For Kant, moral truth is as basic as basic logic. Because of this, moral truths can be discovered through reason and do not have a source. But what makes an action morally right? According to Kant, an action can be morally right in two ways. If the action is performed from “duty”, or performing the action because it’s the “right thing to do,” then it is both morally right and morally good. An action cannot be morally good if the moral good is not the key motivation behind performing that action. In other words, if money or fame is the key motivation behind the action, the action cannot be morally good, but may still be morally right. Kant calls this acting in conformity with duty, or acting without a good will. Kant also states that consequences, intended or unintended, have nothing to do with whether an action is morally right. But that doesn’t answer the question of how we use reason to discover which actions are morally right.
Kant introduces a method for determining what is and isn’t morally right: the categorical imperative. The imperative states that we should never act except in such a way that it would be reasonable to will for everyone to perform the same action, at all times, and without exceptions. Kant then breaks it down into four steps. The first step is to formul...
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... Kant’s view is still able to hold up as a decent method for determining what is morally right.
While both views claim to achieve the same result, the two use contrasting methods. Kant’s categorical imperative gives the impression that it is both structured and simple to use. As long as the proposed action passes all four steps, then the action is morally right. However, some actions we deem to be right may turn out not to be due to the strictness of the formula. Mill states that consequences and happiness are essential to determining what is morally right. Unfortunately, Mill does not provide us with any kind of formula to measure these factors, and remains vague as to which consequences are to be considered. While Kant’s view has its flaws, it is not as vague as that of Mill, leading me to believe deontological ethics is a less problematic view than utilitarianism.
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