A Kantian Solution to the Problem of Moral Dilemmas translation missing: zh.hyrax.visibility.files_restricted.text

Sperling, Mathew (Spring 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/d504rk40k?locale=zh
Published

Abstract

Critics of universally normative theories of ethics often proceed by constructing multi- pronged thought experiments wherein multiple morally good actions are incompatible with each other or in which all possible actions are odious. If a moral system requires the impossible – the performance of mutually exclusive actions or the rejection of an exhaustive set of actions – then a moral dilemma results. The theory is not, then, action-guiding and applicable in a morally relevant situation and is therefore no longer universally normative. An ethical program is similarly at fault if it is entirely silent, offering neither guidance nor any explanation for why such a situation falls outside the moral domain. Furthermore, a moral theory that does discharge the dilemma by promoting one prong over the other may face suspicion if its grounds for doing so are entirely arbitrary (without any meta-ethical justification) or if its prescriptions are contradictory or supremely counter-intuitive.

In this paper, I argue that the Kantian system of practical philosophy supplies a meta- ethically robust means of discharging moral dilemmas. I trace Kant’s arguments from postulates that are necessary for the possibility of morality through the derivation of a normative principle in the form of the categorical imperative. The logical necessity of this principle, precludes internal contradiction and the subjective manner in which it is actualized through the evaluation of maxims (first order principles of actions) tailors its directives to the set of actions available in a particular scenario. The categorical imperative, then, allows for universally consistent action- guidance without rigidly enforcing broad normative requirements to the exclusion of other equally valid imperatives.

Finally, through an analysis of the set of thought-experiments known as “trolley scenarios,” I examine the limited scope of the categorical imperative’s practical evaluation. I assess and dismiss normative principles which are excluded from a categorical analysis of moral duty by the meta-ethical postulates of Kantian ethics. These normative principles, not being derived from pure practical reason, unsurprisingly also result in intuitive contradictions. Ultimately the limitations of the categorical imperative provide intuitive consistency, allowing it to properly distinguish practically necessary perfect duties from assertorically valid, but contingent, imperfect duties.

Table of Contents

Introduction................................................................................................................... 1-2

Doubts Raised by Moral Dilemmas about the Possibility of Universal Ethics... 2-9

These Doubts Specifically Applied to Kantian Practical Philosophy............... 10-21

Kantian Solution to these Doubts...................................................................... 21-44

About this Honors Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
School
Department
Degree
Submission
Language
  • English
Research field
关键词
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
最新修改 No preview

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files