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Kantian Vs. Virtue Ethics Essay

1673 words - 7 pages

Both Kantian and virtue ethicists have differing views about what it takes to be a good person. Kantian ethicists believe that being a good person is strictly a matter of them having a “good will.” On the other hand, virtue ethicists believe that being a good person is a matter of having a good character, or being naturally inclined to do the right thing. Both sides provide valid arguments as to what is the most important when it comes to determining what a person good. My purpose in writing this paper is to distinguish between Kantian ethics and virtue ethics, and to then, show which theory is most accurate.
Kantianism, which is derived from the moral philosopher Immanuel Kant, states that the only thing that is truly good is a good will. A good will is one that acts because of its duty. Kantians asks two main questions. The first question is, “What is unconditionally good?”. When answering this question, Kantians weed out all other possible answers. In his book, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant states that, “Understanding, wit, judgment1 and the like, whatever such talents of mind' may be called, or courage, resolution, and perseverance in one's plans, as qualities of temperament, are undoubtedly good and desirable for many purposes, I but they can also be extremely evil and harmful if the will which is to make use of these gifts of nature, and whose distinctive constitution" is therefore called character, is not good (Kant, p 7).” For example, power is not unconditionally good because you can abuse it. Also, money cannot be unconditionally good because you can buy bad things with it. Happiness is not unconditionally good because bad things can make you happy. The only thing that is unconditionally good is a good will.
Kant’s second question is, “What is the purpose of reason?”. Reason is not to be confused with rationality. Reason is your capacity to act rationally, while rationality is what reason allows you to do. The purpose of reason is not to secure happiness. All of our faculties are designed to be the most effective means to their ends. Kantians believe that instinct would be more effective at securing happiness than reason would. As a result, the end of reason, or its purpose, cannot be to secure happiness. Reason is practiced and it functions to give us a good will. Since its purpose is not to secure happiness, the standards of a good will must be determined by reason itself.
A good will does what it is supposed to do. It performs its duty. Therefore, the concept of duty must be something that can be had from rationality itself. It is of the nature of duties that they are binding on everyone equally. Our duty is to act only on those maxims that we can will to be a universal law. One must act only in ways that they would want everyone else to also act. So, a good will is one that acts because of its duty. There are a number of examples that show what is meant by this ideology. Person A and Person B are both cashiers....

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