Immanuel Kant Major Works
Kant’s Categorical Imperative vs. Kierkegaard’s Notion of Faith Essay
This paper will examine the conflict between Kant’s moral theory (his categorical imperative) and Kierkegaard’s notion of faith. It will defend Kant’s claim against Kierkegaard’s theory that faith is not a legitimate reason to disregards morality. The reason of why Kant’s ideas are preferable to me is that the categorical imperative allows to define what actions are obligatory and which ones should be forbidden and to choose the way that is more correct and not contradictory to moral norms and society.
Immanuel Kant is considered to be one of the greatest and the most famous German philosophers of the 18th century. He created a truly widespread theory that influences society even now. His moral theory and his categorical imperative remain one of the central philosophical concepts of all the times. In 1785, this great philosopher introduced Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals.
One of the purposes of this work was to help people get a clear understanding of what moral principles are all about in order to avert possible distractions. Lots of people may say that Kant’s ideas are something that is really hard to comprehend. However, his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals is not that difficult to analyze in comparison to the works of some other philosophers.
Kant’s moral theory is based on the concept of good will. Moral knowledge is something that has lots of powers and should be a prior for all humankind. Without any doubts, Kant’s moral theory is rather complex, but at the heart of this theory, the only principle may be found; it is the categorical imperative. The idea of the categorical imperative lies in the fact that one may determine someone’s duty and decide what principles are proper and which ones are not.
“The imperative thus says which action possible by me would be good, and represents a practical rule in relation to a will that does not straightaway do an action just because it is good, partly because the subject does not always know that it is good, partly because, even if he knows this, his maxims could still be opposed to the objective principles of a practical reason.” (Kant and Gregor, 1998)
According to Kant, a maxim is one of the guiding principles of any action. With the help of maxims, people get a clear understanding of what should be done, and even how these things need to be done. Immanuel Kant was one of those believers, who proved that any person has the right to make choices. Freedom and reasons of actions are the two things, which distinguish people from animals, and we should lose this characteristic.
People just have to be free in order to be ready to perform all our duties. If people do not believe that they have enough freedom, they cannot be able to complete their duties, this is why the verb “have to” may be changed into “can or cannot”. People should give promises only in cases they are absolutely sure about their words and may keep them. Otherwise, if the words are not kept, and human promises are false, human life turns out to be senseless and all the beliefs are not true.
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard is another philosopher, who offered his ideas concerning faith, duties, and responsibility. In comparison to Kant’s rationalism, Kierkegaard is regarded to be an absurd thinker, who believes in subjectivism of ethics. In fact, Kierkegaard was one of the Kant’s followers.
He used Kant’s ideas as a basis for his own inquiry of faith. Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling is one of the best examples, which demonstrate his grounding on Kant’s ideas and standpoints. This Danish philosopher and, at the same time, a devoted theologian tries to prove that faith is not a simple formula, but something that people should reach only after certain divine inquiries are satisfied.
According to Kierkegaard, faith is a kind of leap to the absurd. People should trust upon something and believe in it. However, this something cannot possible be. This is why Kierkegaard’s notion of faith may be considered as rather paradoxical.
“A paradox enters in and a humble courage is required to grasp the whole of the temporal by virtue of the absurd, and this is the courage of faith. By faith Abraham did not renounce his claim upon Isaac, but by faith he got Isaac.” (Kierkegaard, 2008)
In this story about Abraham, Kierkegaard introduces this character as someone, who does not want to accept universal ethical principles in order to demonstrate his devotion to God. Abraham’s faith makes him break all those ethical norms; and this is what create an absurd line in the story.
Of course, it is quite possible to find some points in Kierkegaard’s story to admire. However, his extremism and idea that personal promise to the divine is the only thing that may glorify God cannot be considered as the most absurd things inherent to people. Kierkegaard does not show how exactly human belief in God may be absurd. He uses the word ‘absurd’ so many times, however, does not catch its uniqueness and make it an ordinary word.
This is why the faith, presented by Kierkegaard, may be called as the paradoxical nature of faith. This philosopher does not have any reservation about dealing with the things he calls absurd. However, at the same time, faith seems to be an eminently paradox, where a person tries to isolate him/herself in the sphere that is much higher than a universe.
After I compare the ideas of two philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Søren Kierkegaard concerning human’s faith and duty, it turns out to be rather easy to take one certain position and explain the choice. People truly believe that God is absolute. He has enough powers to control any situation and be fair.
Both Kant and Kierkegaard present lots of arguments in order to prove their points of view. Their arguments also have certain drawbacks, but Kant’s position and his rational belief provides us, ordinary people, with better opportunity to understand deeper the relations between religion and ethics.
Kierkegaard’s notion of faith may be considered as a bit weak because it is based on the principle of divine revelation and the idea that clear interaction between ethics and faith may be hardly found out at all. Without any doubts, people just cannot leave without a thought that something may control their lives somehow and show the necessary ways out. However, the idea of the right of choice is crucial indeed.
We should take certain actions and believe in the things, which will not hurt other people and destroy their future. People should be free and, at the same time, have something to believe in. However, all those believes should not stay on the way to clear understanding of this life and its essence. People are unique creatures, who have a wonderful opportunity to choose.
This is what Kant tells about in his work. His universalism and ethical system are clearly detached from human relations and their abilities in accordance with moral principles, which are inherent to all people. This is why interaction that happens between humans and the experience they get play a very important role and help to realize that freedom is much more significant than faith and any other concepts offered by different philosophers.
Kant’s moral theory is rather deontological: human actions may be considered as right ones only in virtue of their real motives. These motives should be derived from duties, people promise to complete. According to Kant, people should think and choose taking into consideration their faith and moral principles, which are also called maxims.
Kierkegaard has another, not less interesting position about human’s duties and faith, however, his ideas turn out to be rather absurd and face numerous drawbacks. Of course, the theories presented by either Kierkegaard or Kant are quite inadequate: they neglect the idea of interpersonal relations and do not pay too much attention that such interactions may be rather important for formulation of moral issues.
This is why Kant’s ideas are closer to society and may be fixed in accordance with new preferences and interests. People always have a chance to perform the functions of responsible agents, but it remains crucially important to consider moral principles, which are obtained by society.
