Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Basic Strengths and Weaknesses of Kantian Ethics

Main strengths of Kantian ethics:

  • Clarity - Kantian ethics is clear and easy to follow. Its absolutist, deontological nature is arguably the most easy to apply
    • this is good for environmental, business and sexual ethics. Any theory which is easy to apply is helpful/useful/reliable
  • Egalitarian - Kant states we should treat people as "an end in themselves" and so Kantian ethics puts everyone on equal ground
    • this is also good for all three, for obvious reasons
  • Consistent - the absolutist nature of the ethic means that what it says will never change - nobody is an exception
    • this is good for business - all customers are treated exactly the same and none are favoured
  • Honours respect and dignity

Main weaknesses of Kantian ethics:

  • Maxim scope - anyone could universalise a maxim to allow anything, so long as it is universalisable
    • sexually, the maxim 'women should always be sexually passive' could be put forward, as could several others. Is this fair?
    • corrupt businesses could employ any maxim they wish to justify doing something which many of us may see as immoral
  • Inflexible - because of its absolutist nature, Kantian ethics offers no flexibility. It doesn't regard the situation of an action, which is arguably not helpful or useful in the modern world
    • this is a weakness for all three - environmental, sexual and business issues are all specific and different
  • Speciesist - Kant once said that "animals are there merely as a means to an end. That end is man."
    • this anthropocentric view may offend certain environmental theories and present humanity as arrogant - preference utilitarian Peter Singer would take particular offence  because pretty much all he talks about is animals. He loves them.


  1. Hi, I would just like to say thank you for making this blog post! it helped me come up with some weaknesses that I didn't already have! I appreciate the effort you made to write this!