Of Immanuel Kant’s Philosophy
What would you do if you saw a little old lady with a cane walking slowly across a busy street without remembering to look both ways? Most people would answer that they would run out into the street to save her. However, why would these people do this? The rescuer may have not had any relation whatsoever to the little old lady, yet they still decide to risk their life for her. Was it because of basic, natural instinct? Did the rescuer just instantly react to what he/she saw and just let his reaction take over his body? On the other hand, did the rescuer think very quickly using reasoning about what he was going to do about the situation? Was he thinking that he should do this because it will make him feel better since he saved someone’s life, in turn making him a hero? Or did he do this action for the sake of morality alone? These things might not seem be thought about by someone in times of those kinds of situations, but they are whether you realize it or not. In Immanuel Kant’s work, entitled Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, he talks about why the will and freedom are central in order to make a moral decision or commit a moral action, and how the categorical imperative governs an individual’s actions.
Everybody that breathes in oxygen has a will. A will is some type of motivation, whether it is good or bad, to commit some type of action. The type of action one commits depends on the type of will, or desire, the person has. Kant believes that the one thing in the world that is unambiguously good is the “good will.” Even if this good will fails to bring about positive, or good, results, it is still considered good since its’ motivation was good. Because of this, Kant believes that in order to commit a true moral action, one must not do it in order to achieve some thing or some outcome. Instead, one should do it for the sake of the moral law itself.
One might think that a good will is easy to obtain since all one has to do is just do it for the moral law in itself and nothing else. However, in order to do this, one must have complete freedom. By this, Kant does not mean freedom to do anything we want, or freedom from oppression, or anything like that. On the other hand, Kant implies that we need to have ...
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... at the same time, he asks us to follow his laws and principles. How can we be using our own logic, while we are following his? We are limited to his guidelines, therefore violating individual thinking, which is what he encourages. Kant’s process of weighing morality seems to be emotionless, and without emotions, we are robots. Feelings are the main identity of our species. Reason can only take us so far.
The final criticism that I have of Kant is his ignorance of variations of reason. Everyone does not reason in the same way. For instance, what if someone hated technology and wanted to rid the world of computers. Apply the categorical imperative to this situation. Would it be reasonable for everyone to smash his or her computer? For an anti-technology person, this universal law is practical. It accomplishes their goal of ridding the world of computers. This abuse of the categorical imperative may come in many forms. Although I have many criticisms of Kant, he makes a strong argument, which is why people still follow his philosophy today. He presents clear and sensible explanations of good will. However, his absolute statements may be his strongest point or his greatest downfall.
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