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Noddy’s Guide to
Kant’s Ethical Theories
• 1724 – 1804
• German thinker from East
Prussia (now Russia).
• He spent his entire life in
or around his home town.
• One most influential
philosophers in Western
• What makes an action good is
when you do your ‘duty’. The
motive is what makes an action
good – nothing else!
Consequences are unimportant!
Reason & Moral Law
• Kant attached great importance on the
human ability to reason = all humans have
this ability. Humans use their reason to
access what Kant terms as the universal
moral law – as this is objective it applies to
e Moral
Good will & Duty
• The ‘greatest good’ (summun bonum)
according to Kant is what he terms the
‘good will’. Someone of ‘goodwill’ is not
good because of what they
achieve/accomplish (consequences) but
because he/she acts out of duty. A person
performs an action not for wealth, prestige
etc because it is your duty.
Categorical Imperative
• The rules that a person of ‘good will’ will follow
are decided through what is termed the
Categorical Imperative. The CI is a command
(based on the universal rational moral law) that
must be obeyed for its own sake and not for any
ulterior motive.
• Categorical Imperative = “Do not lie” 
• Hypothetical Imperative = “If you want to be
respected tell the truth” 
Three Versions of the CI
How does a person of ‘good will’ work
out which rules/laws to follow and which
to not? The three principles are:
1. ‘Principle of Universalisability’
2. Treat People as ends in themselves
3. Act as if you live in a kingdom of ends
‘Principle of Universalisability’
• The right rules to follow are those which
can be applied to all people. That is, can
a rule be universalised or not? Would it
make sense for others to act in this way?
All immoral actions are contradictory!
accept help
but never
give it!
Never allow
Treat People as ends in themselves
• In other words treat others with the respect
that as thinking beings, they deserve. Do
not use people!
I am only
your friend
because I
fancy your
“You’re my best friend
– can come for tea!”
Act as if you live in a kingdom of ends
• This is a culmination of the two previous
• We should all regard ourselves as living in
a community (universal kingdom) and that
all people deserve respect as rational and
free individuals. If all people treated each
other in this way (as ends in ourselves)
and follow the CI society would be a much
better place to live in which all people can
be free!