The moral debates continued to see good as merely that which gives happiness or pleasure. "…it was assumed that what we ought to do is always a function of what it would be good to bring about: action can only be right because it produces good (J.B. Schneewind 'Modern Moral Philosophy'). It was the breaking away from this idea that was perhaps the most important aspect of the works of both Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and David Hume (1711-1776). Hume's moral theory arose out of his belief that reason alone can never cause action. Desire or feelings cause action.
According to formula two of Kant’s argument, good will is guided by reason. We should follow our own good will in order to gain talents to then help others. Our own good will cannot come from a gut feeling, we should consider our own obligations that Kant has set for us in order to reach our own happiness. We should act to use humanity by not using other people in order to get their means because that is immortal. It is our ability to make our own choices and be rational with the intention of creating good will.
From this idea of “a priori” concepts, Kant begins his thesis with the notion that the only thing in the world that is a qualified good is the “good will”, even if its efforts bring about a not necessarily good result. A “good will” is good because of the willing that is involved. Two main implications arise with this idea of the “good will”. The first implication is moral actions cannot have impure motivations. There are many impure motivations but Kant tends to focus mainly on the motives of the pursuit of happiness and self-preservation.
When considering the Platonic form of goodness, Kant's idea of the good will is similar in that it adheres to a theoretical universal, and that reason is essential to its discovery. However, the concept of the Golden Rule is not important to Plato and he would certainly scoff at the exclusivity of the term "moral." But at the heart of the comparison lies the .sim• arity in the importance of reason, the importance of duty, and the idea of a universal. 9 Ibid.,953. 10 Ibid.
Hypothetical imperatives are actions that look for the best means to a goal, however, the goal might not necessarily be an end in itself. On the other hand, the categorical imperative is an objectively necessary means to an end in itself, and the action to obtain the end, must have moral worth. If we as rational agents, have any morality at all Kant says, it takes the form of rational, categorical imperatives (commands of reason) and is found a priori excluding all interests and desires. These commands of reason are proven by the Universal Law Formula, which when applied, is a method for determining the morality of actions. How is this formula applied though?
Kant would argue that to make a promise for the wrong reason is not moral you might as well not make the promise. You must follow a certain code in order to find truth behind your actions. Kant believed that you should treat everyone with value, dignity, and respect. Our reasoning ability will always allow us to know what our duty is. Kant described two types of common commands given by reason: the hypothetical imperative, which dictates a given course of action to reach a specific end; and the categorical imperative, which dictates a course of action that must be followed because of its rightness and necessity.
Morality stems from the idea of the ‘good will’, which Kant argues is the only thing truly ‘good’ in the world. Rational beings can bring about their wills through imperatives, or rules that rational beings follow to necessitate their wills, whatever they may be. There are two types of imperatives: the hypothetical imperative and the categorical imperative. Hypothetical imperatives are based on subjective principles of personal desire and want, which is why hypothetical imperatives have no moral worth. The categorical imperative on the other hand is unconditioned and thus entirely a priori.
Morality is central to all rational beings, whereby a moral action is one determined by reason, rather than our personal desires as suggested by Kant (1785) in contrast to Hume. (1738). Furthermore, Kant suggests that an action is moral only on account of its being reasoned, therefore the moral worth of an action is determined by its motives and not by its consequences. Exploring the works of Hume (1738) and Kant(1785) on morality and ethics, we will ask the question whether we should do what is morally right, even when you could profit by doing something wrong, and furthermore, we shall discuss morality as a type of game, yet something you cannot opt out of, as something Foot describes as 'inescapable'. (Foot 1972: 311).
Consequentialism suggests that we should make moral decisions based on the consequence of the action and the consequence of the action should make the greatest number of people happy. Therefore, according to consequentialism, it really doesn’t matter what the action is, as long as the consequence is good. Consequentialism, for instance, accepts that lying to someone in order to somehow help them is perfectly ok as long as the result is good. Deontology suggests the exact opposite- lying is wrong no matter what context because it is one’s duty to be honest. Kant notices that we can only control our own motives, we cannot control the consequences of our motives, and therefore, we should make decisions based on action, not the consequences.
When he defines these moral rules, he characterizes them in the form of imperatives – the hypothetical imperative and categorical imperative. While hypothetical imperatives deal with motivations and actions that lead to a particular end, categorical imperatives are a product of rational behavior in human beings. Kant considers such categorical imperatives to be the moral basis for life. As a result, when a person who is “cold and indifferent to the sufferings of others’ does an action that elicits a positive response from someone by helping them, he is more morally worthy according to Kant. Such a person does this action even when he does not want or feel like doing that action.