Kant's Categorical Argument Essay

1679 words - 7 pages

Kant's Categorical Argument

Emanuel Kant was a German Philosopher who lived in the late 18th
century and was arguably one of the greatest thinkers of all time. He
came up with a guide to morals in direct opposition to the ontological
theory. Many people use his ethics as a guide to living a moral life.

The topic I shall be discussing is Kant's categorical imperative and
the utilitarian's greatest happiness idea. There are significant
problems with both ideas. It is apparent however, that alternatives to
these two conflicting schools of thought have been offered. One
popular criticism of utilitarianism is that it deals too much with the
consequences of one's actions, and the same for Kant except that it
focuses too much upon intentions. Therefore I shall round up in part B
of my essay how both theories fail as moral guideline on how to live
life, and look at morality, which I feel are imperative in order to
live the good life. During part A I shall be explaining Kant’s
categorical argument in great detail.

For some time now philosophers have discussed the possibility of the
existence of right and wrong. The issues of morality and ethical
decision-making play a massive role in human actions and we are
constantly deciding whether or not the choices we make are 'moral'. As
an intuitive species when presented with a choice we are continuously
bugged with the question of: "Which alternative should I choose and
what reason should be behind my choice?" This is the tricky question
that Kant tries to answer. In fact for this question Kant states a
universal formula, which is the categorical imperative. This means by
which all acts can be measured as either morally right or not morally
right. This 'formula' makes us to follow a duty as made by the law no
matter who or what you are dealing with, according to Kant this
“universally” applies for the 'moral' way to behave in any situation

The will Kant says, is the movement of acting according to a law. When
we act, whether or not we achieve what we intend with our action is
often beyond our control and the morality of our actions cannot depend
on their outcome. What we can control however is the will behind these
actions. That is we can will to act according to one law rather than
another. The morality of an action therefore, must be assessed in
terms of the motivation behind it and not the consequences associated
with it. According to Kant the only thing that is good without reason
is the good will. A good will is good in itself, not just for what it

Courage, health, and wealth can all be used for the wrong purposes
Kant argues, and therefore cannot be “intrinsically” good. Happiness
is not intrinsically good because even being worth of happiness Kant
says, requires that one possess a good will. The good will is the only

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