For thinkers like Rousseau and Kant, reason and morality are connected in such a way that we can induce our moral standards through the use of reason. Unlike the beliefs of many people especially today that morality is exclusive to rationality, these thinkers together with the ancients (i. e. Plato and Aristotle), they see morality as a product of discourse made possible by reason. Kant discourse on duty is a good example for this. Kant debunk the limiting idea that actions are determined by motives. If you want to do A, you must do B.
This kind of argument is dependent upon the personal and subjective impulse of the doer. For Kant, no good things can be done if its solely based by the impulse of the individual. Rather than saying, “if you want to do A, you must do B”; Kant argued that saying “do B” is more accurate. This kind of statement which prescribe action is not dependent on the personal or subjective bias or desire of the individual. Rather, it is based on universal moral principles that is true for almost cases. This is what he referred as the ‘categorical imperatives’.
Kant, therefore show to us that moral prescriptions or moral standards can be attained through the use of reason. Through reason, Kant managed to bring to us specific moral laws that all moral agents should comply (Delany 2005). Rousseau’s concept of human morality being finest and purest on the earlier part of its civilization and existence can be related to Plato’s inclination to the purity of the human soul. For Plato, the soul of the human contains all the necessary knowledge about what is good and how to live the good life.
On the other hand, the progress of humankind managed to distance him away from this original ideas. Same principles and concept can be found on Rousseau, in his essay, The First Discourse, he attacked sciences and arts as the corrupter of the humanity. For him, sciences and arts managed to degrade human actions focusing on more unnecessary things and affairs such as astronomy and physics rather than focusing on the more fundamental and more important affairs such as giving and friendship.
Plato and Rousseau are one in viewing the goodness and morality of humanity in its most primitive forms (McKormick 2005). References Delaney, J. (2005) Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712—1778). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. Accessed 4 June 2010. Retrieved from [http://www. iep. utm. edu/rousseau/#SH3a] McCormick, M (2005) Kant: Metapysics. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. Accessed 4 June 2010. Retrieved from [http://www. iep. utm. edu/kantmeta/#SH8d]
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