a really brief
overviewKANT FOR DUMMIES?
• Our most basic freedom is our freedom of
• Choice is conditioned by obligation: what
should I do, given all my choices?
• But obligation is unclear! How do I
determine which choices are the ones I
am obliged to make?A FIRST PRINCIPLE!
INSIST THAT PRINCIPLES
OF BEHAVIOR APPLY TO
ALL PERSONS – IF IT
DOESN’T WORK FOR
EVERYONE, IT DOESN’T
• Isn’t insisting that principles of behavior
apply to all persons denying the
particularities of our circumstances?
• We can’t experience everything!KANT SAYS…
• it’s ok…we don’t have to experience
everything to apply moral principles!
• Our reason endows our experiences with
interpretation – interpretation which calls
principles to mind.
• Practical reason applies principles to all
cases (Kant says).A DEFINITION!
ETHICS is the study of principles that lead
to good behavior.KANTIAN GOODNESS
The key is to discover what is categorically
good; that which is always and in every
To Kant, the only such good is the GOOD
WILL of the individual.GOOD WILL HUNTING
• Our wills are motivated by three things:
–Concern for self
–DutyWHICH ONE IS BEST?
• Kant insisted that our motivation for action
• The only morally acceptable motivation is
DUTY – we behave according to the good
BECAUSE IT IS GOOD.HUH?
How can we tell if we’re
acting according to duty?• KANT SAYS IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO TELL!
• We can never know whether others are
acting truly morally, but insists that they
can; we can act on principles independent
of our interests.ENTER REASON!
• “Reason abstracts us from our particular
interests and, in doing so, universalizes
» David Vessey, “Hey-diddily-ho, Neighboreenos: Ned Flanders and Neighborly Love,” in The Simpsons and
Philosophy, eds. William Irwin, Mark T. Conrad, and Aeon J. Skoble, 212.IMPERATIVES
• For Kant, this distancing is...