Kant Lesson PP

The Moral
Argument for the
Existence of
OCR Spec:
K&U: The moral argument from Kant, including his concept of the ‘summum
bonum’ and his inferences about innate moral awareness; psychological
challenges from Freud to the moral argument, his view that moral awareness
comes from sources other than God.
AEA: Be able to discuss critically these views and their strengths and
Consider the situation….
Emma visits her grandmother in the old people’s home
every Thursday after college. Her friends wonder why
she bothers. Granny hasn’t got any money to leave her
and the reception Emma gets is very unpredictable.
Occasionally Granny is pleased to see her, but more
often Emma is greeted by complaints that she doesn’t
visit often enough and is too busy enjoying herself to
think about her poor old gran. There have even been
times when Granny has slept right through Emma’s visit
and never noticed her.
So why does Emma visit when she gains no pleasure
from it?
Basic Moral Argument
 The
human sense of morality leads to the
conclusion that the is a divine law-giver
Intro to Kant’s Argument
Kant doesn’t try to prove that God exists, he only points to
the probability that God exists. He did not think it was
possible for human intellect to prove the existence of
something totally beyond anything we have experience.
Instead he turned to the ‘moral law within us’ for evidence.
He based his view on our common experience of duty. He
claimed that we know in ourselves, what is right, we know
where our duty lies and what we ought to do.
The innate sense of moral structure for the universe points to
the existence of a God who can ensure justice.
Kant’s Moral Theory
There is universal agreement that some actions are right and others
This shows the existence of an objective moral law that everybody is
aware of.
Kant’s moral argument is therefore absolute (things are right or wrong in
of themselves) and deontological (referring to an action that is inherently
right or wrong with no account is taken of circumstances or outcome).
Not only are we aware of this moral law, Kant said we feel an obligation
to obey it because it is the rational thing to do. To discover the right
action we must apply moral reason, this will reveal the moral law and
gives us the categorical imperative which we should obey.
Key Term: Categorical Imperative - an absolute and universal sense of
moral duty which directs humans to the right actions, without any
consideration of the outcome.
The Summum Bonum
Key Term: Summum Bonum – the state of supreme good when
virtue and happiness come together.
A person with right moral intentions, seeks to bring about the
Highest Good, the summum bonum, the perfect state of affairs. If
we take our ethical nature seriously, we can see that this is what we
should aim to achieve.
However, people should not act virtuously in order to receive
reward. Kant was convinced that an act is only truly moral if it is
done for its own sake and without any selfish motive. People should
do the right thing purely because it is the right thing, inspired by
‘the good will’.
The summum bonum is achieved when virtue is rewarded.
Three Postulates of Morality
1. Freedom: Kant said a course of action is only moral if a
person is free to carry it out.
2. Immortality: Experience tells us that virtuous actions are not
always rewarded by happiness. Since virtue ought to result is
perfect happiness then it must be achievable. Kant argues
that ‘ought implies can’. Because it doesn’t happen in this life,
it follows that God must provide it in the next life.
3. God: For Kant it follows logically that if there is another life in
which humans can achieve immortality, then there must be a
rational moral being, who, as creator and ruler of the world,
has the power to bring virtue and happiness together.
 It
is logical for perfect virtue to be
rewarded by perfect happiness.
 Humans cannot achieve the summum
bonum without God and an afterlife.
 God must exist to provide the summum

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