Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

Patrick H

Key Points
The book The Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Ethics is our source for Kant's ethical teachings.
According to Kant, ethics must be worked out only in accordance with the principles of reason. Genuine morality is derived solely from correct reason.
Reason examines and refers to ends and means. The end is the end goal and the means are how you try to bring the goal about.
The imperatives
An imperative is something we have to do to achieve an end.
Kant believed in two imperatives.
One is the hypothetical imperative. For example, if I want to visit Thailand I have to get transport there.
The other is the categorical imperative. Categorical means follow and obey unconditionally. Imperative means its your duty to obey it. In other words, there are actions we must do without regard for the consequences and they are to be recognised and seen as morally good.
For Kant, if you have to tell a tiny lie in order to stop a truly evil man unleashing a chemical weapon on the world that will make people die a death terrible beyond belief this philosophy says you must not tell the lie for the lie is your responsibility and the cruel murders are the man's.
Most people feel that as scary as that is he is right so they set about inventing an "ethics" of their own so that they can go into denial mode.
We should only make moral rules that could be applied to everybody. If everybody murdered we would be all dead so that to Kant proves that murder of even one person is wrong. So when deciding what is right you must ask, "Is this something everybody on earth could do?"
The categorical imperative includes the thought that we must never treat people as means but as ends. It is thought that Jesus supported that principle when he said, "Always treat others the way you would like them to treat you." But the reality is that you have to treat people as means if you are to live in the world. And what if many people are happy to be treated as a means at least up to a point? And they are!
Kant correctly thought the Golden Rule, treat others as you would like to be treated, is very weak. His categorical imperative is definitely an improvement on it.

When we do evil, it is the good we think we see in the evil or the good results that we are after. We only do evil because we misperceive it as good. We might categorise it as evil when we do it but we donít really mean it. Its evil doesnít seem real to us.
Kant's morality is based on human intentions only. If you had brain damage and you thought a lie was the truth then it allows lying then.
Think about this. If the morality is all about intentions then it follows that it does not really matter if the whole world cannot lie and steal all the time. It has no relevance to morality as long as the liars and thieves have good intentions or at least the best intentions under the circumstances. Thus Kantian ethics contradicts itself. It says only intent matters and then persecutes those who do things that the whole world cannot do.
What if you think that liars and thieves can never have good intentions? Actually some times they do. And to say they must always have bad intentions is very judgmental. If the whole world cannot steal or lie all the time it cannot judge all the time either. From that it would follow that its a sin to have a morality for that entails judging actions and perhaps the people who do the actions.
If an actor dies and the question arises about what is to be done about his character on a soap? Some say a replacement would be disrespectful. They are judging the intentions of those who work to get a replacement done. Nobody has the right to do that for they cannot see the intentions of another. And they don't even know the people who are considering a recast. If an action could be seen as disrespectful it is not if it is done with the best intentions.
With Kantian ethics, a person is never morally accountable for what they did but only for why they did it. Many would say the following. This would imply that the law of the land has no right to put people on trial but only has a right to put hearts on trial which is impossible to do. The criminal would have a right to feel judged by a system that does not and cannot know or understand his intentions. That is only going to worsen the human tendency to lawlessness. Its nothing more than a licence for recidivism. And it is very effective.
Perhaps the ethic has to allow punishing people for what they have done regardless of their intentions for the law of the land punishes breaches of the law as long as the person was not forced to break the law. Ignorance or good intentions are not an excuse. But this contradicts the notion that intention alone is important and is really opposition to the ethic.
It is unfair to criticise Kantian morality for being so based on human intentions, for the following reason. Every single doctrine of morality suffers from the same fatal illness. Its called a defect to soften how devastating it is. The moral systems are pure hypocrisy for they recoil from the primacy of intention and yet they endorse it. In the midst of virtue, we are in mire of vice and selfishness and pretence.
Kant according to Keith Ward in the book, More than Matter? (page 172, Lion, 2010), though he regarded motives as central also taught that we must beware of the fanaticism of trying to work out exactly what our motives are and how good they are. Kant said it is impossible to be sure how moral your motives are so it is best to just get on with doing good. Kant like Aristotle said it is better to get into the habit of doing good so that you don't have to worry all the time about the purity of your motives. The reason is that by the time the self-examination is done, the opportunity for doing the good deeds will have passed and besides you still won't know if your good deeds are really unselfish.
But if we are doing good out of bad motives and not realising it then the good is not really good and is not as selfless as it appears. It contradicts the emphasis on intention.
Kant meant we must not spend too much time and energy worrying about our motives but it is clear we must watch out for any clear selfishness. But if intention comes first then there is no such thing as spending too much time testing and purifying your motives.
Kant felt that we must avoid any belief such as Heaven or Hell that is going to make our motives more suspect. He is not saying they will necessarily make you more selfish but only that it makes it harder for you to clearly distinguish between selfish and unselfish motives. It may be though that the believing saint is really only concerned not about goodness but about having a good time in Heaven forever. The moral is don't overdo the self-examination - and remember it is not that it is really wrong to engage in it - but don't believe anything that will make your hidden motives more selfish.
It is all about reason so our hopes and desires and interests must not be involved. This makes the morality sound cold but Kant argues that ought implies can so we should have the benefit of doing what we ought to and can do. At least we are exercising freedom.
What is Duty?
Morality is not a simple belief in good or bad but a belief in being good or else suffering punishment.  It has the idea of duty built in.

