In the Foundation of the Metaphysics of Morals, the author, Immanuel Kant, tries to form a base by rejecting all ethical theories that are connected to consequences, and then focusing on our ethical motivations and actions. Kant wants to derive good characters out of contingently right actions. He believes that everything is contingent (everything can have good or bad worth, depending on how it is used). So he is trying to find the supreme principal of morality in all his reasoning. Kant also believes that an action is right or wrong based solely on the reason by which it was performed. However, a Utilitarian, like John Mill, would reject Kant's reasoning of originating good characters out of actions alone, and instead argue that if an action has bad consequences, then the action was morally wrong.
Kant believes that an action has moral worth only if it is done out of respect for our moral code. He names this moral action a duty.' Kant also believes that in determining the moral worth of an action, we need to look at the maxim by which it was performed. So, we need to look at one's reason for doing an action to determine if it is a duty. If the reason for performing the action is justified, then the action is a duty. However, Kant says there are two different types of reasons for performing an action.
Kant calls these reasons imperatives.' The first reason for performing an action, the hypothetical imperative, is based on consequences and on our personal preferences. They are also contingent, meaning that they can be good or bad depending on how they are used. People choose to perform a given action because of the hypothetical imperative. The second reason for performing an action according to Kant is called the categorical imperative. These are not based on our preferences, don't deal with consequences of an action, and are derived a priori. They are completely separate from hypothetical imperatives. We all have... [continues]
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