Kant, I. & Gregor, M. J. (1998). Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Cambridge University Press.
Kierkegaard, S. (2008). Fear and Trembling. Wilder Publications.
Immanuel Kant Ethics Essay
Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher argued that some forms of actions like lying and murder among others were proscribed regardless of the outcome of the actions. His theory is a deontological moral theory whereby, “the rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences but on whether they fulfill our duty” (Aune 12). Kant held that there existed a sovereign rationale of morality in what he terms as Imperatives.
According to Kant’s imperatives, “an imperative is a command; for instance, ‘pay your taxes!’ is an imperative, as are ‘stop kicking me!’ and ‘Don’t kill animals!’ (Kant 49).
However, these imperatives come in categories, viz. hypothetical and categorical. Hypothetical imperatives give conditional commands; for instance, “If you want to go to medical school, study biology in college” (Kant 57). Therefore, if the subject of this command does not want to attend a medical school, this instruction is irrelevant. On the other hand, categorical imperative gives unconditional commands.
For instance, “Don’t cheat on your taxes” (Kant 57). In this context, even if one wants to evade taxes he or she should not do so. Therefore, moral aspects must be defined by the categorical imperatives for the basic reasoning that people are commanded by morality and they cannot choose to take it or leave it; they have to abide to its requirements.
Kant stipulates that categorical imperative will work when people “Act only on that maxim through which they can at the same time will that it should become a universal law [of nature]” (Kant 60). This is a rule of nature whereby people should do unto others how they would love others to do to them. For example, if someone expects others to love him, then he or she should be ready to love them.
Actions can never be morally worthy; they can only be right, or wrong. Morals are not attached to actions but to a person. However, one’s actions determine whether he or she is morally worthy or not. Kant argues that, “a person is good or bad depending on the motivation of their actions and not on the goodness of the consequences of those actions” (78).
Motivation here refers to the drive behind actions. If the drive or motivation is morally upright, then a person is morally worthy. Likewise, if the motivation is not morally right, then a person is not morally worth. Actions are dependent on something else; they sprout from something else; that is motivation, therefore, actions cannot make someone morally worth or unworthy.
To expound the issue of motivation, Kant considers an individual who has won a lottery and decides to give all his fortunes to charity work to feel good about it. Kant posits that, this individual is not morally worthy because the motivation was not out of duty but a selfish quest. “Moral worth only comes when you do something because you know that it is your duty and you would do it regardless of whether you liked it” (Kant 84).
To Kant, consequences are insignificant because without motivation, there would be no consequences. Moreover, one may have the wrong motivation and get right or good results. For instance, if two drunken people drive recklessly and unfortunately, one of them runs over a pedestrian while the other does not, they are both morally unworthy because the motivation behind their actions was wrong.
Unfortunately, people interpret morality wrongly. Supposing the man who won the lottery gives the money with the right motivation of helping destitute children; unfortunately, a gang realizes that the children have food; raid the place killing all the children and making away with all food. In such a case, the man who gave the money is morally worthy because his intentions were right. This argument renders consequences void and they cannot be used as parameters of gauging morality.
In contrast to what many critics think, Kant does not veto felicity. One can do something to be happy as long as it is moral. Kant says, “you ought to do things to make yourself happy as long as you make sure that they are not immoral (i.e., contrary to duty), and that you would refrain from doing them if they were immoral… a good person is someone who always does their duty because it is their duty” (99). To be good one must be or do “good” for the sake of “goodness.”
Nevertheless, Kant’s theory has several loopholes. For instance, Kant posits that, people could lie if “It is permissible to lie” (121) and anything short of this requirement should not be allowed. In the light of this argument, all people would become liars hence robbing people of trust. Therefore, people should never lie, in principle.
Taking Kant to be true, a person would rather let his or her friend die even if lying would save the situation. This maxim becomes inconsequential because even killing would be allowed as long as the motive is right like self-defense. Kant cannot justify this fact.
Kantian ethics are complicated given the maxims that he employs to explain his imperatives. Kant believes that people cannot be morally worthy by their actions. Actions can never justify one’s moral worthiness because actions are a result of motives. Therefore, motives behind any action determine one’s moral worthiness.
To explain this he uses two forms of imperatives viz. conditional and categorical. Conditional imperatives change based on one’s stand concerning the condition in question. On the other hand, categorical imperatives are absolute and universal independent of one’s take on the situation in question. Nevertheless, Kant’s theories have loopholes because by his definition, killing would be justifiable.
Aune, Bruce. “Kant’s Theory of Morals.” New Jersey: Princeton Publishers, 1979.
Kant, Immanuel. “Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.” Abbot, Thomas & Lara, Denis.
Eds. Ottawa; Library and Archives Canada, 2005.
Kant’s Critique of Judgment Essay
The purpose of this paper is to analyze critically the concept of the sublime as presented by Immanuel Kant in his work ‘The Critique of Judgment’.
After reviewing what the philosopher says about the sublime and putting his perspective into context by briefly looking at how he addresses aestheticism and beauty, the paper will take a closer look at how Kant sub-categorizes the sublime aesthetic sublime experience. The two categories of sublime aesthetic experience shall be reviewed further, giving Kant’s opinion on what it means to have a sublime aesthetic experience.
The paper will have a conclusion in which I will give my own opinion on why I agree or disagree with Kant’s elaboration of the sublime.
There is the common English saying ‘beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’. What one man deems to be beautiful, and moves him to awe, would leave another man just as indifferent and untouched. What is beauty, what element of a thing determines that it is beautiful hand renders another ugly?
These must have been the questions Immanuel Kant asked himself, though probably in more abstruse philosophical terms when he set out to write his treatise ‘Critique on Judgment’. This text has remained intriguing for philosophers and none philosophers alike for over two centuries now, and is considered pivotal in the study of aesthetics.
In this text, Kant addresses two primary issues: beauty – what I term as surface appeal- and the more complex concept of the sublime, and how judgment and reason play into the understanding and appreciation of beauty. Kant argues that judgment, or the rational faculties, have to be applied in the appreciation of beauty.
This is because there are basic tenets that apply to appreciating the aesthetic in any form, then there has to be a method to it; this method is what is based in reason, and this is what gives beauty its universality. Kant uses his discussions on the universal principles that govern the appreciation of art and the sublime to elucidate on human judgment in general (Kant 27).
