STRENGTHS

  • Not consequentialist – Kant realised a bad action can have good consequences.
  • Universal – Provides moral laws that hold universally, regardless of culture.
  • Clear – Kant’s theory is argued as simple. “Would you like it if someone did that to you?” “No?” “Then don’t do it to someone else”
  • Autonomy – Kant has the greatest respect for human dignity and autonomy.
  • Rational – Kant is not swayed by emotion. His theory does not allow favouritism. It is a purely rational theory.
  • Human Rights – Provides a basis for Human Rights.
  • Equality and Justice – Provides a basis for modern conceptions of equality and justice.
  • International Law – Provides a basis for a lot of British and international Law.
  • Objective – Objective standards, rather than subjective in situations.
  • Duty – Bad options can come out of acting through love/compassion. Acting out of duty is always right.
  • Reliable – A system of rules works, and everyone knows there obligations.
  • Authority – Kant’s rules are logical and reasonable – as if everyone broke promises, they would no longer mean anything.
  • Ends in themselves – Kant respects human life as ends rather than means, however this is contested by modern medical ethics.

WEAKNESS

  • Consequences – Sometimes consequences can be so severe that rule breaking may be necessary.
  • Inflexible – It should be acceptable to break an unhelpful rule if the situation warrants it.
  • Lack of motivation – Realising that something is irrational doesn’t give any motivation to do the right thing.
  • Conflicting  duty – Looking after your mother vs. looking after your father. Which one do I follow?
  • Absolute Duty – Ross argues that we have an absolute duty – sometimes we have a duty to break a promise.
  • Moral Law – Some philosophers question the existence of the moral law. Why should we believe that there is objective morality?
  • Anthropocentric – Kant sees non-human animals as having no intrinsic value.
  • Too Vague – It is not clear how broad our application of the CI should be. E.g. If my council wants to collect rubbish every 2 weeks. But I believe that rationally that is too long. Is that really morally wrong?
  • Difficulty forming maxims – If the SS asked if you are hiding Jews. Which maxim do you follow? ‘Do not lie’ or ‘Do not expose others to violence’?
  • A priori – Some slander the a priori approach. Isn’t experience better, in situations such as medical ethics.
  • Unrealistic – Just because we follow this route doesn’t mean everyone will too. For example by being pacifist I would leave myself open to attack from a non-Kantian.
  • Unforgiving – Kant believed in retributive justice ‘an eye for an eye’. Whereas someone like Bentham believed it should be rehabilitative – make things better.
  • Every situation is unique – Universal rules aren’t much use in a world where every situation is different. If no situation are the same, morality should be relativist not absolutist.
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