Kant Theory and Justice

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Immanuel Kant concerns himself with deontology, and as a deontologist, he believes that the rightness of an action depends in part on things other than the goodness of its consequences, and so, actions should be judged based on an intrinsic moral law that says whether the action is right or wrong – period. Kant introduced the Categorical Imperative which is the central philosophy of his theory of morality, and an understandable approach to this moral law. It is divided into three formulations. The first formulation of Kant’s Categorical Imperative states that one should “always act in such a way that the maxim of your action can be willed as a universal law of humanity”; an act is either right or wrong based on its ability to be universalized. This belief is part of the “universal law theory” and states that to determine if an action is essentially “good” or “bad,” one must essentially imagine a world in which everyone performed that same action constantly, and imagine if this would be a desirable world to live in. If not, then it is not okay to perform the action. He believes that this “universal law” lives within us; it is not something that is imposed on us from the outside. For example if one kills oneself out of self-love, it is logically contradictory because self-love refers to respect for one’s self as a rational being and rationality is based on objective (undistorted by emotion or personal bias). So, one can never justify suicide. The maxim of killing oneself cannot possibly exist as a universal law. The second formulation states that one must “treat humanity whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as means only.” For example, if I were to lie to a girl so that she would choose to go out with me then I, in effect, use her. Kant would say that I treated her as a means to achieve my end, and he specifically prohibits manipulating or deceiving a person for the purposes of achieving a personal end. According to Kant, only people are valuable as ends. Any action that disregards this is in clear violation of Kantian morality, and purports to reduce an individual’s autonomy; this consequently undermines a person’s rational capability and reduces him/her to a thing. This implies that if someone robs you and takes your wallet, he is treating you as a thing and not as a person. The third and last formulation requires that one sees oneself as the source of all moral law. This simply emphasizes the fact that the moral agent is the one who chooses to act morally. This third formulation tells us to imagine ourselves as the sole lawmaker in a society, and to choose the best possible set of laws that the society of rational beings would live by. Kant believes that we all have reason within us, but some choose to respond and act upon it while others do not. We can reason the way things ought to be, and based on that is how we should act, which explains Kant’s view that a moral action must be chosen through moral reason. For example, one does not cheat on a test because one’s reason tells him or her that it is wrong, not the consequences that follow if one gets caught. Another example is that we do not need the law to tell us not to steal because it is immoral; we simply have to access our ability to reason to rationalize this. In a world where each individual recognizes his/her moral dignity and freely chooses to adopt the same universalizable moral law, all actions become good. In opposition to the Categorical Imperative is Kant’s Hypothetical Imperative, which states that a particular action is necessary as a means to some purpose. Kant believes that these actions are not always moral because they are not performed out of “pure good will” (pure duty), which is the only thing in the world that is unambiguously good. In the case of the ethical credibility of the principles of affirmative action, Kant’s Categorical Imperative provides for the basis of approval. It is primarily...
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