It is interesting to note that with the study of aesthetics Kant attempts to bring together the two aspects of philosophy: the theoretical and the practical. Kant postulates that it is actually judgment that is the bridge between these two aspects of philosophy (Kant 15).
The concept of the sublime according to Kant’s ‘Analytic of the Sublime’ from his ‘Critique of Judgment’
While beauty is limited to those objects that have form, with how well defined this form determining to a large extent how beautiful the object is considered to be, the aesthetically sublime covers even those objects without form (Kant 61).
Kant looks at the dark side of the aesthetic experience, and uses the term ‘sublime’ to describe it. Ordinarily, when one thinks of an aesthetic experience, the focus is on the good and the pleasurable. However, Kant studies aspects of the natural world that overwhelm us, and instill a sense of fear. The sublime is that which overwhelms us, not only in the physical sense (Kant 62).
Kant categorizes experience of the sublime broadly into two: there is the dynamic sublime, where the viewer is faced with the violent forces of nature but with the surety that he/she can conquer these forces, or cannot be touched by them, and hence the viewer can derive a certain pleasure from the experience despite the fear. Secondly, there is the ‘mathematical’ sublime, where the viewer focuses on the physical magnitude of the object under observation, and magnitude is measured strictly in physical units (Kant 64).
Sublimity does not originate from the natural object in question, but rather from the feelings of the viewer towards the object. The sublime has more to do with the viewer, what goes on in his/her mind, than what is being viewed (Kant 65).
When one has an experience that is mathematically sublime, says Kant, the object is physically large, like a mountain or a really tall building. The dynamically sublime is that which might or might not be physically large but which exerts a force on the viewer which is not necessarily a physical force (Kant 65).
As Kant asserts, mathematical measurements do not take account of the aesthetic quantity of an object, and thus the magnitude of an object cannot be determined simply on a physical mathematical scale. The aesthetic measure must be considered as well, and this measure is still bound to be limited within units that are comprehensible by human reason, so that the largest unit marks the limits of the measurement of how aesthetically huge an object is (Kant 75).
Thus, in Kant’s view, the dynamically sublime is of more importance than the mathematically sublime. It is the former that moves the viewer, and that shows an active interaction between what the viewer perceives, and his/her judgment (Kant 77).
The moments of the experience of the sublime, and the subcategories of sublime aesthetic experience
The first moment in the experience of the sublime as explicated by Kant is that an aesthetic judgment has to be disinterested; disinterest here means that the viewer, finds pleasure in the object after judging it beautiful, not finding the object beautiful because of the pleasure it brings.
If we are to apply disinterest in this line, a thoroughbred horse would not be found beautiful for the pleasure of galloping off at incredible speeds and high jumps, but for its physical attributes. Disinterest means that beauty does not have to be functional. Kant asserts that if disinterest is to be applied, then the focus in considering objects aesthetically should be on the form of the object, and not on aspects of the object that would lead to a deeper connection, meaning interest (Kant 92).
The second moment in the experience of the sublime as Kant explains rests on the fact that there are universal rules of what is aesthetically appealing, though there are no universal rules as to how an aesthetic state can be achieved. This is because rational thought is applied in reaching the conclusion of what object is aesthetically appealing, same as is applied to morality, which is also universal.
Thus, it is expected that what one person will find aesthetically appealing will also be appealing to a majority. It is a difficult concept to grasp because it goes against the conventional grain of the viewer determining whether he/she finds an object aesthetically appealing or not (Kant 93).
The third moment introduces the concepts of ‘end’ and ‘finality’, or purpose and purposiveness. Kant elaborates that an object can have a purpose, the purpose being the functional reason for which it was made. Purposiveness on the other hand implies that the object might not have any constructive use, but remains of value.
The aestheticism of an object does not include the external purpose- the utility for which the object was built, or the internal purpose- what the object is intended to be like. If an object is judged on the basis of its utility, then its purpose will be determined on how well it does the job. On the other hand, if it is judged based on how close it is to a preconceived notion of how it is meant to look, then the purpose will be perfection(Kant 93).
The fourth moment in Kant’s text, as regards the sublime is that aesthetic judgments must be found necessary. Here, Kant is trying to define the parameters within which objects are judged and why it is necessary to notice the aesthetic in an object, a truly daunting task. Kant refers to these grounds as common sense, meaning the shared sense of the beautiful in an object by different viewers, or in other words-taste (Kant 94).
Yet, as Kant points out, the purpose of beauty is not how useful an object is or how close it comes to being perfect. He charges that the sole aim of beauty, at least in the natural world, its purposiveness is dependent on human judgment, without having a specified purpose.
The most beneficial aspect of the judgment of the sublime in regards to the subject undergoing this experience
Kant states that the importance experiencing the dynamically sublime in nature is because it elevates a man to another level of fortitude that is beyond the narrow perception of what men are used to. Experiencing the dynamically sublime equals experiencing a total freedom, because the viewer transcends the fear that is the first instinctive reaction to forces of such magnitude in nature (Kant 79).
Kant states that beauty is a symbol of moral uprightness, since people seek beauty with the same fervor that they seek moral uprightness. It is almost an innate sense in man to seek things of beauty. Beauty inspires goodness in man, and binds him closer to his own moral code. This is another benefit on one undergoing the aesthetically sublime experience.
There is no doubt that Kant’s study on aestheticism has been central in shaping later concepts of aestheticism to date. That said, there are aspects of his rationale with which I am not in total agreement.
In the natural world, it is easier for the concept of disinterest as Kant defines it to come into play. However, in regards to fine art, art made by man, then this art cannot be totally separated from politics. Though an artist might primarily create a work of art for its aesthetic quality, more often than not, this is not the only reason. There must have been thought that inspired the artist into action of creating his or her piece of work.
Therefore, the artwork has a utility; it makes a statement that the artist wishes to express. Those who observe this artwork will inherently infer the artist’s intended meaning, beyond looking at the work just for its aesthetic appeal. In this sense, no total disinterest can be maintained.
Kant makes a strong point for how the aesthetic contributes towards understanding human judgment, and how the sublime in nature is tied up with the man’s moral uprightness, as well as his awareness of himself.
