Phil A301

William Jamison


Notes on Chapter 5 of Philosophical Ethics

Kant and Deontological Theories

p. 149 Plutonium Secrets

Beauchamp discusses an experiment where the researchers failed to get informed consent from subjects injected with plutonium to study its effects. These persons were used as a means to an end (utility) instead of respecting their inherent worth and dignity.

p. 142 The Deontological Conception of Morality

Greek "deon" = duty. Deontologists are non-consequentialists. The consequences are separate from the action itself. (How?) It is right if and only if it conforms to the relevant moral obligation.

In critique of Utilitarians they argue that we can not predict consequences.

Parents have special obligations to their children different than other children in the neighborhood.

Deontologists stress our motives over our actions.

Utilitarians also can require immoral acts to be required if the situation demands. This can never be the case for a Deontologist.

p. 144 John Rawls

Justice, Utilitarianism, and Deontology

The Social contract theory is described. (But the presupposition of such a case is admittedly impossible?)

Justice as fairness.

p. 147 Kantian Ethics - the greatest German Philosopher is Kant? (Puritan ethic - one cannot ignore his cultural point of view which makes the rational equate to what was perceived as moral in his society).

p. 148 Three Principles: 1: An act must be done from obligation in order to have moral worth.

2. An action's moral value is due to the maxim from which it is performed, rather than to its success in realizing some desired end or purpose.

3. Obligation is the necessity of an action performed from respect for law.

p.148 Autonomy and Heteronomy

We are not autonomous if we are a slave to our desires. We must choose the right in accordance with the rational.

The Kantian paradox: The self is governed by law, but the law is derived from the self.

(I would argue that Kant did not develop the distinction between the individual and the collective spirit as well as Hegel. This paradox is inherent in Kant because of the continuation of the thing in itself, the self and their separation in Kantian epistemology from phenomena. Why is it that the individual can not change what is moral on a whim? Subjectivity, intersubjectivity, objectivity have a role here.)

p. 150 Immanuel Kant - The Good Will and the Categorical Imperative

The good will is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes...

p. 151 An action performed from duty does not have its moral worth in the purpose...

What kind of law can that be, the conception of which must determine the will without reference to the expected result? (Here we ignore the internal satisfaction as a result. We are socialized and need to satisfy our picture of our role to maintain ourselves as viable people.)

If we ignore all consequences, then what remains of an action? Where is the will here?

p. 152 Can I will that my maxim become a universal law? (This is the desire that our picture of the world be complete.)

All moral concepts have their seat and origin entirely a priori in reason. (The a priori. What is it? Is it psychological? Is this not the same psychological notion that Mill has? But are they right? Is our psychology -- Gestalt -- psychological or biological?)

Imagine a middle aged married couple. One is injured in an accident and is in a comma. The doctors feel the chance of recovery is very slight. The healthy spouse now has a choice to make. Should they remain faithful to their injured partner? No advantage other than the feeling of love for the other appears to be left in keeping the marriage. The healthy partner remains by his loves side and prays and talks to them day and night. They hold their love’s hands and pet them. They pet the hair, kiss the cheek and their love is demonstrated with all their heart and soul. What are the consequences of this behavior?

p. 153 The Idea of a Categorical Imperative

"I ought" (this is socialization by another name). His categorical imperatives are typical Puritan maxims. One must act to treat every person as an end and never as a means.

Prima Facie Obligations: How to handle conflicts? p. 156 W.D. Ross thinks Kant asks that we do the impossible because all the maxims are absolute. Prima Facie Obligations are conditional on their not being overridden by a stronger obligation.

p. 157 W.D. Ross, What Makes Right Acts Right?

p. 191 Duties of fidelity, gratitude, justice, beneficence, self-improvement, "not injuring others".

(Ross is engaged in trying to find what those rational, basic imperatives may be.) These in the end appeal to intuition.

Interject here:

Moral Conflict and Its Structure by David O. Brink in The Philosophical Review, Vol. 103, No 2 (Apr 94) p. 215-247. University of Ca, San Diego

Moral Dilemmas

frequency? (Ref’s Thomas Nagel "The Fragmentation of Value" in Mortal Questions, NY 79 and Taylor "Diversity of Goods" in Utilitarianism and Beyond, 1982.

Obligation to do A and B but can't do (A and B). Turns out to be not prima facie (pf) but only an all-things-considered (atc) p. 216

which over rules one pf or the other.

pfs = presence of morally relevant factors (F)

atcs = "undefeated pf"

undefeated pf (upf) =

(a) no competing Fs

(b) competing Fs cancel each other

(c) competing Fs not canceled but do not override F.

cannot merely use "statistical reading our calculus.

So, moral dilemma must = insoluble conflict between 2 pfs

paradoxes - voluntarism - case by case basis

So, p. 230 either some deontic principles must be rejected of we must accept moral dilemmas.

p. 241 are these NO WIN dilemmas?

do one or the other A or B = OK but if not OK? then NO WIN

Refers to Williams p.121 in "Ethical Consistency" Moral conflicts "are more like conflicts of desires than they are like conflicts of beliefs." But Williams feels they are conflicts in attitudes instead of beliefs.

p. 246 "we should reject this argument for noncognitivism based on moral conflict."

Conclusion: moral conflict of this sort does not itself have paradoxical implications..."

"An all things considered moral obligation is what one ought to do in light of all morally relevant factors." p. 246

"...there cannot be conflicting overriding requirements." (The donkey will eat one or the other bale of hay.)

"...when we understand prima facie obligations as genuine moral factors or forces in situations, we will better understand why insoluble and even soluble conflicts can be unfortunate and even tragic.


p. 161 Respect for Persons and Respect for Autonomy

Are persons special? (Or are animals moral?)

p. 162 The Distinction between Moral Autonomy and Individual Autonomy

Moral overrides Individual. Individual rights are distinguished from autonomy. Belief that an action is morally obligatory is not sufficient to render the action morally autonomous.

Treat individuals as ends in themselves - has axiomatic truth in much of moral theory today.

The Principle of Respect for Individual Autonomy

We should leave one another the freedom to choose to do the right and not MAKE them do the right.

p. 164 The Concept of Respect and the Object of Respect

One another's dignity as priceless. (More Puritan maxims).

Deontological Constraints

Plutonium case was unethical.

p. 167 Thomas Nagel: The Limits of Objectivity

p. 172 Criticisms and Defenses of Deontology

The Problem of Covert Consequential Appeals

Mill: This is really utility!

Kant: do not rule out consequences. (In court we do seek intent, regardless of consequences.)

p. 173 The Problem of Nonsystematization

There seems to be no coherence here (This is because we are no longer Puritans)

p. 174 Limitations of the Models of Contract and Law

Not contained in new edition:

Annette Baier, Doing without Moral Theory?

We now have an array of rationalistic systems all aimed at universality based on Kantian attitudes. Is this a degeneration as is that of HEGEL! (moral judges -- but can moral objectivations exist outside of all moral hosts? Don't there have to be "judges" of some sort?)

Rational Morality free of its religious base! Morality is individual and collective. "The role of morality as a criticizer of the real grows out of its more primitive role as a corrector of natural response." Where is the element of CARE here? (Did Puritans care?)

Conclusion: Are both of these overrated? Next will be Virtue theories and Communitarian ethic.

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