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Immanuel Kant’s Non Consequentialist Ethical Theory

1737 words - 7 pages

1. Introduction
According to Immanuel Kant the driving force behind our actions should be dictated by what is inherently good as sole consideration and not be based upon the effects of what such actions may produce such as the case in the consequentialist theory of cause. In this essay Kant’s ethical non-consequentialist theory will be briefly investigated and a comparison drawn between the two different theories in order to establish merit in employment thereof in practice.
2. Kantian Morality
Central to Kant’s morality theory is his claim that: “It is impossible to conceive anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be taken as good without qualification, except a good will” (Cottingham, 2008: 507).
When a person engages, according to this tenet, in a noble action due the fact that its driving force is an ingrained personal characteristic, such deed would, according to Kant, not qualify as it having a moral motive. He regards such deeds as being driven by a person’s inclination to do such a deed. When a deed, according to Kant, is however engaged in irrespective of the performer’s inclinations or desires, but rather due to the driving force behind such action being the sense of duty, only then, according to him, can it be regarded as a morally noble motive. He regards such an act being conducted due to “good will” and regards such actions as the sole moral motive due to the fact that it is driven by the motive of duty as opposed to the motive of action which is driven by “will” (Study Guide PLS3705, 2014:77).
It follows then that, according to Kant, the only moral action is one that is conducted due to duty and not due to the fact that a person is inclined to do so due to the consequences it may produce.
For an action to be is right, according to Kant, it has to comply with a universal law. A law which determines that actions are only sound if they can be made a universal law by which all lives should be fashioned upon. It is thus based upon a principle where Kant states as follows:
“I ought never to act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law” (Cottingham, 2008: 506).
3. Goodwill
The question that arises from Kant’s statement about goodwill, is what principles should a will conform to if it is to be good?
On this Kant states: “ A good will is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes – because of its fitness for attaining some proposed end: it is good through its willing alone – that is good in itself ” (Cottingham, 2008: 507).
So for Kant a good deed is not based upon a condition of the production of a favourable outcome, but rather for the good in itself. Therefore, according to him, the objective for our actions should not be based upon the consequences of such actions, but rather upon the fact that it is our duty to perform a specific deed or action.
His views of that which can be classified as good, is therefore based upon the condition of such a deed being...

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