In the argument presented in Kant’s first moment, he states that the focus on should be on form to maintain that disinterest, but the aesthetic experience must involve all the senses. We cannot ignore some aspects of the object because we have to observe the object in its totality; it has depth, tone, color and texture. If we focus on certain aspects of the object that are centered around the form, we are not perceiving the object in full, thus we are not experiencing its full aesthetic value.
Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgement. Cosimo Publishing: New Jersey. 2007. Print.
John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant on Morality Essay
In life, people face many challenges some of which they are supposed to make crucial decisions especially on moral issues. Unfortunately, one may make a decision that would haunt him/her for the rest of his/her life. The issue of distinguishing ‘good’ from bad in moral circles has been a controversial area probably due to lack of standards of defining ‘good’ or bad. What may seem as good to one party may be bad to the other.
Does this mean ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ is relative? Well, to answer this, we might consider analyzing a moral dilemma that a very close friend of mine underwent during the post election violence that rocked Kenya after the 2007 general elections. This paper uses Kant and Mill’s moral principles to give insight to this moral dilemma that George, my friend from Kenya had to go through, the decisions he made and eventualities thereafter.
The Moral Dilemma
I met George in January 2007 in England where he had come to study and we became very good friends. One thing I remember George could not avoid talking about was the coming general elections back in Kenya later in the year. He kept on saying that half of the then current members of parliament would not get re-election.
As we broke for Christmas holidays, George left for Kenya at least to be part of this phenomenal exercise that comes once in five years. In the early morning of 28th December, news started trickling in that not all went well with the Kenyan general elections. To my chagrin, news had it that violence has broken out throughout the nation. I could not stop thinking of George, as my efforts to reach him over the phone were futile.
As schools reopened in January 2009, I could not wait to meet George. He arrived late; however, he was a different person. He looked withdrawn and as I hugged him, I could feel bitterness in his heart coupled with guilt written in his face. He refused to divulge any information but after I coerced him for long, he gave in, given that I was his confidant. What he told me left me gasping and I could not offer any assistance, not at that time. This is George’s story cum moral dilemma.
George told me that after hell broke loose in Kenya, different communities attacked each other especially in Rift Valley province where there has been unrest since independent Kenya. Police could not contain the situation and rowdy youths took to streets to protest what they termed as ‘rigged’ elections. In the middle of this melee, people started rooting and killing innocent people as family members watched.
George was not spared. A hard knock at their front house awakened him from deep sleep after a day full of errands. He knew something was wrong when he rushed to sitting room only to find his mother and father bundled at the corner of the house. With rowdy youths baying for blood, George pleaded with them to spare his parent’s life. They agreed to do so; however, they would only spare one parent and George had to choose.
He painfully preferred his mother to his father and he watched his father hacked to death. Unfortunately, in the scrimmage, George had to run for his life and by the time he came back to England he had not heard about his mother; they were separated. After staying in England for eight months, George told me that he could not continue with his studies and he had to leave for Kenya. He left on September 4, 2009.
I never heard from him until December the same year when I learnt from a family friend that George had committed suicide for he could not bear the guilt of choosing who was to die between his parents. From a moral perspective, George was in a moral dilemma; unfortunately, he had to make choice or risk losing both parents. Did George make the right decision? Answers to this question could come from Kant and Mill’s moral principles.
Kant and Mill on Morality
According to Mill, “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness” (Mill Para. 4). Taken from this perspective, George was right in choosing his mother to live. Making no choice would result to George losing both parents and this would be wrong for it brings sadness. Given the situation that George was in, choosing one parent was the only ‘good’ thing he would do for it would bring ‘happiness.’
Therefore, it was in best interest that he made a choice in the first place. Kant on his part argues that, “actions are moral if and only if they are undertaken for the sake of morality alone…the moral quality of an action is judged not according to the action’s consequences, but according to the motive that produced it.
Finally, actions are moral if and only if they are undertaken out of respect for the moral law” (Kant 16). Taken from Kant’s argument, George’s actions were moral because his motive was to spare one of his parents than losing both.
Morality stands out clearly in this case because George did not have the best option; he only had a better one and that is what he went for. The question here is not whether to kill or not to kill, it about to kill two people or one. Given the fact that killing is ‘immoral’ George did the only moral thing, to kill one person than two.
The issue of morality remains a controversial issue even to date. Given the situation that George was in, he made the only logical ‘moral’ choice. Interpreted from Mill’s argument, George did a ‘good’ thing by choosing his mother over his father because at least this would bring ‘happiness’ as opposed to the pain of losing both parents.
On the other side, George’s actions would pass as moral under Kant’s judgment because the motive behind the choice he made was to save life, a moral thing. Even if George were in his parent’s shoes, he would expect them to make a choice and choose losing one child over losing two. Therefore, George’s actions were ‘moral.’
Kant, Immanuel. “Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals.” Translated by Paton, John. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.
Mill, John. “Utilitarianism.” N.d Web. <https://www.utilitarianism.com/mill1.htm>
Kant’s Moral Philosophy in the Contemporary World Essay
Over the years various issues have developed in the world. Things that were once clear cut as either morally wrong or right, have become very contentious. Various philosophers have studied and proposed different ideas on the subject of morality. Kant’s moral philosophy holds that the final result of an action has no value; the value of an action lies on the motivation behind it (Kant, 3). Kant argued that there exists an unconditional and absolute requirement that all other moral obligations are based on.
In order for one to uphold the highest moral law, his or her actions must conform to this requirement which he termed as the categorical imperative (Kant, 15). Kant’s ideology can however be seen as too simplistic when dealing with the modern society characterized by actions that cannot be easily categorized as morally right or wrong; those that may be termed as morally ambiguous.
Kant, a German philosopher, undertook a study to find the ultimate principle on morality. Kant identified three maxims that would enable one to identify morally right or wrong actions. The first maxim states that every person should act in such a manner that the action would be the right action for other people in similar situations (Kant, 14).
The second maxim states that an action is morally right if it treat others not as a means to an end but as an end in themselves (Kant, 29). The final maxim is a summation of the first two and it states that a moral action occurs when one acts as if his actions were setting a universal law that could be used by others under the same circumstances (Kant, 24).
