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Kantian Ethics: In Search Of Flawless Morals

1366 words - 6 pages

Immanuel Kant is one of the most prominent western philosophers, and arguably the most influencial voice of the period in history known as "the Enlightenment". Kant defined his era as a time where autonomous thinking was urgent, and contended that only trough questioning external authority, can one expect to reach knowledge that is true, i.e. unbiased. The categorical imperative is one of his most famous concepts, and it amounts to a self-directed personal struggle that each human has to face while trying to follow the path of righteousness and morals; such path is not static, but rather an utterly dynamic path.Kant's major criticism of previous ethical theories aims toward their lack of ...view middle of the document...

It opposes the hypothetical imperative, which supports every action that is relative to our own personal well-being, and which therefore may not be moral.For example, if we steal something, we're following not the categorical imperative but a hypothetical imperative, in the sense that our action translates in our own satisfaction, at the expense of someone else's dissatisfaction; such is therefore a behavior of moral relativity. Kant's philosophy is a self-critical activity, where the individual acts independently, but guides his behavior after the Ideal of Goodness that Kant refers as "Good Will" from which nothing but good things arise: by acting upon Good Will one can be certain of doing the right thing, at all times. It is thus that by following the categorical imperative, one is able to consistently make ethical choices which are not biased, but rather autonomous. Following this self-recursive golden rule, one does the right thing, simply because it's the right thing to do; the categorical imperative causes one to be attuned to one's conscience, while making any decision whatsoever.The categorical imperative is a sort of universal golden rule that leads towards the ideal Kant refers to as "Good Will"; this is similar in content to the popular saying "treat your neighbors like you wish to be treated". The duty of the individual is to consider the value of each action he makes not by observation of its consequences, but rather by observing the underlying maxim; if the maxim can be applied to the whole of humanity, then it follows the categorical imperative. In this particular sense, Kant opposed Utilitarianism, where actions are judged as morally right or wrong according to the results, rather than the intentions. (O'Neill)Let's take for example a person who is not capable of stealing an olive from the grocery; when considering the maxim governing his (in) action, he can find it in a statement such as "When you steal something, someone is at loss". If somebody loses something, then the subject of the reasoning might be that person; therefore, he won't steal. Since the maxim is compliant to the categorical principle, then it is morally right, and the subject has done the right thing by not stealing: he is a moral person, who nurtures Good Will, but does not neglect freedom of choice.Kant discusses the concepts heteronomy as opposed to autonomy. While the first refers to someone whose will is self-determined and compliant to the golden rule (right is right, and taking olives without paying is plainly stealing); the second refers to someone whose will is subject to an outside interference, acting out an hypothetical imperative (I steal olives from the supermarket because I want olives; I act in order to satisfy my personal desires or inclinations: at no point will I stop to consider that if I had my own grocery, I'd probably hate that...

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