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Immanuel Kant And The Moral Law

971 words - 4 pages

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from the 18th century, widely known for his various achievements and works such as Critique of Pure Reason and Foundations of Metaphysics of Morals. Kant developed a theory of ethics that depends on reason rather than emotion called The Moral Law. Kant was not anti-religious but he wanted an ethical system that was not obscured by religion, emotion or personal interpretation. According to Kant, morality is a function of reason, based on our consciousness of necessary and universal laws. He believed that laws generate duties, and to act from duty is to act out of a respect for the law. Kant distinguishes two kinds of imperatives, which describe the moral law. The first is hypothetical imperative, which commands under the assumption that one wants something. Basically, the thing that you want is an “end” and the only way you get that is the “means”. For instance, you shouldn’t miss more than two weekly discussions for this online course if you want to pass the class but it only binds you if you want to pass. If you do not wish to pass this course it does not have any affect on your will, and it does not generate moral duties. Therefore morality is not a means to any end.
Kant argues that the moral law should be a categorical imperative, which on the other hand binds unconditionally. Whether you want something is not an issue, one just has to obey the command. The moral law has no exceptions and is binding on all people regardless of their wants. For example, let us say you fall from a building, you cannot object as you are falling and simply exempt yourself from the law of gravitation because regardless if you do or not you are going to fall anyway. Neither can you exempt yourself from the moral law according to Kant. For Kant, the moral law must be universally binding and it must be in the form of a categorical imperative; such as, if the moral law determines that we have a duty to be honest then in all cases honesty is required even if we do not wish to be, if it is inconvenient for us, or produces harm it is non the less required. However this may not capture what seems intuitively right, for instance what is there to say to a person who does not share the same basic views. Such as, telling an uncaring person to treat others the way they would want to be treated, and with that being said the golden rule does not capture all the truths of morality. Kant thinks that if you are careful and reason in the appropriate way you can see certain things are required by morality that are necessarily universal and do not admit exception. He believes that once one understands what the categorical imperative expresses one will see that...

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