Moral Behavior: Aquinas and Aristotle vs. Kant

Topics: Immanuel Kant, Morality, Ethics Pages: 4 (1356 words) Published: April 5, 2013
Moral Behavior: Aquinas and Aristotle vs. Kant

When comparing between the philosophies of St. Thomas Aquinas/Aristotle and those of Immanuel Kant when regarding moral behavior, there are some very fundamental differences. On one hand, you have Kant’s autonomous perspective on behavior morality, in which you give the law to yourself. On the other hand, you have the heteronomy views of Aristotle and Aquinas which concludes that one can measure their conduct against an external force. Kant’s views can very shortly summarized as always acting in such a way so as to other rational people as an end and never as only a means. Aquinas and Aristotle believed that moral behavior was that which is compromised of the nature of the act, its motivation, and circumstances. Behavior that is moral, additionally, is that which ultimately leads to perfect happiness which stems from God. To understand Kant’s views behavior morality, one must understand the system of rationality that Kant referred to as “Categorical Imperative” According to Kant himself in Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals; categorical imperative is described as “[An] imperative, which declares an action to be of itself objectively necessary without reference to any purpose (25)”. To clarify what Kant is saying, it is a rational and moral obligation that is unconditional and thus binding in every situation. Furthermore, it does not depend on an individual’s intentions or motivations. So, taking everything a step further, behavior that violated a categorical imperative is one that is immoral and irrational. One of the prime components of Kant’s moral behavior is good will. One would be wrong to make assumptions about good will when considering the current popular concept, such as “he is nice”, “she has a good soul”, or “they are good people”. This differs from Kant’s conceptualization of good will, which considers good will as being the quality of a person who takes moral conclusions to be the...

Cited: Fagothey, Austin, S.J. Right and Reason: Ethics in Theory and Practice. Vol. 2. Charlotte, NC: TAN, 2000. Print
Kant, Immanuel. Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals: On a Supposed Right to Lie Because of Philanthropic Concerns. Trans. James W. Ellington. 3rd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993. Print.
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