When Kant was developing his moral philosophy, the society was mainly religious and culture played a big part in shaping how people acted. The contemporary society is however less governed by religion or culture and science (logic) plays a big part on how people make decisions or act. Actions that were previously termed morally inappropriate are under fire with people trying to understand what makes an action morally right or wrong.
Kant’s categorical imperative has three formulations that govern all moral action. These formulations can be summed up by the universality principle that states that all actions should be carried out in such a manner that they become universal laws without contradiction (Kant, 30).
This formulation in itself is too simplistic for the complicated modern society that we live in. One contentious issue in modern societies has been that of abortion. According to the requirements of categorical imperative, it would be morally wrong for a woman to carry out an abortion.
Kant argues that the moral value of an action is not based on its results but on its underlying principle and such action should be such that it can be universally adopted. As such, abortion which is mainly carried out to preserve the happiness, well-being or priorities of the woman, goes against this formulation (Denis, 548).
Kant also puts forward the principles of good will and duty. According to Kant, good will is that will that is derived from moral laws and has no qualifications (Kant, 5). Kant argued that the expected results of an action are morally neutral and not important when considering morality.
He added that good will is the only basis that the value of morality can be recognized. Kant also argued that duty determines whether an action is moral right or wrong. Kant argued that since the moral value of an action does not derive from the expected results, it must then be derived from the principle under which the action is carried out regardless of personal desires or surrounding circumstances (Kant, 7).
It is the basic human duty to populate the world and ensure the continuity of life. Abortion goes against this duty thus it must be considered morally wrong. Modern medicine has enabled deformities and complications to be identified before birth. Kant’s argument is ineffective as it would be cruel to give birth to a child who will suffer constantly or to put the life of the mother in jeopardy due to pregnancy complications (Denis, 560).
Kant’s morality principle is too simplistic and fails to take into account circumstances that have developed in the contemporary societies. Decision making in modern societies is carried out with regards to a multi-cultured society as a whole. Simplistic ground rules cannot effectively cover all situations under which an action may be undertaken. Abortion is an action involving two parties, the agent and the fetus.
The fetus cannot be deemed a rational being hence Kant may propose that laws of morality do not apply to it. However, the fetus is a part of the continuity of life and according to instinct (nature), child birth is a duty common to all. It is thus morally wrong to carry out an abortion as it goes against this duty. Kant’s philosophy cannot cover all aspects found in many contentious issues of the modern world hence it has no place in contemporary society.
Denis, Lara. “Abortion and Kant’s Formula of Universal Law.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37.4 (2007): 547-580
Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals. Trans. Jonathan Bennet. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995
The Significance of Ethic – Views of Kant, Mill and Nietzsche Essay
The following is an ethics essay that compares the Kant’s, Mill’s and Nietzsche’s ethical significance of telling truth or promise keeping. The term ethics is derived from a Greek word ‘ethikos’ which implies a habit or a behavior. The main reason why society emphasizes on adopting an institution of ethics is because its own existence as a good society requires so.
Society requires ethics to regulate the conduct of its members.Indeed; no human society can survive without ethics. Even when we have laws, ethics is still essential because unlike laws, it regulates every aspect of our activities. It has been said that people can only live together if they regulate their conduct in relation to one another.
Truth telling or the obligation to keep promises is supported by the deontological theory. According to this theory, everyone has the moral duty of telling the truth and keeping promises. The truth thus should be overriding principle irrespective of the consequences that may arise as a result of telling the truth. According to deontologists, the act of telling truth and keeping promise is essential since it allows people to act in the same way they wish to be treated by others.
However, the utilitarians adopt a different approach with regards to telling truth and keeping promises. According to them, the moral appropriateness of a behavior or an action requires to be evaluated by determining the consequences that are expected form a behavior or an action.
According to Utilitarianism theory, human beings are under the sovereign of two masters i.e. pleasure and pain. Pain and pleasure determines everything that a human being does and in most instances, people acts to seek pleasure and at the same time, avoid pain (Bass, and Bass, 2008, P.201).
Comparison of Kant, Mill and Nietzsche on the ethical significance of truth telling or promise keeping
Immanuel Kant is one of the most prominent deontologists in the history of philosophy and he argued that morality cannot be based on emotions or feelings but instead, it should be based on reasons. According to Kant, every person is rational and therefore, he or she is capable of arriving at correct decisions without necessarily having to make any reference to external authority. Karl held the view that through human reasons, people can arrive at universal moral principles and laws i.e. maxims.
According to him, every human being who is rational can develop such maxims. Immanuel was on the view that an action can only be deemed to be right or wrong as a result of the maxim or principle and not because of its end results. According to him, the motive behind an action is the one that makes the action to be deemed as right or wrong.Thus, an action is moral if it has good intentions behind it. Having a good intention implies that one acts in accordance with the maxims.
One therefore does his duties for their own sake and not for his or her personal gains.Thus, telling lies or failure to keep promises is wrong. According to Kant, one should refrain from keeping promises if there is no intention to keep it. Kant believes that it is possible for people to live in a society in which everybody tells the truth. According to him, the society will run into chaos if everyone who makes promises fails to honor them (Morgan, 2005, P.891-933).
John Stuart Mill is regarded as one of the foremost Philosophers of early 19th century .His philosophical works were based on Utilitarianism theory which was founded by Jeremy Benthan.Mill developed this theory to argue that pain whether in people or in other creatures is not good. He argued that whoever who promotes pleasure and happiness is moral and on the other hand, a person who promotes pain or suffering is immoral.
According to this theory, an action is right if it is intended to bring happiness to a large number of people. According to Mill, an action is moral if it meets the following conditions i.e. its consequences results to the greatest happiness or benefits possible and the number of beneficiaries is large.Thus, telling lies or failure to keep promises may be deemed right if its consequences bring about greatest happiness to a large number of people (Morgan, 2005, P.934).
Friedrich Nietzsche is another theorist who based his philosophical works on the concept that human beings are valuable by virtue of reason or intellect. According to him, intellect or reason does not imply a special capacity.
Intellect or reason comes and then varnishes just like any other natural ability. He further argued that morality, knowledge and truth as tools of nature are no exceptional. Nietzsche wrote the ‘Genealogy of Morals’ which was argued by ethical scholars as his best known book. The book is mainly concerned with the history of ethics.
