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Kant's Moral Theory

Kant's Moral Theory - Page 1 of 11 Ch.7 Kant's Moral Theory...

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Page 1 of 12 Ch.7: Kant’s Moral Theory A leading idea of Kant’s moral theory is that moral requirements are requirements of reason. To act immorally is thus to act in a way that is not rational. In Kant’s terminology, moral requirements can be expressed as “categorical imperatives”—imperatives grounded in reason and which can be derived from a supreme moral principle—the Categorical Imperative. 1. Kant on the Idea of Duty Kant defines a duty as something of absolute necessity, something you ought to do. Kant’s scope of moral obligation is all rational agents. Rational nonhumans are subject to moral requirements just as we are. This is because he thinks that moral requirements are requirements of reason, specifically practical reason . Practical reason has to do with one’s capacity to deliberate and make free choices. Principles of practical reason set forth requirements for deliberating and choosing rationally, and Kant holds that some of these principles are moral principles specifying moral requirements. Therefore moral requirements, as requirements of reason, would have to be valid for every rational agent. Kant’s idea that moral obligations represent requirements of reason concerning choice and action contrasts other moral theories. o Ex. Mill based UT moral theory on desire. Kant claims that the basis of obligation cannot be discovered by appealing to facts that pertain specifically to human beings since in attempting to do so, one misses the idea that moral requirements hold for all rational agents, human and nonhuman. 2. Kant and the Demands of Practical Reason Kant says that moral requirements represent demands on rational agents that are “unconditional.” He calls these unconditional demands categorical imperatives and claims that underlying all particular moral requirements is a supreme principle of morality that he calls the Categorical Imperative . Rational requirements on choice and action that are nonmoral in character are expressed by hypothetical imperatives . Means-end rationality: given some end or goal that one intends to achieve, one ought to perform those actions that are necessary (perform the necessary means) for achieving that end, or else give up that end. People vary widely in their goals, so this principle specifies what is rational to do given certain goals that one has. Thus this principle is only conditionally valid for agents: a principle of the sort in question imposes rational constraints on one’s behavior only on the condition that one has the goal or end specified in the principle. Kant thinks that principles of practical rationality expressing moral requirements unconditionally valid.
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