Kant's Moral Theory

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Sidra M

Kant’s moral theory

Immanuel Kant (22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher from Kaliningrad, Russia who researched, lectured and wrote on philosophy and anthropology during the Enlightenment at the end of the 18th century.

According to Kant, human beings occupy a special place in creation, and morality can be summed up in one ultimate commandment of reason, or imperative, from which all duties and obligations derive. He defined an imperative as any proposition that declares a certain action (or inaction) to be necessary. There are two types of imperatives introduced by Kant. 1) Hypothetical imperative and 2) Categorical imperative. Hypothetical imperatives apply to someone dependent on them having certain ends for example: if I wish to quench my thirst, I must drink something; if I wish to acquire knowledge, I must learn. A categorical imperative, on the other hand, denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself. It is best known in its first formulation: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law. The second form explains that always treat humanity, whether in your own person or that of another, never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end. The categorical imperative is the central philosophical concept in the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Introduced in Kant's 1785 Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, it may be defined as a way of evaluating motivations for action. .

Categorical imperatives are principles that are intrinsically valid; they are good in and of themselves; they must be obeyed in all, and by all, situations and circumstances if our behavior is to observe the moral law. It is from the Categorical Imperative that all other moral obligations are generated, and by which all moral obligations can be tested. The categorical imperative, however, may be based only on something that is an "end in itself". That is, an end that is a means only to itself and not to some other need, desire, or purpose. He believed that the moral law is a principle of reason itself, and is not based on contingent facts about the world, such as what would make us happy, but to act upon the moral law which has no other motive than "worthiness of being happy". One of the advantages of this approach to morality is that it looks more closely at the individual and his choices, rather than the actual consequences of what he does (which, after all, he has no control over). Take this example; a scientist decides that he is going to find a cure for a particular sort of cancer, and spends years trying to accomplish this. Look at his intent – it’s highly moral. But imagine that he accidentally invents some sort of super weapon instead, which eventually leads to the total destruction of entire civilizations. This is not a positive result, but it was not what he wanted to achieve. There are some critics of Kant that have contended that his approach is unable to provide ethical guidance when two moral principle are in conflict. As the question asks what do you think Kant would respond to the objection where two moral principles such as “do not lie” and “do not let innocent persons to be harmed if you can prevent it” are in conflict, One of the first major challenges to Kant's reasoning came from the French philosopher Benjamin Constant, who asserted that since truth telling must be universal, according to Kant's theories, one must (if asked) tell a known murderer the location of his prey. For example we have hidden some Jews in an upstairs room who we have promised to protect as one of our maxims is to ‘preserve human life’. Nazi storm-trooper arrive at the door and ask us whether we are hiding any Jews. We also have a maxim ‘always tell the truth’, one of our maxims must be broken. In this reply, Kant agreed with Constant's...
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