The book specifically aims at discrediting the values of Judeo-Christian ethics which are based on principles of equality, justice and compassion.Also, the book was intended to discredit the scientific values by Utilitarian thinkers. Nietzsche in his argument states that the Judeo-Christian ethics are as a result of historical struggle between two main forms of morality. With regards to challenging the scientific values, he argues that there is no recognized force that is responsible for producing them.
The genealogy of morality not only challenges the researches historical truths but also the concept of truth itself. According to Nietzsche, the value of truth rests in the moral values. He argued that moral value usually establishes themselves as truths. According to him, truth fall into two broad categories .The first category states that a thing might be either false or true depending on the increasing will to power and the second category states that many people are denied access to truth.
According to Nietzsche, failure to keep promises may arise from ignorance or misunderstandings .Just like Kant, Nietzsche ironically states that keeping promises and refraining from telling lies is the basis of morality .However, Nietzsche concluded by stating that people are not promise keeping creatures by nature as they are bound to forget once and again(Morgan,2005,P.1140).
The source and relative strength of this obligation in these three thinkers
The relative strength of the duty to tell truth or to keep promise in these three great thinkers is based on the teleological and deontological theories. These theories plays an important role by providing people with a criterion which they use to determine if a policy, decision, action or law is morally right or wrong. They act as a standard of ethical judgment as they enable people to know what is right and what is wrong (Bass, and Bass, 2008, P.201).
The reason why Kant regard promise keeping as an absolute duty
According to Kant, keeping promises or failure to tell lies is an absolute duty. This is because the promise keeping acts as a powerful principle which enhances the principle of confidentiality. Keeping promise oblige recipients of privacy information not to use it for purposes it which it was not intended to.
Kant argues that the way we treat one another plays an important role in molding our characters. Commitments that a person make usually marks him or her out form others. In keeping promises, a person expresses himself or herself in the world. It enables people to regard themselves as well as others impartially (Morgan, 2005, P.891-933).
The reason why Mill regard it as important (but not all important) on utilitarian grounds
According to Mill, promise should be kept only if they increase social utility. It is for this reason that Mill regard it as important but not all important on utilitarian grounds. Mill based his argument on rule utilitarianism which assumes that, even though there are already established moral rules in every society, breaking a promise in an effort to bring happiness to the greatest number of people is right.
Mill also used the act utilitarianism rule to regard the act of promise keeping as less important. According to this rule, the rational way of deciding what requires to be done is by performing the alternative actions that are open to us. This includes doing nothing in order to maximize happiness for all. The utilitarian rules usually regard the act of promise keeping as a mere rules of thumb and therefore, a utilitarian will keep promise when has limited time of considering probable outcomes(Morgan,2005,P.936-1080).
The reason why Nietzsche regard the ability to make promise a remarkable (and rare) achievement
Nietzsche argues that regard the ability to make promise a remarkable and rare achievement because promising requires one to have mastery over nature, circumstances and over all the unreliable creatures. He agues that those who make promises are superior due to t6he fact that they can honor their promises under extreme circumstances such as in the face of fate or accidents.
Making a promise is a remarkable achievement because one is deemed to maintain it no matter what befalls in the future. According to Nietzsche, a person who makes promises does not consider his or her actions as choices.Usually, different people have different meaning with regards to choice.Therefore, and a promise implies a declaration of what a person is and of which one is responsible for.
Friedrich Nietzsche in his second essay on the Genealogy of Morals stated that keeping promise is only possible to a person who has the capacity to recall what he once promised. According to Nietzsche, forgetfulness is more or less like a force without which people can achieve no hope, pride, happiness or even cheerfulness.
Nietzsche held the view that making a promise requires one to have a will to accomplish what he or she promised and a real memory to discharge what he promised.Thus, people should learn to distinguish important events from less important ones.Also, they must learn to think in a causal manner, have the ability to anticipate future eventualities and have a clear goal of fulfilling their promises (Morgan, 2005, P.1140-1200).
Bass, Bernard and Bass, Ruth.The Bass handbook of leadership: theory, research, and managerial applications. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008.
Morgan, Micheal.Classics of moral and political theory.4th ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2005.
Betham and Kant Essay
Extreme Measure is a thriller film that was released in 1996 and is predominantly based on a name of the same name authored by Michael Palmer published in the wake of 1991. The novel explores the dynamics of ethics and the manner as individuals we are willing to sacrifice or go an extra mile in order to change the society.
Examining the concepts prompted in Kant’s deontological ethics, the film offers an insight into what Kant assumes to be morally acceptable aspects. These aspects form what we see in an individual as the ethical agents which supports ones rational actions individually. This illustrates that individual morals are ascribed in large by individual rationalism. This is testified in the film by Dr. Guy Luthan who reflects the Kants concept of motive as a key ingredient of individual ethical directions.
Examining the film from the lens of Bethams argument, we find that the Dr. Lawrence Myrick illuminates what Betham viewed as the utmost good for all through his utilitarianism assumption. This concept as is reflected in the film is against the ethical aspects of sacrifice. This is illustrated by Dr.Myrick attitudes which destroyed a considerable ratio of lives without prior consideration. Though, the doctor had good intention but his motives were extremely wrong.
Exploring the dynamics of utilitarianism it would be instrumental to argue that in regard to the film it lacks the autonomous virtue of personal morality and ethical values.
Kant argues that an action can only be defined as good if done in good will or from the scope of pure duty. This argument is well demonstrated in the film in that universal law is depicted as an act of being ethical without treating others as an end to specific ills. It is thus essential to understand that moral issues are paramount in determining an end.
More so, according to Kant’s assumption, morality is a universal dynamic that is autonomous with an individual. This illustrates that as an individual we have the power to determine if to act in good will or not. The complexity of this assumption is demonstrated by contrasting interests of both doctors.
Examining the approaches of Dr.Myrick it can be assumed that he employed the aspects of classic utilitarianism. According to Bentham this asserts that we should always do whatever sets the balance of amusement over pain. And this thus shows that Dr. Myrick assumes moral aspects to be just unstable rules.
