Deontological Ethical Theory
1- This discussion will require you to have carefully read Chapter 4 of the textbook, as well as the assigned portions of Immanuel Kant’s (2008) Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.
Kant’s text and the textbook discuss two “formulations” or ways of expressing Kant’s Categorical Imperative, the “Formula of Universal Law” and the “Formula of Humanity.” For each formula, Kant considers four test cases to explain how it applies: Suicide, False Promises, Cultivating One’s Talents, and Beneficence.
- Engage with the text: Choose one of these test cases (it can be from either formula), and explain in your own words the reasoning that leads to the conclusion Kant defends. You should first explain the Categorical Imperative itself, focusing on the particular formula you are considering, and then carefully show how that principle leads to a particular conclusion.
- Reflect on the theories: Would a utilitarian come to a different conclusion? If so, explain why. If a utilitarian would come to the same conclusion in this case, could there be a variation in the case that would lead the utilitarian and Kant to come to different conclusions?
- Reflect on yourself: Do you agree with Kant’s conclusion? If not, explain the flaws in his reasoning. If you do agree, and you think a utilitarian would come to a different conclusion in this or a slightly varied case, why do you think that Kant’s reasoning is superior to the utilitarian’s? (You may want to consult section 4.3, “Challenges to Kant’s Theory” for help with this section)
2- In the Ancient Greek world (the world of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, often regarded as the birthplace of philosophy) a “symposium” was a banquet held after a meal, an “after party” of sorts that usually included drinking, dancing, recitals and engaging conversations on the topics of the day.
For our purposes in this course, the Symposium discussions will not involve dancing, recitals or a banquet, but they will provide food for thought on current ethical issues and direct application of the ethical theory discussed in each of these weeks.
It is almost impossible these days to turn on the news or log onto social media without encountering a controversy that cries out for ethical discussion. For these Symposium discussions, your instructor will choose a topic of current ethical interest and a resource associated with it for you to read or watch. Your task is to consider how the ethical theory of the week might be used to examine, understand or evaluate the issue.
This week, you will consider how deontology applies to a controversy, dilemma, event, or scenario selected by your instructor. It is a chance for you to discuss together the ethical issues and questions that it raises, your own response to those, and whether that aligns with or does not align with a deontological approach. The aim is not to simply assert your own view or to denigrate other views, but to identify, evaluate, and discuss the moral reasoning involved in addressing the chosen issue.
Your posts should remain focused on the ethical considerations, and at some point in your contribution you must specifically address the way someone with a deontological view would approach this issue by explaining and evaluating that approach.