Duty means doing good that you are bound to do. For example, you are required and obligated to pay your bills. Some philosophers, such as Kant, have attempted to base right and wrong on duty. Duty implies that you should be forced and that it is a duty for others to force you to carry out your duties. You cannot be required to do something if nobody tries to force you. Needless to say, Christianity and Islam say religion is a duty to God and we know from their bloody history how that led these faiths to butcher millions who didnít want any part of this duty.
Duty is debt. If you fail in your duty you are forced to pay your debt another way. For example, if you donít carry out your duty to respect the property of others you will have the duty to pay back the damage by money or by prison enforced on you. So duty is inseparable from compulsion.
A school-master who sits all day listening to the radio and who doesnít teach his pupils is not doing his duty. If he gets away with it, then society is taking the duty from him. Everybody is happy with him doing no work especially the children so it is not his duty anymore. You see then that duty attempts to justify human authority. You also see that he has to be forced by the threat of losing his job or punishment to do his duty. Without that it could hardly be said to be his duty for it is duty in name only. There is no requirement made so it is not a real duty. A requirement is not a requirement unless there are bad consequences for you if you donít do what you are required to do.
A duty is your duty whether you understand it or not. A seven year old pupil may not understand why he is obligated to work at his maths but that doesnít detract from the duty being a duty. Duty implies that we are to be conscripts in a moral army. It is inseparable from the use of force.
Duty justifies dogma. It follows from duty that nobody has the right to say you should rob banks for the poor or neglect your children. It follows that if there is a duty towards God, that doubters and atheists and agnostics should be silenced. Christianity and Islam cannot get along for each claims to be the one true faith and accordingly that it is everybodyís duty to belong to the true faith and that other religions are bad and a threat to duty.


Duty and absolutism

Some say that it is duty that matters not consequences so not doing your duty is to be absolutely forbidden.


Moral philosophers criticise each others theories and base that criticism on telling only what they want to tell. They never tell the full story. Neither did Kant.
Absolutism is the doctrine that some acts are morally wrong no matter how much evil avoiding them does. An example is how it teaches that it is morally wrong to kill x, even if x consents, even if is the only way to get organs to save the lives of five lovely children. It says the acts are bad in themselves and that they are not to be condemned because of their bad consequences but simply because they are bad. It says the reason evil acts have bad results is because they are evil acts and it denies that we should say that doing whatever has the best consequences matters.
Absolutism is the strongest fan of duty.  It makes things duties no matter what.


Let us explore the doctrines of people in ivory towers who claim that morality is about actions that are always wrong regardless of the evil this ďmoralityĒ results in. Or who hold that only some actions are always bad and forbidden.  Let us continue to explore Kant!