Hence, playing the role of the almighty thinking the weak are essentially not needed in the greater society. Examining the theory of utilitarianism we find that the film offers a candid insight into effect it has on morals. In broader context Dr.Myrick can be said to be a symbolic representation of this assumption ethically. Though, this theory is seen to be effective however, on moral context Bentham seems to suggest that ethical issues should not exceed the moral good of the society.
The ethical imperative expressed in Kant’s theory reflects the ethical approach exposed in the films plotline. This can be attributed to the fact that the film seems to suggest that we ought as individuals to treat other humans as an end not a means to end an end. Also, Kants aspects as played out in the film tend to illustrate that human ought to have a positive approach towards each other.
Hence, this assumption conflicts with Bentham understanding of moral obligations or pure duty in regard to the willful doing of good. Exploring the dynamics presented by the two men in regard to this film it is imperative that you understand the innate reflection of their thoughts on ethics.
Using the philosophical considerations of Bentham Utilitarianism assumption, the film offers moral and ethical exposure concerning Dr.Myrick. The theory provides the candid effects of moral obligations on individual and the misguided desires to do well. This is illustrated by the manner the doctor sees and perceives his actions without any objectivity. Hence, the doctor assumes reason or ethical aspects are not the final authority in regard to his actions.
On the other hand we find Kants theory which is based on the moral dynamics contrasts with Benthams hypothesis. This well illustrated in the manner the theory is based on the ability of doing what creates the greatest joy. Based on that theory we find Dr. Luthans approaches to human needs to be more plausible.
Though in the film we find him blanketed by two core dilemmas, that is deciding who is to go the operating room and his discovery of primitive ventures of his fellow surgeon, Dr.Myrick. Examining the manner he takes the issues of Rosenstand provides a profound understanding of the value of ethics. Therefore, in such a situation as concerns the film Kant’s theory is more engaging in that it evaluates individual willingness to provide happiness without prejudice or malice.
The films present the two men conflicting moral aspects. Hence, to understand the innate difference it would be therefore essential to understand the diverse theories regarding universal aspects of virtue and morality.
In conclusion both Kant and Bentham offer a candid insight into the value individual’s places in ethical elements in life. Looking at the manner the film was packaged it provides a real picture of Kants deontological ethics and Bentham utilitarianism concepts in regard to ethics.
Note that though Dr.Myrick intention was to cure the world his goal was in essence commendable, but his methods and approaches went against the ethical standards. That is why in the film we see Kant’s theory being given a broader angle in that it offers a greater sense in what we do as individuals.
The scope of ethics plays a central role in our lives. As individuals we have the duty to decide whether to act for the few as is with Benthams Utilitarianism theory, or act in accordance with the Kants assumption which calls for doing the utmost good for all. Looking at the manner the film has been developed and presented the two ethical theories explored reflects our innate personalities and perceptions.
The film touches on issues of ethical values in our society today. In regard to what transpire in the film utilitarianism can be defined as a moral approach is tied to making the majorities happy. Hence, Dr.Myrick is depicted as a utilitarian due to the manner he conducts his business and approach to fellow human beings. His attitudes can be linked to Consequentialism which asserts we ought to do whatsoever maximizes excellent outcomes. It does not in itself care what manner of activities we do.
The Moral Dilemma in the Movie Boomerang – Views of David Hume and Kant Essay
There are several philosophers, but each approached the field different. Generally, philosophical problems were addressed through theories by philosophical scholars.
There are different scholars, for instance, David Hume and Kant. These scholars developed different theories to addressed different philosophical dilemmas, for example, moral dilemma in the movie has different perspectives from both Kant and David Hume. There are codes of conduct that are expected of people in the society to ensure peaceful coexistence and minimization of conflicts.
In a society, people tend to have different perspectives on moral behaviours leading to a dilemma. Similarly, this arose between Kant and David Hume in analyzing the moral dilemma in the movie boomerang. Moral dilemma arising from the movie is viewed differently by different philosophers among them David Hume and Kant. This paper highlights the different perspectives to the moral dilemma in the movie by David Hume and Kant.
Boomerang directed by Elia Kazan in 1947 is about a murder of a priest, Lambert that occurred in real life. The movie reveals that the murderer of the minister wore a dark coat and light hat, but after investigation the murderer was not certain. The murder leads to criticism of the government because even after intense investigation, the government is not able to find the murderer.
Moreover, the case had seven witnesses who witnessed the murder but the government could not still identify the killer of the minister. Attorney Henry Harvey later suggested that FBI should be brought into the case to assist in investigation after convincing Chief of Police not to resign from his position due to pressure (McCarthy 67).
Later, an ex-serviceman, Waldron matches the description of the murderer and is held by the police. His gun also matches the gun that shot the minister. He is forced to confess and sign and later denies before the attorney and judges that he was forced to confess.
Waldron had left town after breaking with a waitress and it was during that time that the minister was shot. After consideration of the witnesses evidence, and defense by Waldron, the attorney declares him innocent as charged, but several government officials especially in the judiciary opposes his decision (McCarthy 96).
There are different theories developed by Kant and David Hume and they have different perspectives in analyzing the movie Boomerang philosophically. Moral dilemma analysis of the movie Boomerang wholly revolves around murder of a minister, Lambert, which is unsolved because the killer has not been brought to justice.
In analyzing the moral dilemma in the movie, Boomerang, theory developed by David Hume, utilitarianism and Kantian ethics conflict in perspective. Philosophical, people constantly asks for the right decision while making choices. According to utilitarianism, means justify the ends; results are determined by actions, but not motives or intentions (McCarthy 103).
In the movie, Boomerang after declaring Waldron innocent, the attorney is faced with opposition from different people especially his party members. According to the attorney, the accused is innocent with regards to his defense and witnesses reports and statements. It appeared as if he was being implicated in the case. However, judge in the attorney’s chamber reminds him that he hope his decision is not political despite being groomed for the governor’s position (McCarthy 132).
However, according to Harris who grooms him for the position, conviction of Waldron is essential for their party win, but Henry, the attorney insists on his ruling. Furthermore, Harris reminds him that he might end up loosing the election hence governorship position. Harris is mainly concerned with his business interest in selling a land to the government, which he suspects might not be purchased by the new government in case they loose the election.
