any rational, self-directed being o There could be persons who are not human (aliens), and there could be humans who aren’t persons (ex. Someone in a vegetative state) o Persons are protected by Kant’s categorical imperative
Central concept of medical ethics is embodied in Kant’s second categorical imperative autonomy Auto- self, and nomos- law Means self law Autonomy: instead of being ruled by some outside force, we should each rule ourselves Philosophers differ over what exactly counts as autonomy, but in general it is more than just freedom from coercion it implies the ability to decide and act based on one’s own reasons Autonomy is closely related to freedom, but it is not the same Someone who has carefully thought through a decision, who is well- informed, and who is under no threats or other pressure, is presumably acting autonomously VERSUS someone who makes a decision simply because, for example they have been taught that they ought to, is not autonomous according to Kant Pink Floyd fans might recall the line from Welcome to the Machine: “It’s alright, we told you what to do dream” A person whose goals have been set by others may make choices but they are not autonomous choices From a Kantian perspective, our goals and values as well as our decisions should be in some sense our own Achieving full autonomy must surely require that we critically evaluate our most basic values and beliefs to ensure that they are not simply borrowed from our parents, friends, or society this is the goal of philosophy In the end, the point of philosophical arguments, some would say, is not to win: it is to become MORE FREE On the surface arguments aim to convince, but we should not forget that it is even more important to be changed by them, to learn more about and perhaps modify the values that motivate us Without this process of critically examining our beliefs, we may be just playing out someone else’s ideas: we might say that we aren’t really living our own lives It is likely for this reason that Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living. v. Problems with Kant’s Theory Kant’s theory faces some challenges 1. Categorical Imperative I is unclear As we saw above (bored telephone call case), the way we describe the maxim could make that same action either moral or not so. How do we know just what the actual maxim is? Kant does not give us much guidance here, so applying his abstract principle is difficult in practice 2. Categorical II is not obviously equivalent to categorical imperative I Categorical Imperative 2 is not obviously equivalent to categorical imperative I. The second version of the categorical imperative, enjoining
us to respect autonomy, to not treat people as ends, is often more clearly applicable to real ethical problems. It is not certain that the two versions always agree. If they give different prescriptions, which are we to follow 3. Kant’s theory has been criticized for its rigidity. It is a system that admits
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