Other parts of Kant`s work suggest the reason he doesn’t account for emotions or personal relationships within rational, moral decision-making is due to moral value. Actions done solely out of duty have moral value, and those done out of emotion do not. This is where my first criticism against Kant forms. The moral value objection claims that actions done out of duty are not necessarily better than those done from emotional concern, and this opposes Kant`s ethics. In Kant`s ethics, he emphasises the point that from the view of someone deliberating what to do, the only decisive concerns should be what your duty is, or what you ought to do.
The main point here, is that the expression of a good will requires you to prioritise your duty over other interests such as your emotions, or personal desires without hesitation. However, we can argue that this seems to devoid humans of their emotion; turning us into some kind of robot that acts purely from duty.
When we consider human beings and what makes us so different to other species on the planet, we see the complexity of our language, our social structures, our high intelligence, and our emotions and ability to have personal relationships unlike any seen within other species. In order to put this into perspective, we can turn to Kant`s trolley problem. This is a thought experiment that looks at how people respond differently to different situations involving the same mora dilemma. A train has just lost its brakes and will kill five people if the driver does nothing.
The driver has the choice to switch the train onto a different track where only one person will be killed. Most people choose to switch tracks, even when the scenario is changed to you being a bystander. Although many claim that Kant`s moral philosophy provides a justification to the choice most people make when deciding how they would handle the trolley dilemma, we can further question whether people`s general instinct to choose can be justified through other factors such as psychological ones, rather than philosophical principles. One way that people may view this problem is to simply not intervene when given the role of a bystander. The reason behind this conflicts with Kant`s ethics on emotions, and personal relationships. Those who choose not to intervene do so due to the conflict of emotion within our reason. We would rather be an innocent bystander and not intervene (meaning five people would die), rather than intervene to save five people`s lives but be a part of a single killing.
One of the biggest features of Kant`s ethics is rigorism, which can be see from two different aspects of Kant`s ethics. Firstly, Kant does not want to accord a place to emotions, and therefore doesn’t account for emotions in a moral life. As well as this, Kant also doesn’t allow for any exceptions in moral laws. This rigorism places Kant`s ethics as being too strict, especially for humans. We cannot naturally reason with moral law without having some confliction from our emotions, whether this be due to our virtues in character or whether we act from the emotions we place in personal relationships. These factors can affect our decisions to follow what Kant calls universal laws. An example of this is that if a man with an axe turned up at your door asking for the location of your friend (who is hiding in your house), Kant claims that we have a moral duty to not lie and therefore it is always wrong to lie, even if necessary to prevent a murder to your friend. If Kant`s theory is correct, this seems that we would not only respect the murderer more than the victim, but also would cause us to feel responsible for the consequences.
Friedrich Nietzsche criticised all contemporary moral systems, and this reflected in his criticisms against Kant. He argued that Kant`s ethics make a metaphysical claim about the nature of humanity, which then must be accepted for the moral system to have any normative force. Nietzsche follows with the claim that this disallows people to create moral values for themselves that will be useful to them individually. This objective moral law system that Kant emphasises we must feel a duty to abide by, includes universal laws that the majority of rational agents will agree with and abide by without knowing of Kant`s ethical theory.
In conclusion to my essay, Kant`s ethics can be discredited when critically examining the aspect of moral decision-making, as well as autonomy to choose own actions based upon your own belief system. I strongly believe this involves your emotions, and even your personal relationships with others. These factors along with wanting to follow what is thought to be morally good, all contribute to the decision-making we make when faced with a moral decision. Although there is strength to Kant`s categorical imperative theory, his beliefs on individual decision-making, such as using emotion with reason is irrational, fails to account for all the factors we consider when making a moral decision. At the time that Kant`s ethics were publicised, it may have been more appropriate or appealing to those to follow this kind of duty/obligation theory in order to live a moral life. However, in the present day, this theory`s view on morality is less appealing as the 21st century focuses itself more around character development and virtues of individual character as a way to live a morally good life. Therefore, in my opinion, theories such as Aristotle`s virtue ethics would be more appealing to today`s universal beliefs.
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