Kant's theory of morality seems to function as the most feasible in
determining one's duty in a moral situation. The basis for his theory is
perhaps the most noble of any-- acting morally because doing so is morally
right. His ideas, no matter how occasionally vague or overly rigid, work
easily and efficiently in most situations. Some exceptions do exist, but the
strength of those exceptions may be somewhat diminished by looking at the
way the actual situations are presented and the way in which they are
handled. But despite these exceptions, the process Kant describes of
converting maxims to universal laws to test their moral permissibility serves,
in general, as a useful guide to and system of ethics and morality.
The Kantian Theory of Ethics hinges upon the concept of the
Categorical Imperative, or the process of universalization. Kant describes
taking a possible action, a maxim, and testing whether it is morally
permissible for a person to act in that manner by seeing if it would be
morally permissible for all people in all times to act in that same
manner. Thus, Kant says that an action is morally permissible in one
instance if the action is universally permissible in all instances. In fact, parts
of the theory even say that it is one's moral duty to act on these
universalizable maxims, and that people should only act on those maxims
that can be universalized.
The stability of Kant's theory rests not only on the fact that it is
completely objective-- every action is definitely either morally permissible
or not-- but also on the fact that the theory is non-consequentialist. Kant
truly does not look to the consequences of an action to see whether the
action is morally permissible, but rather to the morality of the action itself.
Kant assumes that universal morality is inherent in being, thus avoiding
complications in trying to determine which actions lead to better
consequences. However, Kant does not speak of perfect and imperfect moral
duties, those duties that respectively do or do not involve qualifications as to
the particulars of the situation at hand, thus complicating the issue.
Several objections can be raised to the theory Kant sets forth, but each
of them seems to stem from the thought that the theory cannot account for
all actions and situations. Certain moral duties, for instance, are brought
about by relying on more than just the Categorical Imperative and process of
universalization, specifically on the subjective definitions of certain terms
and ideas about what is and is not and of itself moral. Also, one might say
that in some situations a maxim that can be universalized is still not morally
permissible, while one that cannot be universalized is indeed permissible. In
all these situations though, it seems at least...