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A. THE CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE
For this case, I will be using Kantian ethics to pinpoint the rationally correct action to take. Before discussing Kantian ethics in relation to the case, we must first explore what Kantian ethics is. Kantian ethics comes from the deontological school of thought, which focuses on the moral correctness of the act in itself (Johnson, 2013). This means that the judgment on the act is done a priori. This is contrasted to the consequentialist school of thought, which focuses on the results of an act as the factor that would qualify the rightness or wrongness of an action (Sinnott-Armstrong, 2012). A consequentialist would make a judgment on an act a posteriori.
Kant utilized a concept called the Categorical Imperative, which states that that which is moral is that which is rational (Johnson, 2013). Therefore, a moral act is one that follows from a rational agent. An immoral act, as it follows, is that which is irrational (Johnson, 2013). Another significant factor to consider in Kantian ethics is that the most important value that they seek to preserve is autonomy. Contrasted to a Utilitarian, a Kantian would promote autonomy rather than happiness. The Categorical Imperative contains three main elements. One element of the Categorical Imperative is the formula of universalizable maxims. The formula of universalizable maxims states that a right action is that which can be universalizable (Johnson, 2013). The question here would be: would an action be acceptable if everyone did it? To test this, a person would need to imagine a twin world wherein that action is the norm for everyone. Then that person would need to see if such a world is conceivable and rational. Another important factor for this experiment would be to see if the universalized act would inhibit other people’s freedom. If the universalized act or maxim doesn’t infringe on other’s freedom then this act is acceptable (Johnson, 2013).
Another element under the Categorical Imperative is the Humanity Formula. This concept states that humanity is a means in itself and should never be treated merely as a means to an end (Johnson, 2013). This means that each human being must be respected because he or she has his or her own inherent autonomy and dignity (Johnson, 2013). This formula stipulates that a person may not be manipulated by another as a means to achieve a particular goal.
Realistically, though, you cannot help but use people as means to an end (Johnson, 2013). This happens everyday, for example, when we use shop clerks to purchase food. In this example, we are using the shop clerks as a means to get the ends, which is food. The reason as to why this particular case of using a person as a means to an end is acceptable is because of the idea of consent. A shop clerk has freely chosen to pursue his or her own line of work and this entails being a means through which people can purchase food. Thus, the shop clerk consents to being a means to this particular end.
The third element under the Categorical Imperative is the Kingdom of Ends Formula. This formulation states that an agent exists in a community that is made up of equally rational agents who have just as much say in the maxims that become universalized (Johnson, 2013). The universalized maxims become the law and every agent in this community agrees to conform his or her actions to the law.
B. DISCUSSION OF CASE
For this particular case, we are dealing with the maxim of taking cognitive enhancing drugs to increase productivity output. If we were to test this particular maxim using the formula of universalizability, we would have to imagine a world wherein every person would do this particular action. In this world, everyone would use cognitive enhancing drugs to meet deadlines or to finish their work faster. In the face of stress, instead of overcoming the obstacle through the person’s own hard work and will, he would only merely need to pop a...
References: Johnson, R. (2013). Kant’s Moral Philosophy. In E. Zalta (Ed.), The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/
Manninen, B.A. (2006). Medicating the mind: A kantian analysis of overprescribing psychoactive drugs. Journal of medical ethics, 32(2), 100-105.
Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (2012). Consequentialism. In E. Zalta (Ed.), The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/encyclopedia/archinfo.cgi?entry=consequentialism
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