Philosophy of Life

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“The Application of the supreme principle of morality (of Immanuel Kant) in the decisions we take in everyday life”.

Immanuel Kant introduced his moral theory in the late 18th century, which sought to establish a supreme principle of morality. He argued that there exists an ethical system whereby moral requirements are requirements of reason, and the rightness of actions is determined by their accordance with moral law. Therefore, an immoral action will always be considered an irrational action. For Kant, a supreme guiding moral principle must carry with it an absolute necessity and be done out of duty to the moral law in order to be free from corruption. He said that morality is something one ought to abide by unconditionally, that is, without doing so to gain any reward or merit. Kant's principle is rooted in a concept of duty, and sets forth the requirement that people not merely act in accordance with moral law, but instead for the sake of "pure duty" to following the moral law. He said that duty includes that of a good will, and is "the necessity of an action done out of respect for the law". For example, a shopkeeper faced with the decision of how to price his goods. The shopkeeper can overcharge his customers and receive the increased profits, but this will be an act contrary to moral law. The shopkeeper can also choose to price his goods inexpensively only in order to attract more sales, which will ultimately benefit him as well. However, in this case the shopkeeper would be acting in such a manner in order to reach desirable ends for himself, and not simply for the sake of acting morally, which is still not how morally right people ought to act. Only the shopkeeper who sets fair prices merely because it is the right thing to do for his customers is the man who is acting for the sake of the moral law and is fulfilling his duty to morality. Kant’s philosophy referred to as the categorical imperative, which is the supreme moral law. Kant therefore believes there to be a certain common sense in the foundation of moral law, which arises out of the good will of beings. A good will is good in itself and if it acts from duty to the moral law, and not for the sake of the consequences that will result from a certain action. For example, if a lifeguard, in an attempt to save a drowning child accidently drowns the child due to improperly providing the aid, such an action of help would be considered a moral one by Kant simply because the lifeguard was performing his duty. Some more examples of such ‘Categorical Imperative’ maxims (general principles underlying an action) include- ‘One must never commit murder; ‘one must always be truthful’ etc. He distinguished such categorical duties from hypothetical duties like ‘If you want to get respect, you should tell the truth’ which tell one what one must do or not do in order to achieve a certain goal. Kant further narrowed the scope of such categorical imperatives by classifying only those maxims that apply universally to everyone as categorical imperatives. Simply put, the categorical imperative becomes the means for determining whether an act is moral or not for human beings therefore capable of following rules of logic and capable of being moral.

For Kant, any system of morality that was not a priori was changeable based on time, place, and any other differences in human experiences. A moral code as such is shaky and uncertain. For example, murder was wrong simply because it inflicted pain in another person. According to Kant, such an argument is rooted in prior human experience, and that morality couldn’t exist with such justification, because there were many individuals in the world who killed without experiencing physical pain. The moral principle that murder is wrong would therefore not apply to this person, because his or her human experience would not dictate that there was anything morally wrong with murdering someone. He further said, "act in such a way that they...
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