Immanuel Kant and the Moral Law Essay

Immanuel Kant and the Moral Law Essay

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Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from the 18th century, widely known for his various achievements and works such as Critique of Pure Reason and Foundations of Metaphysics of Morals. Kant developed a theory of ethics that depends on reason rather than emotion called The Moral Law. Kant was not anti-religious but he wanted an ethical system that was not obscured by religion, emotion or personal interpretation. According to Kant, morality is a function of reason, based on our consciousness of necessary and universal laws. He believed that laws generate duties, and to act from duty is to act out of a respect for the law. Kant distinguishes two kinds of imperatives, which describe the moral law. The first is hypothetical imperative, which commands under the assumption that one wants something. Basically, the thing that you want is an “end” and the only way you get that is the “means”. For instance, you shouldn’t miss more than two weekly discussions for this online course if you want to pass the class but it only binds you if you want to pass. If you do not wish to pass this course it does not have any affect on your will, and it does not generate moral duties. Therefore morality is not a means to any end.
Kant argues that the moral law should be a categorical imperative, which on the other hand binds unconditionally. Whether you want something is not an issue, one just has to obey the command. The moral law has no exceptions and is binding on all people regardless of their wants. For example, let us say you fall from a building, you cannot object as you are falling and simply exempt yourself from the law of gravitation because regardless if you do or not you are going to fall anyway. Neither can you exempt yourself from the mo...

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... formulation of the categorical imperative would have to be fair from all perspectives which means that it would require reciprocity, “Always act in such a way that your are both legislator and legislated in the kingdom of Ends.” The moral law would have to do with the command that one ought to act in such a way that ones actions could be done by all persons with any contradictions. For instance, imagine living in a society where we were blind to the empirical differences among ourselves, and that no one acted from inclinations, but rather acted out of respect for the moral law. Notice, since all differences among agents have been neutralized with respect to their behavioral consequences, everyone would act in the same ways and endorse the same moral rules. Curiously, as with the first formulation, ethics is at once subjective and universal and necessary.

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