Ethics and Animals

Topics: Immanuel Kant, Morality, Human Pages: 7 (2204 words) Published: March 24, 2014

Kantian Ethics

The relationship between society and an individual is as though between an object and its shadow. No one individual can function apart from society, nor can society operate without the support of individuals. Society, as we know, is the umbrella term for the collection of humans working as a community and sharing common ideals with regards to actions, ethics, and morals. The foundation of a society is always going to be the individuals that make it up. When the individuals in a society are all just and moral people, then society naturally would work as a just and moral entity. Therefore, the implications of peoples’ ideals, intentions, and actions dictate the conventions of that society. However, the notions of morality for each individual never stem within that individual alone. In other words the interactions that a person has with others and his or her environment dictates the moral compass of that person. Hence, people and society function as object and shadow making society and amplified illusion of individuals.

As humans, we have a rational mindset. We can easily prove the thought process that one experiences before carrying out any action. A moral compass for each member in society is created through their exchanges with others and their environment. This moral compass is used to evaluate the action we are about to take. Furthermore, this moral compass is what creates a distinction between intentions and actions.

There are numerous arguments that can be created regarding intention and action. However, I personally feel as though regardless of the outcome, the intent to which we carry out an action is what should be considered when debating the morality and righteousness of an action. The idea that intent is more important that the action itself aligns with Immanuel Kant’s understanding of morality.

Immanuel Kant is an 18th century German philosopher who wrote numerous essays arguing that reason should be the groundwork for establishing any idea of morality. In his work, “Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals” he contents that intentions overpower actions. Kant explains the notion of a moral compass through his idea of a categorical imperative. The categorical imperatives according to Kant are principles that can be universally accepted as they do only good and no harm. By saying that they are good, they are morally just in the sense that the imperatives take into account the laws of nature. In other words, these imperatives understand the guidelines to the way in which the world works and they cause no disturbance to the functions of the world. These principles are what an autonomous individual may choose to live by.

Kant explains that the duty of each individual is to live by a set of correct intentions. He provides four circumstances to illustrate how the categorical imperative should adhere to the laws of nature. First, suicide is wrong as the law of nature is a continuum, and people killing themselves would not allow nature itself to continue as there would be no people with time. Second, an individual should only borrow money if they intend on paying it back, as the circulation of money is a facet of nature. In other words, if loans were never repaid then lending would cease to exist. Third, individuals should function at their upmost capability since nature progresses through the interactions of able individuals. Lastly, individuals have an obligation to help others overcome obstacles since progression of nature may only take place once the hindrances have been cleared.

Within each four of these situations is an implication of the morals that people should adhere too. It is the thought process prior to the execution of an action that validates the morality of the action. By committing suicide, one feels as though there is more sorrow in their life as opposed to joy, therefore killing themselves should be certified. Assuming that this is the correct mindset, then all...

Cited: Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. PDF.
Koorsgaard, Christine. "Fellow Creatures: Kantian Ethics and Our Duties to Animals."
The Tanner Lectures on Human Values.: University of Michigan, 2004. PDF
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