But
an a posteriori method seems ill-suited to discovering and establishing what we
must do; surely it will only tell us what we actually do. So an a posteriori method
of seeking out and establishing the principle that generates such requirements will
not support the presentation of moral „oughts‟ as necessities. Kant argued that
empirical observations could only deliver conclusions about, for instance, the
relative advantages of moral behavior in various circumstances or how pleasing it
might be in our own eyes or the eyes of others. Such findings clearly would not
support the absolute necessity of moral requirements. To appeal to a posteriori
considerations would thus result in a tainted conception of moral requirements. It
would view them as demands for which compliance is not absolutely necessary,
but rather necessary only if additional considerations show it to be advantageous,
optimific or in some other way felicitous. Thus, Kant argued that if moral
philosophy is to guard against undermining the absolute necessity of obligation in
its analysis and defense of moral thought, it must be carried out entirely a priori.
- the only thing good without qualification is a „good will‟
- The basic idea is that what makes a good person good is his possession of a will
that is in a certain way „determined‟ by, or makes its decisions on the basis of, the
moral law. The idea of a good will is supposed to be the idea of one who only
makes decisions that she holds to be morally worthy, taking moral considerations
in themselves to be conclusive reasons for guiding her behavior. This sort of
disposition or character is something we all highly value. Kant believes we value
it without limitation or qualification. By this, I believe, he means primarily two
things.
- First, unlike anything else, there is no conceivable circumstance in which we
regard our own moral goodness as worth forfeiting simply in order to obtain some
desirable object. By contrast, the value of all other desirable qualities, such as
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Document Summary

The fundamental philosophical issues must be addressed a priori, that is, without drawing on observations of human beings and their behavior. The following are three considerations favoring a priori methods that he emphasizes repeatedly. The first is that, as kant and others have conceived of it, ethics initially requires an analysis of our moral concepts. We must understand the concepts of a good will , obligation , duty and so on, as well as their logical relationships to one another, before we can determine whether our use of these concepts is justified. Given that the analysis of concepts is an a priori matter, to the degree that ethics consists of such an analysis, ethics is a priori as a well. The ultimate subject matter of ethics is the nature and content of the principles that necessarily determine a rational will.

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