Kantian Ethics is summarised in the video tutorial below:
The strengths & weaknesses of the theory can be summarised as follows:
Strengths and weaknesses to Kant’s deontological theory of ethics
- The clear distinction between ‘emotions’ and ‘duty’ is important, it ensures that decisions are made out of something more than ‘urges of the moment’. For example, if you see someone hurt on the street, rather than acting just out of compassion, it is better to act of duty. This is gives something extra to the action taken.
- The theory can be applied to everyone, regardless of culture, race, religion etc.
- The appeal to innate human reason establishes a clear criteria for what constitutes a moral action. This makes it easier to deduce right actions to take.
- It respects human life without exception. Kant’s deontological of theory goes against suicide, abortion, murder etc. Even killing out of love is seen as unmoral.
- This respect in time demonstrates that human beings have rights e.g. they have a right to be told the truth.
- It is wholly secular which means it does not rely on the assumption that there is a God.
- It works only if everyone agrees to it especially when fulfilling the maxim of Kingdom of Ends.
- There can be conflicts of duty e.g. we have a duty to protect human life as well as we have duty not to lie but what if lying is the only way to save someone’s life? Kant’s reply to this criticism is interesting, he says that there is no such thing as a conflict in duty we need to identify which one of the two is not a duty.
- Kant’s theory falls into making a naturalistic fallacy – can ‘ought’ really imply ‘can’ and if this fails so does Kant’s ethical system.
- Can we really say that the action itself is really more important than the consequences?
- Does this theory really apply to everyone – what if someone is not capable of rational decision- making like a baby or someone with a disability.
- There is not a mutual consensus between everyone tat ‘my duty in one situation is my duty in every situation’
- Can this theory really be used in real life e.g. to be moral does everyone really need to try and fulfill their potential or give others happiness, can they not just be happy in themselves without causing others harm.
- Is Kant correct in saying that happiness is a by-product of leading a moral life not the intention behind it.
- For Kant, ‘rationality’ is extremely important, but just following the above point is it really realistic for Kant to overlook ‘fellowship’ because emotions, concerns, hopes etc are not part of his moral equation. I mean after all we are mortals.
- Obviously, for some theist the fact that God is excluded from the moral exclusion is a definite negative.