Kantian Ethical Theory
In Ethical Insights, Douglas Birsch states that Immanuel Kant, born in 1724 and deceased in 1804, believes that there are government laws but that there are is another type of law: moral law. Birsch goes on to say that Kant’s ethical theory is of the idea that every person must act in and show respect towards the moral law. The author also asserts that Kant is a deontological philosopher, which means that his theories concentrate on the interpretation of the reasons that come before the action.
Rules and Action
Birsch declares that in Kantian ethics, rules and actions are tightly intertwined; this means that the actions we take on are governed by personal rules. Brisch go on to say that Kant also believes that in order for a person’s action to be considered moral, their moral rules that lead to the action must be willed.
Developing the Kantian Ethical Insight
Birsch believes that the ethical insight applied by Kant is that there exists moral laws and these laws apply to all humans equally.

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Birsch sums up Kantian insight to:

  1. here are moral laws that associate with reason
  2. all people are equal in the view of the moral law and should be dealt with in a similar fashions
  3. moral laws places responsibility on everybody
  4. they are universal.

The author also implies that Kantian ethics is based on:

  1. Moral equality: all people are equal and no one has superiority over another.
  2. Ethical consistency: we must abide to the moral rules.

Rational Beings, Persons and Moral Laws
Birsch says that Kantian ethics declares that moral laws interlinked with reason and that they place responsibility on all rational living beings.
He also believes that Kant’s view on rational beings is that they:

  1. must act with respect to rational rules
  2. must be able to abide to rules, take and defend decisions with reason.
  3. must understand moral laws and their implication.
  4. must act from accordance to the moral law.

Bisch states that moral laws are not conditional, they are obligatory. Kant believes that people are not perfect rational beings.
The Ethical Standard of Kantian Ethics
Birsch continues by saying that Kantians use Categorical Imperative to make legitimate moral rules. He states that the first Categorical Imperative is: “Act only from those personal rules that you can at the same time will to be moral laws.” Birsch also tells that the second Categorical Imperative is: “Act in regard to all persons in was that treat them as ends in themselves and never simply as means to accomplish the ends of others.” Birsch claims that Kant wills that people look at their personal rules and only act on the ones that they will to be universal and wants people to see others as equals and not use them as links to attain their goals. Birsch also declares that people must act from rules that behave toward others as ends, but never use people to attain their ends.
Legitimate Moral Laws
Birsch claims that in order for people to determine whether a rule can be a moral law they must follow the following:

  1. they must make a rule that will govern their action.
  2. the acts have to be internally consistent.
  3. rules must be universal.
  4. rule must treat people as moral equals.

Birsch describes that the contrast between rule utilitarians and Kantians is the utilitarians follow rules that maximize net happiness but Kantians follow rules that are not connected to consequences.
Justification for the Ethical Standard and Strengths of the Theory

According to Birsch this theory is good because it believes:

  1. Ethics is rational: we can reason about rules and prove why they are good or bad.
  2. Moral equality: it doesn’t leave space for prejudice, sexism or racism.
  3. Universality: the rules ought to be the same for all moral beings.

Determining Morally Significant Actions
Birsch explains that any action done by following the rule listed above (Legitimate Moral Laws) is morally significant.
Kantian Ethics and the Traditional Ethical Assumptions
Birsch states that Kantian ethics accepts the ideas of the traditional ethical assumptions because it believes that ethical is rational and because it accepts people as moral equals and finally, it accepts the idea of universality.
Kantian ethics and the Basic Ethical Themes

Birsch goes on to explain how Kantian Ethics applies to the four themes of ethics.
1) What kind of moral guidelines makes something good or bad: subjective, relative or objective ones?
They believe that they are objective because they depend on reason and not consequences.
2) What makes something good or bad; is it the consequences that are produces or the reasoning that leads up to it?
It depends on the reasoning.
3) Are good and bad related to following general rules without exceptions or connected to separately evaluating each action, belief, and so on?
Kantians believe in following rules that are willed into moral laws with no exceptions.
4) Should the group, community, or majority of persons be the focus of ethics or should the focus be on the individual?
They believe that the focus is on a rational being.
Problems with Kantian Ethics
Birsch explains that there are problems in Kantian Ethics.

  1. Description for actions: The procedure for creating moral rule is complicated. Kant didn’t account for the fact that there are different descriptions for actions and that each action can relate to many rules.
  2. Conflicting moral laws: Kantians don’t believe in exceptions to rules. This leads to conflicting moral laws. A solution is that we can say that several rule can apply to different descriptions of actions.
  3. Exceptions to moral laws: There are no exceptions. A solution can be that we build exception into the laws themselves.


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