Catagorical Imperative

.. at lying was deontologically bad i.e. immoral despite the consequences. However we must consider, why is lying bad in itself? Why should it be the duty of all man not to lie? Kant would say that in considering lying, one must ponder whether the maxim of the action could become a universal law. Therefore isnt Kant looking at morality from a teleological perspective, for one must consider the consequence of lying in order to be able to universalise truth telling? In Kants Categorical Imperative he is really using a Hypothetical Imperative on a larger scale. Universalising is always moving toward the teleological as it is always considering the consequence.

I believe that lying is bad because it is contradictory to things that are good in themselves, that is truth and knowledge. However Kant says that these are not valuable without good will, but I say they must have some intrinsic value or else human as thinking beings cannot have any ability to do good. Again, this brings up Kants statement that a good will is not good because of its ability, but only in and of itself. But if this was true, and no good wills ever accomplished anything good, what would be the purpose of good will? Kant even says later that we should cultivate and make use of ones talents as a sense of duty. However, surely the ability of a good will to do good is one of its talents. I am not saying that a good will is not valuable in itself, Im merely highlighting the fact that it cannot stand alone in being the only thing of moral value.

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Along stating one should follow their moral duty, Kant also discussed how we should treat people as a duty. This form of the argument is known as the Formula of an Ends in Itself. This basically addresses the issue that we must handle people with respect they deserve. It is almost following the saying in the bible, do as you would be done by. According to Kant we shouldnt treat people as if they were a means to an end because each and everyone of us are ends in ourselves, which is why humans are holy.

This theory is also known as the Practical Imperative, 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 a means, but always as an ends. The argument promotes equality in every case and implies that we must stick to it as ones duty. Some criticise this principle as they believe we have to treat all people as means e.g. teacher are means to teach, waitresses are means to serve. However Kant believed that even if we do use people as means we should also treat them as ends. But then again is this also an area for critique as Kant is judging the situation teleogically by considering the consequence. The final part of Kants Categorical Imperative is given the title, Formula of the Kingdom of ends. It states that: Every rational being must so act as if he were by his maxims in every case legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends. In this case it is stressing the need for community and everyone deserving equal respect.

Therefore as the community it could be said the statement in the title is a justifiable claim in order to avoid chaos and stay in accordance to morality. So far I have mainly explained why people would find the title statement a justifiable claim, along side but a few of the arguments against. However there have been many more problems and inconsistencies found within the structure of Kants claims. Firstly there is the vast problem of the conflicting moral duties. For example one duty may be never to lie and another never to allow an innocent man to be murdered. Therefore where does your duty lie in the example I gave for the questioning murderer at the start of this essay? Another example is of a plane crashing in the Andes.

Many passengers survive. However, no rescue comes and food rapidly runs out. In this extreme situation, facing death by starvation, they consider it their duty to eat the flesh of those who didnt survive. Clearly eating the dead would be considered immoral as it is treating the deceased purely as a means, but survival should also be a duty. For this reason it is a hard decision to make.

Each situation is different which leads us to situation ethics, an incoherent attitude in Kants rigid imperative argument. An attempt to make a hierarchy of duties has been made by W.D.Ross in The Right and the Good. However this still means we must choose one duty over another and therefore ignore some of the duties according to the situation. Again this is going against the fundamental principal of Kants ethics. So what is the solution? Clearly from just these two examples out of a number of scenarios show people cannot act purely on reason. Choices are made through a process of consideration and complex influences.

Each situation is unique, along with the human behaviour in the circumstance. However perhaps we could act on a maxim which you could universalise a law for people in the exact same situation. But this was not the way in which Kant presented his argument. This is a great debatable issue for the liability of Kants argument and therefore the justifiable nature of this essay titles claim. The few people who do accept the theory without interpretation are conscious objectors, but in general most people would accept variations of the rules. When considering the universalisation of a moral action Kant doesnt take into account the various temperaments and situations of people.

The sadist may wish to universalise sadism and it cannot be considered as irrational through Kants definition. We could also say a diabetic has to inject insulin everyday. It is right for him to do so and his duty, therefore should be universalised. This is also not illogical through the line of Kants argument but absurd through the general perspective. F. Copleston and R.Walker suggested that the Categorical Imperative was far too vague. For although the formulations are clear, the imperative itself has no content.

Therefore, is everything that can be universalised a moral duty? For example you must always start walking with your left foot clearly has no moral relevance even though it can be a universal law. Therefore it could be said that Kant has not completed his argument. He has provided a test for morals but never defined what a moral is. Therefore how can we have set duties? Along side the criticisms of the statement, many merits have been found. Firstly it firmly establishes the reign of reason, elevates the dignity of man through his subjection into sensible reasoning forbidding from self-interest: and upholds morality against the highest authority. Kant is also taking into account the Principle of Justice by suggesting you can not punish the innocent because it would be beneficial to a majority as a utilitarian may say, but by doing your duty you will suffice to equality of man.

Everyone will also be treated well as they will be considered an ends rather than a means. Therefore no one is being use for a selfish purpose. Kants theory could be considered as ethically valuable as it makes a clear distinction between duty and inclination. Just because someone is inclined to act in a certain manner, it is not necessarily their duty to follow it as it may be immoral. Therefore by following ones duty, they have a good will and are better person by considering the community rather than satisfying their selfish desires.

Their moral freedom will be the judge to do the correct thing. Credit is given to the theory, as it is considerate of motives. A person may try hard to be moral but not succeed. However they will not become an immoral person if it subscribed to their duty. This will give people the drive to try as they can not lose out. However it almost makes the successful acts nonsensical and almost pointless as they are no better than the failures.

Because the theory is reliant on reason some presume that it is more logical and trust worthy. When feelings and emotions are included in a moral decision a person can be driven to make an unethical choice. Reason is also more consistent and reliable than an emotional based decision. The most important part of the imperative is that we are able to universalise the law as moral laws applicable to all mankind without the individuals self interest and emotional involvement. If the law is not universal then it can contain no moral worth, for it is inconsistent. Through my analysis of Kants argument I have discussed the possible justifiable qualities of the claim: The only acceptable motive for a moral action is that it should be done as a sense of moral duty.

However along with its advantages there are also the disadvantages. I believe that the claim is far too rigid and takes away all worth in morality for it is no longer a good deed but a law. But like with every line of argument it is up to the individual to decide how the weigh up the argument but I myself believe it to be too contradictory to be liable.


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