Immanuel Kant said that an action is wrong if everybody cannot do it. For example, if we all broke promises life would be impossible so it is always wrong. You cannot break a promise even to save lives. His system is called Deontologism. Deontologism is an ethic about duty. But what is said about actions must be clarified. According to him an action is good if it is done with a moral motive so it is only the motive that counts and everything else including the consequences is not as important. It says that what is moral is not moral because it is good but because it was done because you believe you ought to do it. For Kant, you are a bad person if you refuse to stab people just because you hate the thought of blood.
Deontologism is based on the notion that correct reason is always valid and you can work out an ethic and that any reasonable ethic must be in some sense universalizable - logically possible to apply to all cases. In other words, if stealing is wrong for me it is wrong for everybody else in the same situation and also life cannot go on if everybody does it. That seems to lead to the conclusion that to act rationally and ethically is the same thing for both reason and ethics are universalizable. In other words, the conclusion is that reason tells us to have an ethic that can and is meant to be practiced by the whole world and what that ethic would be like.


The trouble is, as Peter Singer says (page 319, Practical Ethics) Ė not to mention the great David Hume, is that that we can behave rationally and still be wrong. Rationality is not about being right though it is an attempt to be right but is about deriving conclusions from premises. So you could make a mistake and the result will be a wrong belief. But it is still a rational belief in the sense that you used reason correctly as you understood reason or what you thought was the facts to come to a conclusion. Objectively speaking, your mistake is irrational but subjectively speaking it is rational. It is the subjective sense that is important for it is to be equated with sincerity and there is no sense in being right if you donít sincerely think you are right.
The ethic declares some unimportant actions immoral and permits things that are very bad. The ethic makes it immoral to borrow. Life cannot go on if everybody steals but neither can it if all borrow everything. (Interestingly, life cannot function if we all say miracles happen every day. This makes the Roman Catholic Church immoral for encouraging belief in miracles.) It is logically possible to demand that everybody say a silent prayer at 3 am daily. But that does not make it a moral duty!

The doctrine of Kant is telling us we must not shun the forbidden acts because of consequences but because of what they are. The undesirable consequences are put down to the acts being bad but are not the reason they are bad. It would say that killing is not wrong because of what will happen but killing is wrong because it is killing. See how it is rooted in the present.
Kant himself believed that since nobody agrees on what is best for us in terms of consequences it is necessary to forget about the consequences and just focus on motives for that is the only way you can enable all people to be moral if they want to be and they can want to be.  Consequences are extremely important to us in our daily thinking which is why Kant's morality is irrational in the sense that it is suggesting or worse imposing an ethic nobody wants.


The intuition argument
Many believers hold that the only justification for the Deontologism system is intuition. That is, we feel that stealing is wrong even when it is for a greater good and it has nothing to do with it being bad example or a threat to order. Stealing is bad because it is bad and not because of what it does. They usually insist that bad consequences come from the act itself being bad. The consequences donít however make the act bad. Some people have an intuition that they should steal from the rich to give to the poor or because the rich deserve to be robbed. Intuition is no good as a guide.
The question is then how do you know that the act is bad? Stealing can sometimes have very good consequences. If the consequences donít make the act bad, then it follows that they donít matter and only the act matters. If you canít consider the consequences then you cannot know if the act is bad. It's all about an assumption that one pretends is intuition. Its not reason.
Some people have different intuitions. Atheists may intuit that religion and belief in God is evil and believers in God claim to intuit that belief in God is good.
The way the intuition theory works is as follows. You want to do good when you act. You intuit that stealing is wrong. When you follow that intuition and avoid stealing and prevent it then you are doing good.

