Source: Image of Socrates, Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/29ZntMM
Hello. I'm Glen. And this ethics tutorial is on the commitments of Kantian deontology. As we go through the tutorial, please keep in mind several things including the definition of Kantian deontology, the categorical imperative, how actions can be evaluated as permissible and impermissible depending upon whether the action is wrong, and how Kantian deontology relates permissibility to whether or not actions violates the categorical imperative.
A key term for this tutorial is formulation, which is a test of the permissibility of an action by determining whether it is consistent with upholding the categorical imperative.
In this tutorial, we're going to focus on the Kantian deontological method of determining permissibility of actions through formulations. Another way of saying that is that we're going to test permissibility of actions by using the categorical imperative. So primarily, in this tutorial, I'm going to be doing a lot of explaining. And let's get to it.
So in determining permissibility through formulations, this is how we start. Given Kantian deontology, an act is permissible if it does not violate the categorical imperative, and it's impermissible if it does. We briefly stated this before in the previous tutorial. And so what we want to do is we want to focus on the motive of the action, or is Kant calls it, the maxim, and we want to determine whether or not that motive or maxim is universalizable. Can it be the motive, can we rationally conclude, that this can be a motive for the action that everyone, everywhere, in all circumstances, at all times, can abide by?
It's a pretty strict rule, and it is a pretty harsh judgment. But Kant says if it matches this, then we can be absolutely 100% sure that we are acting morally good. So there are two primary versions of the categorical imperative that Kant provides for us. They are the two formulations. And remind ourselves of the key term formulation for this tutorial. The two formulations that he provides are the formulation of universal law and the formulation of humanity.
I will be going through both the formulation of universal law and the formulation of humanity in subsequent tutorials, but I will also briefly mention them here. Under the formulation of universal law, which is one of the versions of the categorical imperative that we can use to evaluate the moral goodness of a motive or a maxim, we ask ourselves, can the maxim of my action be upheld at all times, by all people, in all situations? This is how we hold it up to being the possibility of a universal law. That is to say, can we consider it a universal inviolable moral law?
Now the formulation of humanity is similar to that, but has a little bit of a tweak to it. And this is, how when we are dealing with other people, both as individuals, as groups, or we could say as humanity as a whole, we need to always treat people as an end and never as a mere means. That is to say, I can't simply use someone for something. I need to always act out of respect for someone else's humanity, or for a group's humanity, or for humanity at large. These are the two formulations of the categorical imperative, and that's about all we're going to cover them for now.
In this tutorial we look at how Kantian deontology commits us to abiding by the categorical imperative in determining the permissibility of different actions through two formulations of the categorical imperative-- the formulation of universal law and the formulation of humanity.