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The Kantian Theory Of Ethics And Morality - Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1852 words Published: 13th Apr 2017

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Kant’s theory of morality seems to function as the most feasible in determining ones duty in a moral situation. The basis for his theory is perhaps the most noble of any– acting morally because doing so is morally right. His ideas, no matter how occasionally vague or overly rigid, work easily and efficiently in most situations. Some exceptions do exist, but the strength of those exceptions may be somewhat diminished by looking at the way the actual situations are presented and the way in which they are handled. But despite these exceptions, the process Kant describes of converting maxims to universal laws to test their moral permissibility serves, in general, as a useful guide to and system of ethics and morality.

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The Kantian Theory of Ethics hinges upon the concept of the Categorical Imperative, or the process of universalization. Kant describes taking a possible action, a maxim, and testing whether it is morally permissible for a person to act in that manner by seeing if it would be morally permissible for all people in all times to act in that same manner. Thus, Kant says that an action is morally permissible in one instance if the action is universally permissible in all instances.

As human beings, we are forced to accept the inevitability of being unwillingly confronted with situations that test the strength of our morality and character. In the midst of deep moral conflict we become immensely introspective and we follow our intuition with the hopes of it guiding us towards the morally correct decision. However, how can we be sure that we have acted morally in a situation that is so morbid and perverse that our intuition is completely torn? This is the dilemma that is faced by

Kant believed that the only thing of intrinsic moral worth is a good will. Kant says in his work Morality and Rationality “The good will is not good because of what it affects or accomplishes or because of it’s adequacy to achieve someproposed end; it is good only because of it’s willing, i.e., it is good of itself”. A maxim is the generalized rule that characterizes the motives for a person’s actions. For Kant, a will that is good is one that is acting by the maxim of doing the right thing because it is right thing to do. The moral worth of an action is determined by whether or not it was acted upon out of respect for the moral law, or the Categorical Imperative. Imperatives in general imply something we ought to do however there is a distinction between categorical imperatives and hypothetical imperatives. Hypothetical imperatives are obligatory so long as we desire X. If we desire X we ought to do Y. However, categorical imperatives are not subject to conditions. The Categorical Imperative is universally binding to all rational creatures because they are rational. Kant proposes three formulations the Categorical Imperative in his Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Moral, the Universal Law form…


Kantian ethics is a method of interpreting what one ‘ought’ to do, which was devised by Immanuel Kant – it is a duty-based theory and therefore, duty has a huge part to play within it. Kantian Ethics is an absolutist theory therefore suppresses any chance of exception through circumstances or outcome, but believes solely that the maxim of duty is the most important factor, if not the only factor in making a moral decision.

For Kant, a moral action is not based upon feelings, inclination, or on the possibility of reward or positive outcome. Instead, a moral action is one based on a sense of “this is what I ought to do”. To use an example, helping an old woman across the street because you pity her is NOT a moral act, neither is it moral if you do it purely because you want to impress someone, the only way that it is a moral thing to do is if you do it out of a sense of duty because you can say to yourself ‘I ought to help the elderly’. According to Kant this is the only thing that matters when deciding whether or not to do something, because motive is the most important factor in Kantian ethics, it is possible for an action to have negative consequences while still being a moral act:

mmanuelle Kant more focused on concept of moral duty and responsibility as main key characteristics of moral conscious that served as the foundation for deontological approach. He emphasized that there not separation between duty and consequences, but nevertheless there exist gap between duty and “purely” deontological theory.

Morality is supposed to guide our actions, which it can only do if it motivates us, and that practical reasoning starts with what is good, and that the right response to what is good is to choose in accordance with it. To intend to do something bad, such as lie or kill, (even in order to bring about some good consequence) is not to order one’s will in accordance with what is good.

Is morality something we discover? Perhaps, if, one chooses to accept the integrity with one’s personal experiences we all would share the same views. Thus, I believe that Kant argues morality and decision making must be a priori. Yet, I am still trying to wrap my head around what I am arguing. If one chooses moral actions via experience, it, neglects, the concept of consequences. I know that it was not mentioned via Kantian ethics; however, I argue that consequences should be included. Why? Because, one, I argue, looks into the consequences of their actions beforehand. That is not to say that it will stop them, yet it still crosses their minds.