Prichard, a deontologist, says that that it is impossible for reason to prove that any act is bad in itself (Deontologism, New Catholic Encyclopaedia). If this is the case then it is feeling that is behind the belief that any act is wrong. You feel an act is wrong and that is why you claim to believe that it is wrong.
Deontologism insists that we should do things out of sense of duty when reason tells us what our duty is and not because of feeling. We are to do good not to be happy though we can hope to be happy because of it. We are to do it for being good it is simply to be valued. Doing good for its own sake is thought to mean that deontologism and Kant want you to hate doing good. It is open to that but it is clear that you should do good and not wait until you hate it enough before doing it. It has to be practical. Also, Kant taught that wanting to do something does not mean you do it because you want to.
Kant is clear that it is wrong to do something because you desire to and not for its own sake.
But that is not what can happen. We only do good because we feel like it. Deontologism thrives on what it forbids and so it condemns itself. If we are honest we know that we can only concentrate on one thing at a time and this forces us to follow the strongest desire we have every moment. If you resist a sexual temptation, you succeed because you felt you wanted to overcome it rather than entertain it. The reason we can have strong desires and not carry them out is because the desire to do something in a moment is replaced by one that stops this. So deontologism is unintelligible. It is bigotry to make faith in morality and what it is rest on feeling. Such faith is not faith at all. So they donít really believe in their philosophy. And moreover intuition and reason both tell us we should not do anything we donít believe is right so the duty must be not to believe in the duties of deontologism.

The doctrine of deontologism despite itself forbids our motives, meaning our desires for good and good is what brings benefits for ourselves or others. The doctrine says we are not to desire good or to have a motive but just do something because we ought to. If you do good because you enjoy it your motive is bad. You are doing the good not because it is good or because you ought to but because of your feelings. It is the ought the doctrine cares about not the feelings. It is cold. It is worse than altruism, the nasty doctrine that people donít matter in themselves and should just think about helping others and not themselves.  The two are combined in many ways making a complete monster.

The Kantians are inconsistent and they concoct arbitrary precepts. If it is immoral to lie to save a life then it is wrong to be silent at all for if everybody did that life would be a disaster.

And if everybody steals and lies we will survive. The ethic devises and then increases misery by forbidding these always and then it says misery is bad which is why the thing is wrong. It is incoherent.
The ethic assumes that when you do something you have to approve of all others doing the same to you and to others. A thief, for instance, can argue that if he steals nobody should do the same for it is wrong. But he cannot mean it because he believes in doing it himself. He approves of the theft as he does it and is thinking it is right regardless of what he thought before or thinks after. The thief could argue that since he is more sure of his existence than that of other people that he cannot approve of them stealing from him but can agree will stealing from them and stealing from others.

Some object against Kant that people can wash their hair every week and that does not mean they are declaring that it would be wrong for everybody else not to. Others would reply that this is about preference not morality so it doesnít touch Kantís theory of morality. It does for preferences mean you desire what is good and anything to do with good or bad is to do with morality. So the objection does have a point.


In a book called Philosophy: The Basics we read that rules like always poking your tongue out at people who are taller than you are could be universalised which makes Kantís system ridiculous.

We have to perform the greatest good and the least evil because values often conflict so the least important one has to be sacrificed. It could be that if you have to tell a lie to save your sister from an axe-wielding maniac then you should go ahead and do it. Those who condemn your action should be sharply informed that they are just trying to commit cold-blooded murder through you. You would be as bad as the axe-murderer for telling the truth.


Life after death

If the Kantian ethic were rational it would be on one condition, that there is a life after death. Unless you can be as sure that you will live forever as you are that you are alive now the ethic would be irrational for you for how else could you justify obedience to it for it is difficult and nightmarish and youíd need a good afterlife to make living worthwhile? For instance, telling the truth cannot be a duty when you could increase happiness by doing the opposite. And you should do the opposite for all have only one life. You need another life to make up for the misery caused by following Kantís ethics.

