Do Your Duty

Wed, Sep 09

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, you will:

  1. Understand Kant's Categorical Imperative as a moral code and the view of value that underlies it.
  2. Discuss the different ways that Kantians and utilitarians defend moral obligations.
  3. Appreciate the importance of the "good will" and "acting from duty" on Kant's ethical view.
  4. Consider whether you have inviolable duties and how those might fit into your philosophical apology.

Read This:


Interactive Essay: Act from Duty (Kant) 


The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (Short Story by Ursala K. Le Guin)

Do This:

Complete these steps before you come to class

  • Consider the following prompts (you may want to write responses to these in your journal or talk about them with a friend):
    • Would you walk away from Omelas? Should you? Why or why not?
    • 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?
  • Optional: test yourself by taking a practice comprehension check (now closed)

Watch This: