Philosophy 225 - 12.1.2 Kant and Ethical Progress

The German Enlightenment thinker Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) proposed that reason alone could guide individuals to identify ethical codes that would result in an improved society. These codes, which he called categorical imperatives, could be derived by determining which rules for ethical behavior we might wish to apply to everyone without exception.


The chapter on normative moral theories digs deeper into Kant’s ethical theory.

Kant believed that applying reason in this way could usher humanity toward a moral society in which each individual would enjoy the greatest possible freedom. However, Kant also believed that this work of reasoning out a moral code could not be accomplished by individuals but must be undertaken by entire societies. Nor could the work be accomplished in one generation; instead, it may take centuries of trial, reflection, and education. Yet, through this pursuit, societies would progress with each generation, ultimately reaching a more perfect moral code and a more ideal society (Dupré 1998).

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The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax