Garren.Kant - Professor Garren USNA NE203 Lecture Six Fall...

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Professor Garren USNA NE203 Lecture Six – Fall 2007 KANTIAN ETHICS (DUTY BASED ETHICS) INTRODUCTION Objectivist not Relativist - Kantian Ethics or Kantianism as it is sometimes referred to is one of the most important and influential ethical theories in the Western Tradition. It is also an objectivist and absolutist moral theory, meaning that it asserts that there are universal and eternal moral principles, principles that are independent of time, place and circumstance. Intentions not Consequences – Kantian Ethics is a non-consequentialist and deontological (from the Greek word for obligation) theory of ethics. According to Kantian Ethics, an act is judged right or wrong based upon the intentions of the individual who performed it. If the individual acted solely and exclusively from duty , that is, the individual acted with the sole and exclusive intent of fulfilling his moral duty and obligation for the sake of that moral duty and obligation, the act is right regardless of the consequences. Consequences, according to Kantian Ethics, are irrelevant in determining the moral worth of an act. Reason not Experience - Kantian Ethics is rationalist not empiricist. What this means is that morality, i.e., the moral laws that bind us all, according to Kant, are discovered through reason and reason alone. Morality is not something that we create and it is not something that is based upon experience. Rather, morality, like mathematics and logic is something independent and objective that human beings discover through reason and indeed is based upon reason. Freedom not Servitude – At the heart of Kant’s moral theory is the notion of freedom, specifically, individual freedom. For when the individual follows the moral law, i.e., follows the dictates of reason, he frees himself from his inclinations, emotions and appetites. As Rousseau once said, “the impulse of appetite is slavery.” Furthermore, the individual, according to Kant, whether king or commoner is able to understand and impose the moral law on himself. In that way, the individual frees himself from entrenched hierarchies and authorities. Thus, Kant’s moral theory is one that emphasizes the equality and liberty of all and why Kant is considered such a pivotal figure of the Enlightenment.
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2 BACKGROUND Immanuel Kant (German, 1724-1804) , founder of Kantian Ethics, is one of the true giants in philosophy as well as all of Western thought. He was a philosophy professor who is considered by many to be the greatest of all modern philosophers (the modern period in philosophy runs roughly from 1600-1900). In addition to his work in ethics, he wrote on epistemology, metaphysics, and indeed almost all subjects in philosophy. He was also a very habitual and religious man, who is rumored to have never left his town of Konigsberg, Prussia, and to have taken a walk at the same time each and every day (in fact so habitual was he, that apparently people were able to set their watches to him). The reason that this is
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Garren.Kant - Professor Garren USNA NE203 Lecture Six Fall...

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