Again, I think that Kantian ethics brings a modern approach to the way we hold ethical principles today. However, it still seems that there are flaws and that one will still look into the consequences when thinking morally and ethically.

Kant’s categorical imperatives are too rigid in my opinion. His view assumes that morality rests upon absolute directives, but the world is not so black and white. Many times situations do not have a well defined right and wrong and to say they do is over simplified.

I do not agree with the principle of Kant’s categorical imperatives. The guideline states that performing a bad action to bring about a good effect is never morally acceptable but that performing a good action may be considered acceptable even if it causes a bad effect. What is considered good or bad is open to interpretation. An example on page 60 of the text says euthanasia is immoral because it essentially equates it with murder. I do not consider this murder if it is upon request of the ill patient and has the intention of relieving unbearable pain.

Kant’s ethical theory at face value seems as though it could be effective. However it seems irresponsible to make a moral decision without factoring the outcome of your choice. It also seems bold of Kant to expect all decisions to be moral or immoral universally. The world is simply not that black and white. There are always exceptions. If the world did function as good vs. evil than Kant’s ideological theory in essence would work. Unfortunately the world has many more facets than that.

The Kantian ethics differs from the utilitarianism theory in that it focuses more on the actions and the morality of those actions as opposed to the consequences. Kant is basically saying that the consequences don’t matter as long as we act in a moral way. I don’t agree with his statement that right actions depend on the least of consequences because actions, whether right or wrong usually depend on consequences because most of the times, consequences are what we associate with morals. Personally speaking, before going forward with any actions, I usually think about the consequences before anything else. I don’t think about whether or not my actions are morally right. Isn’t it possible to have actions that are morally right but consequences that are not?

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While I like the idea of applying maxims to actions, I don’t think that it is very realistic because if it means that when you choose rules to live by, you have to make certain these are rules you would want the rest of the world to live by, then what would the consequences be? Or better yet, what would the need for consequences be?

While I do like idea that we should treat people the way we would like to be treated or better yet as the human being we are, it could never work in today’s society because even though everything would be on the same playing field, people would eventually take advantage of the rules or those who happen to live by those rules.

One of the major cornerstones of Kantian ethics is the idea that it is the will of the person, not necessarily the consequences, that makes an action moral or not. If a person does something out of a sense of duty to moral law, then his actions have moral value. According to Kant, this means that if a person cares for his or her child out of the belief that caring for children is an important duty, he or she is acting ethically. If, however, a person cares for a child simply because he or she loves the child, this action is out of inclination rather than duty and not actually of moral value.

Actions have consequences. We all know that. Sometimes when it comes time to face those consequences though, we do everything we can to avoid it or to hide our guilt.

One of the hardest realities for some of us to learn is that our actions have consequences. Whatever we do either affects us or others, and usually both.

We begin teaching our children at an early age “Do not hit!” and “Do not bite!” and a host of other “Do not’s!” because our actions can hurt other people. We are teaching them that there are consequences to others because of our actions. We teach them to avoid fires and hot surfaces and playing in the street, because the consequences of these can be extremely hurtful to ourselves.

Some, however, are slow to learn those lessons. Many, it seems, “have to learn the hard way” through suffering the consequences of their actions.


There is a terrorist with a gun pointed at a group of innocent hostages being held by the terrorists. There is the declaration that he will kill them. Someone nearby has a gun and points it at the terrorist and shots. The would-be hero misses the target and kills one of the innocent hostages. Now is the act of the would-be hero good or bad. Is it the intention behind the act or the result of the act that makes it good or bad?

If something is good is it good because of what it is or because of what it results in?

This question sets out a basic question in ethical inquiry and concerning which there are two major braches or schools of thought. There are a number of ethical theories that can be categorized according to how they address this question.


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