Immanuel Kant: The German Philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is one of the central figures in Modern Philosophy. In the The Methaphysik der Sitten (1797) (Methaphysics of Ethics) Kant described his ethical system.
In short, the three fundamental elements in Kant’s System are: 1. Individuals are rational beings; They have a conception of laws or principles, the ability to make choices on the basis of reason and act on those choices. It is rationality that distinct us humans from other parts of nature, and also what enables us to understand the correctness of moral laws. With this sense of rationality a person can choose to do what is right in spite of the influence of desires and appetites. 2. Individuals have an intrinsic value; meaning that people have value in and of themselves. They are not only means they are ends also.
3. Individuals are the author of the moral law; this means that individuals are autonomous, they are not subject to control from outside, they are independent and subject to its own laws only. It was also Kant who stated that your passions and inclinations cloud your reason (reason: the final authority for morality). The distinction between your passions and your reasons are the distinction between your higher self and your lower self. Your real self is your higher self (your reason, your rationality), and your lower self is your passions and inclinations.
According to Kant you are moral when you follow your higher self over your lower self, meaning that you follow your reason over your passions and inclinations. However, if you do the right thing for the wrong reason you are not a moral person; a true moral person acts out of principle, actions of any sort must be undertaken from a sense of duty dictated by reason (which is what gives an action moral worth). Actions taken using the ethics of duty lack self-interest, without a concern for the consequences and often without compassion, if doing your duty makes you happy it is believed that you are doing it for the wrong reason and you are not really moral (you are then moral for a non-moral reason, the morally wrong reason). The actions you take are guided by maxims (rules that guide action). Then, there are also the imperatives, commands that are acted in a certain fashion. Kant speaks about two kinds of imperatives: hypothetical (conditional action, only good as a means to something else) and categorical (unconditional, objectively necessary, act only on the maxim which you can at the same time will that it should be a universal law, or act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as means but always at the same time as an end. If basically concerns the necessity of a correct moral action itself while leaving out the reference to any consequence of the action). Kant believed that if in society human beings freely obeyed the categorical imperative, we would have an ideal community – a utopia. It was this ethical system, and his great contributions in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics and aesthetics that made that Kant, together with Plato and Aristotle, is often considered to be one of three greatest philosophers.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 – 1716) was a German mathematician and philosopher. He was one of the great thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and made deep and important contributions to the fields of metaphysics, epistemology, logic, philosophy of religion, as well as mathematics, physics, geology, jurisprudence, and history. In philosophy he is known for being a rationalist. He gets considered to be an optimist because of his conviction that the universe in which we live is the best possible universe that god could have created. His contributions are divided over many publications, not-published manuscripts and especially ten thousands of letters. Until today, 300 years after his death there is...
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