Perhaps we would be better off committing suicide? The Kantian theory says that we must not. It forbids killing yourself even if all the people around you kill themselves.
It is no help to tell a suicidal person, "You cannot kill yourself. What if everybody did that?" The answer you will get is, "But I am not everybody!"  The ethic would demand you say that but it is clear that it shows no mercy or concern for the person.  Why not try to understand the person instead and listen?
Impersonal and Cold

Despite itself, the ethic forbids compassionate actions for you do good only because it is your duty and not to end suffering. It is a rigid impersonal rule.
The rule must be supremely important. If a rule can authorise you to let the whole world die if the only way to save it was by telling a lie then the rule is the most important thing. Life is nothing in comparison. Since life doesnít matter so much as the rule, then anybody who doesnít believe in the rule must surely be put to death? But then the rule says you cannot kill. True. But it is still forcing you to put little value on human life. It still gives you a black heart. You are not killing just because of the rule and not because you value human life.
It tells us to tell the truth, when lying is the only alternative, no matter how many people will be destroyed as a result. If you have to tell a killer where his intended victim is rather than tell him a lie, Kant would say that it is the killer's decision to kill not yours. Your affair is the choice whether to lie or not. He says you cannot tell a lie just because somebody else will abuse the truth. It's not your problem. A philosophy like that only trains people to deny that they have a part to play in what other people do. If somebody murders because of what you told him, you have to answer for it. You caused evil.
Kantian philosophy says that we must treat people as ends and never ever as means. This forbids masturbation, porn or casual sex outside marriage. But if we just care about acting without feeling and only out of a sense of duty then it is the duty we really only care about. Acting with feelings would be preferable to that Ė it would be nearer to what the person wants.

Kant said that you must do the right thing not to be happy but because it is the right thing. He said that morality however should result in you becoming happy or happier. But if it should that does not mean it will. You can give up an organ for your child and endure a life of Hell afterwards. Do not let Kant's assertion blind you to the fact that the ethics is cold and unfeeling in itself. Cold people think they feel better by being cold. They do it because they don't want the hassle of caring about others. His teaching about happiness is unimportant.


The pope talks about Kant's poor idea of love


Thinking of the command to love one's neighbour as oneself, Pope John Paul II wrote, "Love for a person excludes the possibility of treating him as an object of pleasure. This is a principle of Kantian ethics. Kant did not fully interpret the commandment of love. In fact, the commandment of love is not limited to excluding all behaviour that reduces the person to a mere object of pleasure. It requires more; it requires the affirmation of a person as a person " (page 201,  Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II, Jonathan Cape, London, 1994).


Kantians are clear that we must not treat people as a means to our own ends. But what about treating them as means to some other end such as pleasing God or scoring points with him? What if we treat them as a means not to our ends but to moral ends such as justice and love? You can love a person. You can love a person for the sake of love which is not the same as real love. Its about thinking you love them and your motive is to satisfy a rule.
Kant and God
Kant's ethics is offered to us as a secular ethic. It does not consider God at all in terms of a moral authority. In other words, it offers God as a help to be moral but not as a moral authority.
In the Kant scenario, God, if he exists, made us not for ourselves but for goodness. He does not care about us. And nobody should care according to the Kant ethic. Just care about duty not people. Misery is the reward of such an ethic though it says that good consequences will come out of its teaching though it should not be obeyed for them.

At least Kantian ethics say that ethics is not based on what a God decrees but on what reason says is right. It is godless system. It is duty that matters in it not God or Godís will.
Kant said we need to work to bring about the greatest good we can - the greatest good is what he meant by the summum bonum. He argued that we can obtain it but only if God assists us (page 61, Philosophy of Religion for A Level, OCR Edition (Anne Jordan, Neil Lockyer and Edwin Tate, Nelson Thornes Ltd, 1999). He said it would not be a duty to strive for it if it is impossible and a lesser good would have to do.


