Monday, 11 January 2010

The Moral Argument by Kant and criticisms by Freud

This is a video of me below explaining the moral argument and its criticisms:

  • It is an a-posteriori argument.
  • The argument starts from our experience of morality (right and wrong) and concludes that God must exist to explain this fully.
  • Kant didn't believe the argument proved God's existence. Rather, Kant said it was reasonable to postulate God in order to make final sense of reality.
  • It is based on three assumptions:
                (i)  We are free to do both right and wrong.
               (ii)  God will reward the person that lives dutifully.
               (iii) There us an after-life to make this possible.

So here is how it goes...

  1. People who are good should be happy.However, this is not always true. Some good people are very unhappy because life treats them badly.
  2. There must be something else which makes them act morally. This is the highest good or what Kant call 'Summum bonum' and their sense of duty to achieve the highest good.
  3. Our 'reason' tells us which laws should be obeyed; these are laws that can universalised.For example, we know stealing is wrong because if everyone went around stealing, society would fail.They are called categorical imperatives; non-negotiable and absolute requirements fulfilling their duty.
  4. There must be a reward for our moral behaviour in the next world- the summum bonum.
  5. Hence,  it is reasonable to believe God exists as he is entity that promises to reward us.
Sigmund Freud's criticisms

  • He believed our sense of duty and moral awareness can be explained by socialisation i.e. the adaptation of behavioural patterns of the surrounding culture.
  • He said our conscious (decisions to do right or wrong) was a product of our unconscious mind or super-ego of he human psyche.
There are 3 parts to the human psyche...
  1. ID- Basic instincts and primitive desires e.g. hunger, lust, greed etc.
  2. Ego- Perception of the external world that makes us aware of the 'reality principle'. It is one's most outward part and personality.
  3. Super-ego - This is the unconscious mind which consists of: (i) the ego ideal: this praises all good actions and (ii) conscious who makes you feel guilty for bad actions.
  • For Freud, moral awareness cannot derive from a divine origin because then the commands would be absolute and we all would come to the same conclusion. For example; in the case euthanasia some find it unmoral and other find it moral (relieving loved one rom pain)
A further development on the criticism...

  • If the conscious which makes good and bad decisions is the word of God than you would expect the moral code enforced by God to be consistent.
  • However, this does not explain cases such as the Yorkshire Ripper who claimed to follow voices in his head.
  • It can be implied from that, that the conscious is not truly objective.
  • Therefore, it has a human not divine origin.


  1. It's spelled "immoral". Unmoral means uninfluenced by morality, an act cannot be unmoral, it is immoral (bad). Please do not use unmoral incorrectly like this in your exams.

  2. Dayum. This is actually amazing. I mean, yeah there are flaws. But last minute revision. Just wow. You're a star. Thanks so much! I hope I get my A in Philosophy & Ethics!