According to Immanuel Kant the driving force behind our actions should be dictated by what is inherently good as sole consideration and not be based upon the effects of what such actions may produce such as the case in the consequentialist theory of cause. In this essay Kant’s ethical non-consequentialist theory will be briefly investigated and a comparison drawn between the two different theories in order to establish merit in employment thereof in practice.
2. Kantian Morality
Central to Kant’s morality theory is his claim that: “It is impossible to conceive anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be taken as good without qualification, except a good will” (Cottingham, 2008: 507).
When a person engages, according to this tenet, in a noble action due the fact that its driving force is an ingrained personal characteristic, such deed would, according to Kant, not qualify as it having a moral motive. He regards such deeds as being driven by a person’s inclination to do such a deed. When a deed, according to Kant, is however engaged in irrespective of the performer’s inclinations or desires, but rather due to the driving force behind such action being the sense of duty, only then, according to him, can it be regarded as a morally noble motive. He regards such an act being conducted due to “good will” and regards such actions as the sole moral motive due to the fact that it is driven by the motive of duty as opposed to the motive of action which is driven by “will” (Study Guide PLS3705, 2014:77).
It follows then that, according to Kant, the only moral action is one that is conducted due to duty and not due to the fact that a person is inclined to do so due to the consequences it may produce.
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...and satisfying driving force which every moral person aspires. Kant’s theory however at most sets goals that we can live up to.
Allen, R. 2001. The New Penguin English Dictionary. New York: Penguin Group.
Blackburn, S. 2008. Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cottingham, J. 2008. Western Philosophy, An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Johnson, R. 2013. Kant’s Moral Philosophy, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition). [Online]. Available: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2013/entries/kant-moral / [2014, February 11].
Kantian Ethics .2008. [Online]. Available: http://www.3.nd.edu/~jspeaks/courses/2008-9/10100/_LECTURES/26%20-%20kant.pdf [2014 February 25]
University of South Africa. Department of Philosophy, Practical & Systematic Theology. Tutorial for PLS3702. Pretoria.
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