Study Of Kants Ethics Of Duty And Reason Philosophy

Essay add: 28-10-2015, 20:13   /   Views: 220

Duty based ethics are known as Deontological ethics. The Greek word deon stands for duty. The main promoter of this philosophy was the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). A deontological theory looks at procedures rather than results.

Morality pertains to all rational beings, and a moral action is backed by reason, not by our empirical senses or particularities of culture or personality. The moral value of an action is its motive, or the reason behind itnot by its consequences which are not governed by reason. We can determine the worth of the motive by asking whether we could it into a universally applicable principle. Morality should be universal as reason is the same at all times and for all people. We are praised or blamed for actions within our control, and that includes our willing, not our achieving.

3 insights form the basis for Kants Ethical Theory

An action has moral worth if it is done for the sake of duty. (DUTY) An action is morally correct if its maxim can be willed as a universal law. (UNIVERSALIZABILITY) We should always treat humanity, whether in ourselves or other people, as an end in itself and never merely as means to an end. (RESPECT)

The Ethics of Duty:

Acting for the sake of duty is: acting without self-interest and acting without concern for consequences. Acting without inclination [downplays the role of compassion]

Before Kant, ethics focused on the concept of "the good", two questions were asked: What is "the good" and How do we attain it? There was no disagreement on the above two points. The only puzzle was why some people didnt aim at the good. (Plato said "ignorance". Aristotle said weakness of will.)

In the Christian view, to act morally a person must see the act is right (i.e., it is commanded by GOD) and must do the act because they see it is right. For Kant, reason, not God, is the source of the moral law. We can rephrase the above as:

To act morally a person must see the act is right (i.e., it is commanded by REASON) and must do the act because they see it is right.

The "Good Will" and duty...

Kant made his famous statement that there is nothing in the world or even out of it that can be called good without qualification except a good will. Qualities of character or wealth may be used to accommodate either right or wrong motives. Knowledge is good, but if used by a traitor in his treachery will prove bad because the traitor lacks good will. By good will, Kant does not mean just a desire or vague wish that may or may not lead to action but what he meant was the firm purpose and fixed desire to do something good. Kant believed that only a good will is morally valuable. A good will knows what its duty is (that is, the good will knows what reason commands it to do.). Kant argues that some qualities are helpful to the good will, such as moderation, self-control are a MEANS to (achieve) a good will.

Morality requires freedom of will. Someone with a free or independent will does not simply act but is able to reflect and decide whether to act in a given way. This act of deliberation distinguishes a self-directed will from a heteronomous will dictated by outside desires.

Kant concludes that the true function of reason is to produce a will that is good.

The Motive of Duty

It is almost unattainable to find instances of untainted moral actions. This is not disheartening, since moral principles come from sound motives and not from experience. Certainly, moral principles may well not come from experience, for all experiences are dependent on some specific conditions, whereas moral principles must have absolute soundness.

For example, a shopkeeper has the duty to offer a reasonable price to all shoppers. However, if he does so out of competition, it is not duty. Similarly, those who help others out of sympathy, it is because it gives them pleasure, it is not duty. Another example would be someone who feels no benevolent inclination, but who works to help others because he realizes that it is a duty to do so.

The "Categorical Imperative"

Particular interests, circumstances, and consequences cannot be taken into consideration; therefore, the moral "law" must be a wide-ranging formula that is appropriate in all situations. Instead of commanding specific actions, it must state the principle that proceedings should be undertaken with unadulterated motives, without thought of consequences, and out of pure veneration for the law.

Kant is known for his theory that there is a single moral obligation, which he called the "Categorical Imperative", and is derived from the concept of duty. Categorical imperatives are rational principles. They are good in themselves; and must be obeyed in all and by all, situations and the imperative is not hypothetical, or conditional. There are no ifs in moral action.

The principle of non-contradiction in logic tells us that if you are dishonest but expect other people to put their faith in you, you contradict yourself.

There are two examples which explain this principle:


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