Question about Kantian ethics

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Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 10:30 am
About Kant's categorical imperative:

Is it only about perfect duty (i.e. not doing an action that would contradict itself like lying or stealing) or does it directly lead to the second formulation (humans as ends, not means)?

My reasoning is that if the categorical imperative treats every action as if it were to become universal law, and you obviously don't want to be treated simply as a means, then doesn't that necessarily imply that everyone should be treated as least partially as an end?

I'm asking because the interrelatedness could have important implications when it comes to practical/applied ethics, like abortion. If you take the second formulation by itself then it would imply that you should only treat other moral agents as ends, and surely unborn humans are not capable of moral deliberation. On the other hand, it the second formulation were integrated with the first one, it would cause a "transfer of rights." My reasoning being that since you would not want to be aborted in the past now it goes back in time to give you the rights to be treated as an ends.

I know it might sound a bit odd, but hang on with me here.

However, if you take the first and second formulations separately, abortion could be viewed as possibly moral. This is because abortion in itself does not contradict perfect duty while the second formulation would postulate that only moral agents are capable of having rights. So thus if you don't "mesh" the two, you wouldn't really get any rights for the unborn.

j/w
 
Fairbanks
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 10:59 am
@krazy kaju,
krazy kaju wrote:
. . . the interrelatedness could have important implications when it comes to practical/applied ethics, like abortion. . . .


Smile

Abortion is a matter of the state and would not have anything to do with morals. The doctor performing the abortion is an officer of the state and is not acting for himself. The ethics board for doctors would have some bearing on this but only as far as whether the doctor is working within the state-specified law.
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 11:04 am
@krazy kaju,
krazy kaju wrote:
About Kant's categorical imperative:

Is it only about perfect duty (i.e. not doing an action that would contradict itself like lying or stealing) or does it directly lead to the second formulation (humans as ends, not means)?

My reasoning is that if the categorical imperative treats every action as if it were to become universal law, and you obviously don't want to be treated simply as a means, then doesn't that necessarily imply that everyone should be treated as least partially as an end?

I know it might sound a bit odd, but hang on with me here.

However, if you take the first and second formulations separately, abortion could be viewed as possibly moral. This is because abortion in itself does not contradict perfect duty while the second formulation would postulate that only moral agents are capable of having rights. So thus if you don't "mesh" the two, you wouldn't really get any rights for the unborn.

j/w


I have not done a thorough study on Kantian ethics, but I do remember a few things from my Ethics class.

1. Kant talks of the Kingdom of Ends, it is agents in this group that the categorical imperative applies too, not just humans. (I think)

2. I think the requirements for the Kingdom of Ends is thus: Rational, Self-Aware, and Free Will.

3. I think there are three formulations of the categorical imperative, I can't find it right now, but perhaps you can find more insight in the third formulation.

According to 2. above, an unborn baby would not fall into the Kingdom of Ends, and therefore the categorical imperative does not apply to it. But one may travel down a slippery slope and ask when does a person actually become 'Rational'?

Quote:
My reasoning being that since you would not want to be aborted in the past now it goes back in time to give you the rights to be treated as an ends.


I don't think it is about what a person would 'want', because, someone who is suicidal may in fact want to have been aborted, while someone who enjoys life would not, and we end up with two contradictory maxims.

I think the CI relates to the possibility of universalizing the maxim. For instance, is it possible for society to continue if every person always lied, or is it possible for society to continue if every person murdered another person. The answer to both is No, so therefore the maxim cannot be universalized.

(I may be wrong on this part, it has been a long time)

---

All in all, regarding the abortion issue, you first need to define if rather or not a fetus is a person, and therefore if it falls within the Kingdom of Ends.

Quote:
the interrelatedness could have important implications when it comes to practical/applied ethics ... However, if you take the first and second formulations separately


I think Kant says that all three formulations of the CI are one in the same, and therefore cannot be separated.
 
krazy kaju
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 11:05 am
@Fairbanks,
The question isn't whether or not abortion should be legal but whether or not it's moral.
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 11:07 am
@Fairbanks,
Fairbanks wrote:
Smile

Abortion is a matter of the state and would not have anything to do with morals.


What about before there was a State? or what about my wife and I who live in the woods secluded from civilization? The State then has no say as to how I act.

