OCR Essay Mark Scheme – Kant’s Categorical Imperative

Here is an OCR mark scheme (Jan 2011 AS Q2) (a) Explain Kant’s reasons for using the Categorical Imperative. [25] (b) ‘The universalisation of maxims by Kant cannot be defended.’ Discuss. [10] 

(a) Explain Kant’s reasons for using the Categorial Imperative [25]

Candidates might explain Kant’s Categorical Imperative and its basis in his theory of ethics, rejecting emotions and consequences as reasons for making an action moral.

They might explain that, for Kant, moral precepts are rooted in rationality, are unconditional or categorical and presupposed freedom.
They may explain the importance of a good will and doing one’s duty.
They may contrast the Categorical Imperative with the Hypothetical Imperative, and universal concern for humanity. In explaining Kant’s reasons for defending each of the forms of the Categorical Imperative they may use examples, possibly those of Kant.
(b) ‘The universalisation of maxims by Kant cannot be defended.’ Discuss. [10]

Candidates may argue that Kant’s theory is abstract and not easily applied to ethical situations.
They may consider that Kant’s approach does not consider outcomes, that there are conflicts between duties and that there is no room for emotions, and differences in cultural norms.
On the other hand, candidates may argue that Kant’s understanding of universal maxims can be defended as it gives clear criteria to know which actions are moral, it respects human life, and the idea of duty means that we will always do what is right and not be swayed by emotions and feelings.
They may say that his rules are fair as they apply to everyone.

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