He assumed that it must be God that helps. He went as far as to say that if we fail to do the greatest good in life we may get the chance from God in an afterlife. But he merely asserted it is God - he did not defend or argue for it. And the point he was trying to make would still hold good if he said there is something that against all odds that makes you do what is really difficult. Our natural abilities can work in surprising ways. God is not essential to his morality but is merely shoved in as an assumption. It does not change the fact that his moral system really has no need for God. Also, we need a morality for this world. Anybody telling us that if we cannot do great good in this world that we have the next one anyway to do it is denying this. If you say you need help to do the greatest good and you are bound to do it in this world then clearly the next life has nothing to do with it. The morality is no good if it is not about the here and now.
Kant said it is morally necessary to assume that there is a God (page 63, Philosophy of Religion for A Level, OCR Edition (Anne Jordan, Neil Lockyer and Edwin Tate, Nelson Thornes Ltd, 1999). But God is too serious a matter to be merely assumed. It is like assuming that the person you will love above all else is in the cellar though you know nothing about the cellar. A morality cannot be based on assuming the existence of something so important for that is trivialising it.
Kant thought is morally necessary to assume that there is a God because once you say that moral interests matter more than anything else you are saying there is something beyond anything human that must be obeyed (page 63, Philosophy of Religion for A Level, OCR Edition (Anne Jordan, Neil Lockyer and Edwin Tate, Nelson Thornes Ltd, 1999). A command to put a principle first can only come from a commander - God. Suppose you like chocolate. What matters more than anything else is eating it in a way that helps you enjoy it best. You cannot eat it until you get sick for example. You cannot eat it all the time or it will start to bore you. None of that implies that a command is needed. Morality can be understood as getting the best out of what is. You have to get something out of it so why not the best? The reason you act is because you have to not because you are commanded.
God is that which must be our only ultimate concern as he is the only perfect goodness. Kantian ethics then has the attitude, "Maybe that kind of God exists but damn him. We will work out our ethics on our own regardless of him or his goodness.  We will assume God as a prop to encourage ethical behaviour." The ethics of Kant then to Christians are humanistic and satanic. It is a case of man being ethical to all but God. Kant's ethics is anti-God in that sense. It would be a fake ethic if there is a God. If it is true that God is the only thing that ultimately matters then the ethics is unethical for it calls on man to defy God who really matters to man. And if it is not God that matters but believing in him then that makes it worse.
It could be that Kantian ethics is the best of a selection of poor ethical theories.  Maybe all you have is poor theories and it is all you will ever have.  That belief in God tries to rule Kantianism out if it is the best shows that that belief is a plague and worthy of revulsion. If it is the best, then belief in God is certainly an evil. The good it does can never make up for the errors and harm it produces.
Problems with the ethics
Atheists and humanists agree with the ethics in many things. They tend to dissent where Kant's ethics asks us to avoid lying even if lying is necessary to save a person's life.
The Catholic Church says that contraceptive sex is lying even in marriage and especially in marriage. If the Kantian agreed with that, he would be against contraception. He would argue that the state though it cannot stop lying from going on, it can stop contraception and therefore should.

The ethic is so impersonal and mathematical that it is bad for mental and emotional health. In this it annuls itself for we cannot live if we destroy our mental and emotional health and so it condemns itself.

You cannot amend the rule of Kant to, ďDoing the least evil is always rightĒ, for that is a different kind of ethic altogether, consequentialism. Yet some say that morality is doing what has the fewest elements which are bad in themselves in it. So, though stealing is bad in itself it is lawful to do it to prevent murder for that is an act that is worse. This still says only what consequentialism says.

If any lying implies that everybody should be allowed to tell all the lies they want as Kantianism states then it follows that all wrongdoing is incredibly serious and cynical and callous. The system will destroy through guilt.

If we really want to gel with other people, we simply cannot worry about moral ends or God! Morality and religion and God when correctly understood are blocks to caring about others - really and truly and deeply.


Positive law and permissive law


A positive law is one that tells you to do something.  Its reverse is a permissive law that merely lets you do it.  Kantian ethics commands you to tell the truth if hypothetically it will guarantee that millions will die for a lie is the only alternative.  It makes it a positive law.  You are no better than a mass murderer in principle with a law like that!  It is bad for the reason that commanding old people to be euthanised differs from permitting them to take that course.


Kantian ethics tries to value the person but fails.  It is slow burner destruction.  Kantís categorical imperative unjustly accuses the wrongdoer of being very bad for by his action he is saying, ďEverybody do the same.Ē
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Roman Catholic Ethics: Three Approaches by Brian Berry