Deontological moral theory is defined as the morally right thing to do is to do whatever is your duty. A scenario in which this theory could be used is the following: a close friend of yours dies. He has set aside $10 million to give to his favorite sports team, the New York Yankees. You promised him that you would give the money to the team because that was your friend’s last wish. Generous, but as you are walking to Yankee Stadium to give the money to George Steinbrenner (the owner) you see a sign that says, “World Food Program: need $10 million to save numerous villages in Africa”.
You think about giving the money to the organization because that would be the utilitarian thing to do, to help out as many people as you possibly could, but is that the right thing to do when you promised you friend that you would give the money to the Yankees? You think to yourself, the Yankees don’t need the money, they are already a great baseball team have plenty of money from their owner. This money could save countless people from starvation. But you are obligated to give the money to the Yankees because that was your duty.
One of the best and well know philosopher’s of the Enlightenment is Immanuel Kant. Kant’s view on ethics was: it’s absolute, the duties or imperatives are not hypothetical, but categorical (Pojman and Vaughn, 239). This means that our moral duties need to be made on reasoning, not feelings. Humans fall victim to incorporating their Sikkema 1 feelings into ethical, moral duties quite often, Kant’s theory displaces this and informs us that our duties need to be executed in a reasoned manner instead. Kant composed The
Good Will as well as the three propositions of morality. These reinforce his theory of Categorical Imperative. This theory, later described, reinforces that moral duties be reasoned and separated from feelings. The Good Will composed by Kant says that, “Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good, without qualification, except a Good Will (Pojman and Vaughn 240). Good Will is known as the only thing that is good without any exceptions or rejections.
This means that all other things that may be good aren’t because they require other factors to be considered good. These other factors cause the good to become tarnished. The first of the three propositions is ‘An action must be done from a sense of duty, if it is to have moral worth’ (Pojman and Vaughn, 242). What this proposition means is, to be morally responsible and worthy of something, the action must be done in a way that the person believes it is their duty. An example of this is someone who is having thoughts of suicide not committing suicide because the reason that this heinous act is “selfish”.
The second proposition is: an action done form duty derives its moral worth, not form the purpose which is to be attained by it, but from the maxim (Pojman and Vaughn, 245). What this proposition means is the action itself doesn’t have moral significance but the moral worth is found in the maxim (rule) itself. The third proposition is: duty is the necessity of acting from respect for the law (Pojman and Vaughn, 246). What this means is following maxims is needed in Sikkema 2 performing rational duties.
If these duties are not carried out following the law, they are considered not pure. A scenario representing the third proposition would be not cheating on a midterm. It is your duty as a student to take the midterm and to not cheat. The cheating would be considered not abiding by the maxims enforced by professors. Kant’s theory, Categorical Imperative, states that, “I am never to act otherwise than to will that my maxim should become universal law (Pojman and Vaughn, 247). Kant goes on to say in the description of Categorical Imperative, “…
I presently become aware that while I can will the lie, I can by no means will that lying should be a universal law. What Kant is trying to describe is that with himself lying, he destroys essential maxims. The Good Will as well as the three propositions add to the effectiveness of Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Kant’s theory emphasizes the fact that good is only good if the act is consciously done with the outcome of a duty being done. However, this duty becomes flawed because of feelings being involved in the duty instead of the duty being completed because of reasoning. Sikkema 3.
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