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Kant On Ethics

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) had an interesting ethical system for reasoning. It is
based on a belief that the reason is the final authority for morality. In
Kant’s eyes reason is directly correlated with morals and ideals. Actions of
any sort, he believed, must be undertaken from a sense of duty dictated by
reason, and no action performed for appropriateness or solely in obedience to
law or custom can be regarded as moral. A moral act is an act done for the
“right” reasons. Kant would argue that to make a promise for the wrong
reason is not moral you might as well not make the promise. You must have a duty
code inside of you or it will not come through in your actions otherwise. Our
reasoning ability will always allow us to know what our duty is. Kant described
two types of common commands given by reason: the hypothetical imperative, which
dictates a given course of action to reach a specific end; and the categorical
imperative, which dictates a course of action that must be followed because of
its rightness and necessity. The categorical imperative is the basis of morality
and was stated by Kant in these words: “Act as if the maxim of your action
were to become through your will and general natural law.” Therefore,
before proceeding to act, you must decide what rule you would be following if
you were to act, whether you are willing for that rule to be followed by
everyone all over. If you are willing to universalize the act, it must be moral;
if you are not, then the act is morally impermissible. Kant believes that moral
rules have no exceptions. Therefore, it is wrong to kill in all situations, even
those of self-defense. This belief comes from the Universal Law theory. Since we
would never want murder to become a universal law, then it must be not moral in
all situations. Kant believes killing could never be universal, therefore it is
wrong in each and every situation. There are never any extenuating
circumstances, such as self-defense. The act is either wrong or right, based on
his universality law. For example, giving money to a beggar just to get him to
leave you alone would be judged not moral by Kant because it was done for the
wrong reason. With Kant’s belief in mind; if the consequence of immoral
behavior were dealt with in a legal structure, people would be prosecuted for
EVERYTHING since there are no extenuating circumstances. Kant’s categorical
imperative is a tri-dynamic statement of philosophical thought:(1) “So act
that the maxim of your will could always hold at the same time as a principle
establishing universal law.”(2) “Act so as to treat humanity, whether
in your own person in that of another, always as an end and never as a means
only.'(3) “Act according to the maxims if a universally legislative member
of a merely potential kingdom of ends.” In other words, Kant argues that
particular action requires conscious thought of the rule governing the action.

Whether if everyone should follow that rule, and if the rule is acceptable for
universal action, it should be adopted. If the rule is unacceptable, then it
should be rejected. In order to understand whether or not an action follows
Kant’s “categorical imperative,” we must prescribe those norms that we
wish to be universal laws. These norms are created through value judgments based
on issues of justice between persons or groups (nations, etc.) of persons.

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Kant’s theories discuss the ethical questions that determine impartial
consideration of conflicting interest in issues of justice. Kant also states
that because we must believe that all things develop to their fullest capacity,
then we can theorize in summary, through cognitive processes we can create
communities, based on moral (ethical) action towards every person, thereby
creating universal ethics throughout the community or “republic”. With
that in mind, it appears that Kant makes statements that assume all people
within like “republics” can achieve a level of cognition equal to one
another, for without that equanimity of cognition and judgment, then the
conflict issues cannot be rationalized through creation of universal law. The
statement that all people can achieve a similar level of cognition seems
preposterous in our modern world cognition in the sense of like thought. Because
we need the principles of Kant’s categorically designed thought and action to
have universal acceptance; we must be willing to accept the undesirable
psychological deviants within the “republic.” If we can’t accept that
a person’s cognition is capable of


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