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Kants Categorical Imperative Essay

Kantian ethics is a deontological, absolute theory proposed by Immanuel Kant in the late 1700’s. Kant taught that an action could only count as the action of a good will if it satisfied the test of the Categorical Imperative. The categorical imperative is based around the idea to act solely for the sake of duty. For example, you should share your sweets because it is a good thing to do; not because it makes you feel good. Consequentially, Kant would justify the good feeling you do when you perform a good act as a bonus not a reward. This opposes the hypothetical imperative which is where you act simply so you receive a of reward of some sort. The categorical imperative is based upon universable rules; maxims.

These maxims are absolute moral statements that Kant says should be used everywhere by everyone and should thus never be broken. For example, do not kill. Additionally, the categorical imperative does not take individual situations into account. This means it is applicable to all situations and very straight forward to follow considering that everyone allegedly has the innate knowledge to follow these rules; for example do not steal.

However, since it is absolute it means you must ignore any emotional influences on your decisions. Kant’s morals truths are revolved around following reason, not feelings. For example, if you have to choose between saving your grandfather or an unknown baby; the baby should be saved considering it has longer to live and more potential. You must ignore any temptation to save your relative due to your emotional attachment because you know reason does not justify that decision. Unlike the hypothetical imperative, the categorical imperative uses ends not means so is non-consequentialist.

Therefore, it is wrong to use someone or something to achieve a certain outcome. For example, to be kind to my mum simply so she gives me money to go shopping. Kant would object to this instance in that you should be kind to your mother since it is your duty to respect your parents and be a kind person. Kant believed in a kingdom of ends. This idea is if everyone followed universalisation we would all be treated with equal respect. Furthermore, the Kantian theory is based upon the concept that good will joined with duty accounts an action as good.

“It is impossible to conceive anything at all in the world which can be taken as good without qualification except a good will”. Thus good will, to “act for the sake of duty”, should a priority in your actions in order to fulfil your purpose not for external motives. This duty is innate within every person as a priori so an individual’s experiences, or lack of, cannot justify an action which does not follow good will. Kant believed numerous qualities for example, courage, intelligence, ambition and honour all to make a situation morally poorer. Kant also introduces the idea of the Summun Bonum.

This is derived from Kant’s postulates of practical reason; aspects that are necessary within his theory for it to work. Firstly we must have freedom in order to use the innate knowledge we attain to follow duty and good will to achieve good. The Summun Bonum is the ultimate goal for everyone to aim to achieve in order to accomplish the ultimate reward. This reward points towards the existence of a God since one can only attain Summun Bonum in the afterlife; it is not achievable on earth. This means someone must be in the afterlife to give reward you what you deserve.

Furthermore, this makes sense of the inequality in life. For example, paedophiles living happier lives than charity workers. Kant would say your good will must be repaid in the afterlife. b) “Kant’s ethical theory has no serious weaknesses” (Jan 09) Kan? an moral ethics is an absolute, non-consequen? alist, deontological theory proposed by Immanuel Kant. It is divided into two categories; hypothe? cal impera? ve and categorical impera? ve. The hypothe? cal impera? ve is when an act depends upon something else whereas the categorical impera? ve is an independent ac? on.

A main weakness to Kant’s ethical theory is the fact that it is revolved around ful#lling your supposed duty. But who decides your duty? And what if you have two con&ic? ng du? es, for example you to #ght for your country but also to support your family; which do you priori? se? There are no guidelines as to which to priori? se. Furthermore, there are no guidelines how to face not priori? sing your emo? onal a)achment. By not having any considera? on for your feelings, this theory has a massive weakness since you have to be very strong willed to convince yourself Kant is correct.

Especially if you were ever actually put that posi? on it seems unrealis? c anyone would chose to apply these rules, for example to save a stranger over their family. However, people may object saying a key strength to Kant’s theory is that it is a simple, absolute theory that by being applicable to all sta? ons is allowing for all people from all backgrounds and circumstances to understand as long as they have ra? onal thinking; according to Kant all human beings have. “Everyone who is ideally rational will legislate the same universal principles” Pojman (2002:147).

Another unavoidable weakness to Kan?an moral ethics is that his universable laws are not applicable to all situa? ons. For example, do not lie. Should we follow that and make someone unnecessarily distressed? Kan? an ethics is not a consequen? alist theory however humans ae naturally compassionate and sensi? ve for a reason. Furthermore, from this we can deduct that your reason might not be the best thing to do. It is not guaranteed since it does not take consequences into considera? on. There are some situa? ons which require consequences to be considered since the outcome is so severe it seems kinder just to break a rule.

However in response to this some people may say a prime strength of Kant’s theory is that Kant has a great respect for human beings autonomy. Therefore, a lot of dignity is carried with his theory that we have the ability to use our own ra? onal. In conclusion, Kan? an ethics de#nitely has some serious weaknesses due to the unrealis? c priori? sing of those you don’t have emo? onal connec? ons to, the fact it is not clearly applicable to every situa? on and addi? onally that it is based upon following your ‘duty’ of which is a weak concept itself for reasons explained.


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