Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) discussed many ethical systems and reasonings. Some were based on a belief that the reason is the final authority for morality. In Kant’s eyes, reason is directly correlated with morals and ideals. Actions of any sort, he believed, must be undertaken from a sense of duty dictated by reason, and no action performed for appropriateness or solely in obedience to law or custom can be regarded as moral. A moral act is an act done for the “right” reasons. Kant would argue that to make a promise for the wrong reason is not moral you might as well not make the promise.
You must follow a certain code in order to find truth behind your actions. Kant believed that you should treat everyone with value, dignity, and respect. Our reasoning ability will always allow us to know what our duty is. Kant described two types of common commands given by reason: the hypothetical imperative, which dictates a given course of action to reach a specific end; and the categorical imperative, which dictates a course of action that must be followed because of its rightness and necessity.
The categorical imperative is the basis of morality and was stated by Kant in these words: “Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will and general natural law. ” Therefore, before proceeding to act, we must decide what rule we need to follow if we were to act, whether we are willing for that rule to be followed by everyone all over. Kant believes that moral rules have no exceptions. It is wrong to kill in all situations, even those of self-defense. This belief comes from the Universal Law theory.
Since we would never want murder to become a universal law, then it has to be not moral at all. Kant believes killing could never be universal, therefore it is wrong in each and every situation. There are never any extenuating circumstances, such as self-defense. I believe Kant is right in making certain moral and ethical codes exempt from being a universal law because there shouldn’t be different rules for different laws. The rules and laws should apply to every situation. An act is either wrong or right, based on his universality law.
For example, giving money to a homeless person just to get him/her to leave you alone would be judged not moral by Kant because it was done for the wrong reason. With Kants belief in mind; if the consequence of immoral behavior were dealt with in a legal structure, people would be prosecuted for “EVERYTHING” since there are no extenuating circumstances. Kant’s categorical imperative is a tri-dynamic statement of philosophical thought:(1) “So act that the maxim of you could always hold at the same time as a principle establishing universal law.
“(2) “Act so as to treat humanity, whether in your own person in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only. ‘(3) “Act according to the maxims if a universally legislative member of a merely potential kingdom of ends. ” In other words, Kant argues that particular action requires conscious thought of the rule governing the action. Whether if everyone should follow that rule, and if the rule is acceptable for universal action, it should be adopted. If the rule is unacceptable, then it should be rejected.
In order to understand whether or not an action follows Kant’s “categorical imperative,” we must prescribe those norms that we wish to be universal laws. We must make the judgment on whether or not universal ethics is possible. I believe that a bit of universality exists throughout the world; don’t kill your neighbor, be kind to others, do not steal, etc. yet, individual perception of the world by people prevents the possibility of an all-encompassing universal code of ethics. I believe along with Kant that we should develop a friendship and code to help our fellow man.
We all have a duty to treat others the way we want to be treated. The one thing I disagree with is that we should not be punished for doing good deeds to those even though we might find ourselves backed into a corner when dealing with these individual problems. Overall dealing with Kant’s theory everyone should be truthful and abide by the universal code. We should follow his theory in treating everyone with value, dignity, and respect. Even though everyone should help others, I believe in some situations people have to be persuaded to help even though this goes against Kant’s beliefs.