Kant's Perspective

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Kantian Perspective
Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher lived from 1724 to 1804 and during his lifetime created many theories on ethical conduct and human motivation. Unlike consequentialism which believes the morality of actions depend on the best actual or expected results, Kant believes the morality of our actions has nothing to do with the results but has everything to do with our intentions. For Kant, “it has everything to do with our intentions and reasons for action, those that are embedded within the principles we live by” (Shafer-Landau). According to Kant, moral judgment comes from a person’s own reasoning. When we act, whether or not we achieve what we intend with our actions is sometimes beyond our control and the morality of our actions will not depend upon the outcome. The only thing we can control is the will behind the action and the morality of the action must be evaluated based on the reason of the desire. Kant theorizes the reason is not based on factual knowledge but reasoning by itself can identify the morality principle. Kant developed a certain formulas of guidelines that will help decipher or identify the logic behind your moral or immoral action. Ideas and theories developed by Kant to identify the morality of the action include the categorical imperative, principle of universalizability and the concepts of good will. To better understand categorical imperative, it is important to understand what a maxim is. According to Kant “a maxim is simply the principle of action you give yourself when you are about do something.” A maxim has two parts which describes what you are about to do and the reason you are doing it. It is the decision behind the action that moves a person to act based on their own special circumstances and perspective. For example every year around Christmas time you make a twenty five dollar donation to the Salvation Army’s red kettle holiday drive. Your maxim or duty might be that you contribute money to help provide shelter and food for the thousands of homeless people or families living in your city. The theory behind categorical imperative is that every person has the ability to determine their maxim through reason. Kant also argued that a person cannot use an action to judge whether the action is good or bad because sometimes good actions may be an opportunity to commit an unethical act. For instance compare the following two examples that have the same result. Nurse A is only employed because she knows that her salary, employment and lifestyle depend on her ability to take good care of her patients in the hospital. Nurse B is employed because she believes it is her duty to take good care of her patients in the hospital. In both of the above cases, the nurses have the same result which is to take good care of patients but is it the motive behind the action that is very different for each nurse. Nurse A’s motive is somewhat self-centered supported by a motive to increase her salary, employment or life style. Based on Kant’s theory, Nurse A’s motive has no moral worth because the motivation behind the action is self serving. Unlike Nurse B’s motive is more about principles of value, dignity and respect which can be traced back to the motivation of duty. Categorical imperative “is a command of reason. It does not depend on what we care about. Categorical imperatives command us to do things whether we want to or not, with the result that if we ignore or disobey them, we are acting contrary to reason—i.e. irrationally” (Shafer-Landau). Category imperative is a method to determine morality of actions and is motivated by pure reason. According to Kant, reasoning will always allow us to know what our maxim is when we decide to take action. One method to determine morality of our actions is to decide if our maxim follows the formula of the principles of universalizability. The principle of universalizability standard states “an act is morally acceptable if...
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