Every personal choice boils down to a moral choice. The State can only try to direct us in one direction, and punish us if we don't adhere to their rules.
 
krazy kaju
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 11:18 am
@de Silentio,
The third formulation is the kingdom of ends.

My issue with the subject is that technically speaking, one could make the argument that you are a moral agent now, and therefore fall under the kingdom of ends, but you wouldn't want to be aborted when you were unborn even though you didn't qualify for the same rights. Essentially, the question is whether or not the future rights of the unborn carry over to now because they will be in "the kingdom of ends" in the future.

As for suicide, it is also immoral using the categorical imperative, so saying that you wish you were aborted isn't really valid, IMO.
 
Fairbanks
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 11:23 am
@krazy kaju,
krazy kaju wrote:
The question isn't whether or not abortion should be legal but whether or not it's moral.


Smile

Abortion is entirely a legal matter and an action, if you allow that the state is an agent, of the state and entirely beyond questions of morality. If a person performs an abortion without a license, that is illegal, which is to say, a crime against he state.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 11:26 am
@Fairbanks,
Fairbanks wrote:
Abortion is entirely a legal matter and an action, if you allow that the state is an agent, of the state and entirely beyond questions of morality. If a person performs an abortion without a license, that is illegal, which is to say, a crime against he state.
A deontologist would argue that laws should be derived from ethical first principles, and Kant's categorical imperative is sort of the flag-bearer of deontology. You're describing a utilitarian conception of law, in which the law need not have a moral foundation so long as it achieves a desired societal state.
 
Fairbanks
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 11:30 am
@de Silentio,
de Silentio wrote:
What about before there was a State? or what about my wife and I who live in the woods secluded from civilization? The State then has no say as to how I act.

Every personal choice boils down to a moral choice. The State can only try to direct us in one direction, and punish us if we don't adhere to their rules.


Smile

The state has existed long before any of us. The state acts in its own interest and if a citizen, even living unobserved and unchipped in the deep woods even to Google Earth, performs an act reserved to the state, such as violence, the state will view that as a crime, an ursurpation of the power of the state and cannot be allowed. Besides feeling undeserving from that time on, the citizen will be in trouble.
 
krazy kaju
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 11:35 am
@Aedes,
I'd like to quickly mention that this thread isn't solely about abortion. Infanticide is another ethical issue this relates to: infants do not yet have the ability of moral deliberation, so they certainly don't fall under the "kingdom of ends." However, if they will be members of the kingdom of ends in the future, doesn't it also give them rights to be treated as ends now?

In other words, are you treating future persons as means when you have an abortion, even though the unborn human isn't yet a moral agent?

As for Fairbanks, you're essentially advocating moral fascism: primacy of the state over all others. This view is essentially wrong because the state itself is bound to any moral rules imposed on humans, because "the state" as such is not a singular entity, simply an organization consisting of human beings who are bound to the rules of morals.
 
Fairbanks
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 11:44 am
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
A deontologist would argue that laws should be derived from ethical first principles, and Kant's categorical imperative is sort of the flag-bearer of deontology. You're describing a utilitarian conception of law, in which the law need not have a moral foundation so long as it achieves a desired societal state.


Smile

The natural behavior of the state is probably closer to utilitarian than utopic but the state would not be subject to ethics in the first place. The moral law is a different animal than laws of the state. As far as a desired social state, that fails every time it is tried: we simply cannot create a state, especially since we are not at all clear what a state actually is. The state in itself lacks moral law just as it lacks desire.
 
krazy kaju
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 11:53 am
@Fairbanks,
You're treating the state as if it were some abstract being, when it clearly isn't. The state is nothing more than a monopoly over certain things like protection, national defense, courts, law, etc. The state is made up of individuals who then dictate what these monopolies do.


  1. Individuals make up the state.
  2. Individuals are bound to moral laws.
  3. Ergo, the state is bound to moral laws.
 
Fairbanks
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 11:55 am
@krazy kaju,
krazy kaju wrote:
As for Fairbanks, you're essentially advocating moral fascism: primacy of the state over all others. This view is essentially wrong because the state itself is bound to any moral rules imposed on humans, because "the state" as such is not a singular entity, simply an organization consisting of human beings who are bound to the rules of morals.


