Do Your Duty

Wed, Jan 29

Immanuel Kant is famous for believing that rationality is the basis for morality  -- the most important focus of ethical decision-making is respecting the freedom and dignity of rational beings.  He also gives us a theory of inviolable moral imperatives -- rules you must follow, no matter what, to do what is right.  Today we will discuss whether we have inviolable moral duties and the importance of freedom and rational choice in living the good life.

By the end of class:

  1. You will understand Kant's Categorical Imperative as a moral code and the view of value that underlies it.
  2. You will be able to discuss the different ways that Kantians and utilitarians defend moral obligations.
  3. You will appreciate the importance of the "good will" and "acting from duty" on Kant's ethical view.

Read This:


Interactive Essay: Act from Duty (Kant) 


"A Child Abuse Model Fails Poor Families" (Wired)

OPTIONAL: "Can an Algorithm Tell When Kids Are in Danger?" (NY Times)

Do This:

Complete the following reading reflection questions in your GGL Journal:

  1. Describe in your own words what you think Kant means when he says that of all of the good things, the good will is the best of them.  What is your will (according to Kant)?  How could a will be a source of value?  How is this different from how utilitarians or Aristotle thinks of value?
  2. Do you think Allegheny County should use computer algorithms to screen allegations of child abuse?  Give an argument in support of your position.

Watch This: