Deontology: Categorical Imperative and Generalized Form

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Topic: #2 Deontology

There are many theories of morality that aim to create criteria for an action’s moral value. Kantian Deontology is a one of those theories. This theory values an action, not based on the happiness or pleasure derived from it, but the will behind it. Kantian Deontologists do not value happiness and pleasure as intrinsically good because there is nothing good other than a good will- since good will is the motive to act for moral duty. Although Kantian Deontology is logical because it states that reason reveal good, it is flawed in that it does not recognize happiness and pleasure as real world motivations for many good actions. In order to understand Kant’s argument, it is first crucial to grasp its underlying concepts. Kant believes that we need to consider what a person is willing to do in the calculation of whether or not his action is good. He defines “will” as a wished state of affairs. Kant thinks that will should not be restricted to possible direct actions. He states that the notion should be broad and allow for the will of something unattainable. Kant also allows will to be inconsistent. For example, it is perfectly natural to will to get a good grade on a test and to will to go to bed when you are tired, at the same time. Those are two inconsistent (and contradictory) wills that cannot be achieved at the same time, but since it is natural to have those wills, Kant allows it. He also states that will is only a characteristic of human beings. Animals only have instincts and therefore cannot will to do anything. Because will is a part of determining moral value and only humans are moral agents, only human beings can possess will. A maxim is a kind of will which governs our actions and varies from person to person. We are not always consciously aware of our maxims but can explain them if we are asked about them. There are two kinds of maxims: One is based on our desire to obtain something while the other is based on our respect for

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