Smile

The state evidently is not an intelligent being and therefore has no desire and is completely outside moral law. The state is not an organization although the govenment certainly is and the various institutions of the state have degrees of organization. I would not use such highly charged terms as fascism to describe all states since other systems are possible. The state has other institutions, such as the Press. Choosing another issue, should a citizen write a Letter to the Editor in a campaign to point out the immorality of driving while text messaging ?
 
krazy kaju
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 12:00 pm
@Fairbanks,
My entire point being that the state isn't a being. It's a collection of individual beings who are bound to moral law, so the state is as well.

I'm not saying that you're advocating fascism, but you are advocating moral fascism. Moral fascism is the view that the state is above all else and that only its laws can impose moral rules on humans. It's the ethical corner stone of all fascism.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 12:00 pm
@Fairbanks,
Fairbanks wrote:
The natural behavior of the state is probably closer to utilitarian than utopic but the state would not be subject to ethics in the first place.
But in this thread we're not talking about the natural behavior of the state, right? We're talking about morals as conceived in Kantian ethics, which are most certainly NOT a model for law. So yes, abortion has its legal vagaries, but that's besides the point -- which is how might one make a moral judgement about abortion under a Kantian ethical scheme?
 
Fairbanks
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 12:02 pm
@krazy kaju,
krazy kaju wrote:
You're treating the state as if it were some abstract being, when it clearly isn't. The state is nothing more than a monopoly over certain things like protection, national defense, courts, law, etc. The state is made up of individuals who then dictate what these monopolies do.


  1. Individuals make up the state.
  2. Individuals are bound to moral laws.
  3. Ergo, the state is bound to moral laws.


Smile

No dictators allowed. No monopoly allowed. Individuals do not make up the state. Institutions make up the state and they are constrained both by their charters, written or unwritten, and individual non-understanding of the nature of the state. Institutions can be anything but intelligent and they therefore have no desire and no moral law.
 
Fairbanks
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 12:09 pm
@krazy kaju,
krazy kaju wrote:
My entire point being that the state isn't a being. It's a collection of individual beings who are bound to moral law, so the state is as well.

I'm not saying that you're advocating fascism, but you are advocating moral fascism. Moral fascism is the view that the state is above all else and that only its laws can impose moral rules on humans. It's the ethical corner stone of all fascism.


Smile

I would agree that the state is not a being, but an existing thing. Morals cannot be legislated, so they say, and they are right even if they don't know how. The state can impose ethics on its officials. Even though the terms originally meant about the same--morals and ethics--no more than custom or tradition, ethics has come to take on a legal significance. Moral law should remain as Kant had it, that inner law that guides intelligent decision.
 
Fairbanks
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 12:15 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
But in this thread we're not talking about the natural behavior of the state, right? We're talking about morals as conceived in Kantian ethics, which are most certainly NOT a model for law. So yes, abortion has its legal vagaries, but that's besides the point -- which is how might one make a moral judgement about abortion under a Kantian ethical scheme?


Smile

Abortion would be a tough problem for ethics class. But, Kant's examples were mainly directed toward personal choice that did not involve outright murder. He might choose a different publisher for his new Critique and never explain why to the new owner.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 12:41 pm
@krazy kaju,
krazy kaju wrote:
My entire point being that the state isn't a being. It's a collection of individual beings who are bound to moral law.
What is moral law and what makes someone bound to it?
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Sun 17 Aug, 2008 04:38 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
What is moral law and what makes someone bound to it?


Very good, how is someone bound to moral law? As Kierkegaard writes:
Quote:
Kant was of the opinion that man is his own law (autonomy) - that is, he binds himself under the law which he himself gives himself. Actually, in a profounder sense, this is how lawlessness or experimentation are established. This is not being rigorously earnest any more than Sancho Panza's self-administered blows to his own bottom were vigorous. ... Now if a man is never even once willing in his lifetime to act so decisively that [a lawgiver] can get hold of him, well, then it happens, then the man is allowed to live on in self-complacent illusion and make-believe and experimentation, but this also means: utterly without grace.


For Kant, only rational beings (e.g. most human beings) are bound to the moral law, the law which one gives himself. Non-rational beings cannot be bound to the moral law, as they have not bound themselves to the moral law.
 
 

 
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