Kant And The Categorical Imperative. Essay

1651 words - 7 pages

The possibility of the existence of right and wrong has been a subject of discussion among philosophers for centuries and many theories have been presented to answer the question of whether morals exist. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the great German philosopher is one who has contributed profoundly to the world of philosophy and especially in regards to his thought on the subject of morality. Kant disagreed with Hume that morality is objective and not subjective. Kant wanted to propose a pure moral philosophy, one of absolute necessity and independent of all human feelings, because if it not so, it will not be absolute and binding upon every person. The purpose of morality is to affect our behaviour and that it is reason that makes humans moral and not feelings or preferences. We shall explore some of the a priori foundations of morality paying special attention to Kant's 'categorical imperative' and what exactly this was designed to solve in moral theory.To have moral worth, an act must be done in the name of one's duty, the moral worth of this act is taken from the principle from which it's determined, not from what it aims to accomplish and that duty is necessary when one is acting out of respect for the law. A shopkeeper giving the buyer the right amount of change because the law states one must not steal, this is an example of a legal action because rules are being followed but for the wrong reasons. A shopkeeper returning the correct amount of change because it belongs to the customer is an example of a moral action because the action is being done for the right reasons. Kant adopts the view of morality as an 'unconditional ought', as opposed to a 'conditional ought' By this he means that one should perform an act without considerations of the merits that that act may produce, in comparison with acting in order for something else to happen. This implies that acts that are moral are those that are done without being done for the sake of the merit or reward that they may bring to the person.Kant claimed that moral behaviour does not guarantee the attainment of happiness; rather that good will is crucial for actually deserving happiness. "Nothing in the world--indeed nothing even beyond the world--can possibly be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a good will" (Kant 1964 p.27). By the 'good will' Kant means that a good will is not good because what it performs or what it effects but that it is simply good in itself. The good will is the will which acts out of respect for the moral law and from freedom, but actions such as these, if motivated by selfish or emotional factors, will then have no moral worth. There is a great deal of stress placed on the intention behind the act, consider giving money to charity for the sake of helping out, without any need for any ego gratification or such self-serving purposes, this is an instance of "good will".Kant's most well known contribution to ethical discussion is the...

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