Henry tries to make a call to report Harris, but he draws a gun and informs him of his wife’s transaction on the same land. Later, Henry appeals on his decision and reverses his judgment on Waldron because he considered impact of the new government in case they lost the election and considered convicting Waldron to enable them win the elections (McCarthy 137).
According to utilitarianism theory, the means that have been used to win the election and form the next government is immoral. The attorney reverses his decision after declaring Waldron innocent so that his party can win election and protect interests of both his wife and party members.
It is good to succeed in undertakings, but the means used by the attorney to ensure his party wins the election is immoral because despite Waldron’s innocence, he reverses his decision. Moreover, the waitress tries to implicate Waldron so that he can be convicted despite weak evidence (McCarthy 142).
On the other hand, Kantian ethics argues that end result does not rely or depends on the means, that is, outcome of an action is not important in determination of the end result whether it was just or not, but the most important aspect is the result obtained. Kantian ethics is mainly concerned with the result, but not how the results were achieved.
The most important aspect according to this theory is results and not actions that necessitated achievements of the respective results. According to Kant, motive was the most important aspect in judging an action’s morality (McCarthy 151).
In the movie, Boomerang, it highlights about unsolved murder of a minister, Lambert. There are seven witnesses who try to implicate the accused unsuccessfully. However, since the attorney is being groomed for the governorship position, he is forced to change his decision and consider his wife’s interests and party members.
His party fear rule by new government due to their selfish interests and gains. The attorney reverses his decision and considers formation of government by opponents, and his party wins the election. According to the Kantian ethics, end does not rely on the means.
Though the attorney uses immoral means to ensure his party wins the elections, according to Kantian ethics, it is moral because the ultimate goal, winning the election has been achieved. Moreover, the waitress tries to implicate Waldron to ensure that he is convicted because he left her. Though it is immoral, but according to Kantian ethics it is moral because the ultimate goal, conviction have been achieved (McCarthy 165).
Utilitarianism theory and Kantian ethics tend to oppose each other conceptually. Generally, these theories by David Hume and Kant contradict in analysis of the moral dilemma in the movie, Boomerang. According to analysis by Kantian ethics, morality of an action is determined by the motives of the respective action.
On the other hand, utilitarianism theory developed by David Hume disregards actions’ motives in determining its morality. Basically, according to the Kantian ethics, a moral action is one that is compelled by an obligation while utilitarianism considers action that benefit majority as moral (McCarthy 180).
Utilitarianism theory and Kantian ethics have different perspectives on similar moral dilemmas due to differentials in analysis concept. Though these theories are conflicting in analysis of moral dilemmas due to differentials in arguments, both are important in analysis of different moral dilemmas because either theories may effectively analyze a moral dilemma depending on its nature.
Kantian ethics and utilitarianism appear as opposite, but both seek virtuous life in the long run despite the conflict in concept. Utilitarianism may be the most appropriate theory for one situation, but not to all; while Kantian ethics may be best suited for another where utilitarianism is not effectively applicable.
McCarthy, Fabrice. The Worlds of Hume and Kant. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1967. Print.
Ethical and Moral Views of Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill Essay
There are many philosophers who have speculated on the account of ethics and morality. Their views are mostly similar, agreeing on the concept that morality is a necessary part of human life and it should be guiding the actions and thoughts of every person. Immanuel Kant was one of such philosophers who greatly valued morality and the reasons for it.
He contemplated why people do things that are ethically and morally right or wrong, considering human emotions and thoughts. John Stuart Mill has also devoted a lot of time to ethics and how it can be defined but has taken a somewhat different approach through utilitarianism. Kant’s ethics are more acceptable, as they are universal and stable while Mill’s utilitarianism is dependent on perspective and individuality.
People often, find themselves in situations where they must determine what the best thing to do is. As every individual is different, their view of morality is somewhat different. There are many issues that arise when analyzing the relationship between necessity and ethics. Kant wrote about the person’s responsibility towards others as the highest good. He established that there are universal laws which guide people to be morally correct using the rational thinking.
Their reasons might be related to the reward of “a good feeling” after they commit a good deed. Or they might feel a moral obligation to help someone because they have the ability and ways to accomplish that. For some people, it becomes a lifelong quality and it is part of their character, so that in time, a situation when someone needs help presents itself, they help without thinking and on an instinct (Ward, 145).
Comparing necessity to morality, Kant’s view is that a rational and universal law makes it a must for one person to help another or commit an act that will be moral by the highest standards. Kant also talks about innate good that people have and the feeling of kindness towards the fellow human being. The ethical and moral codes set out by the government in a form of laws, reflect the general concepts of goodness and ethical attitude and behavior.
The duties and responsibilities are based on the moral codes which require respectful and equal treatment to all. These ethics reflect the qualities that every person possesses. But, the unfortunate fact is that there are circumstances when it is hard for people to be ethical or morally correct. This is why it is important to create a system that bases its laws and regulations on highest moral standards of ethics and equality.
John Stuart Mill’s ethics are based on the principle of morality being defined by the promotion of happiness. It is the foundation that all people must hold as a setting point. Also, the absence of pain or creation of conditions that will not make others suffer is the necessary duty of every individual. An important condition is that a person must not look towards own ethics and amount of happiness but must direct efforts to make others happy as much as possible.
One of the key aspects of utilitarianism is that people have a sort of feeling that is directed towards the achievement of happiness. If people can feel their own desire to feel pleasure, they must understand that others want the same feeling. Happiness thus, becomes the center focus of any person and all they do is look for ways to achieve even greater happiness (Mill, 8). John Mill draws a line between society, the laws that people make for the order and happiness.
The laws are a sort of utility that is necessary for enforcement of rules and policies. These regulations are meant to keep a fair society, so that people are not treated negatively, thus living a happy life. One of the important criticisms is that the principle of greatest happiness describes the process of a person taking everything that is pleasurable and giving the money saved from own limitations to others.
But then, the person who gives away the pleasure of being in a band, tennis lessons and the pursuit of skilled professions through extra education becomes poor and unhappy themselves. Even though it is possible to see that all people want to be happy and enjoy life, sometimes there are moments that require sacrifice and happiness becomes secondary because morality is more necessary.
According to Kant’s Categorical Imperative and the views on ethics, people must do what is necessary in relation to the greater good (Guyer, 31). This is very similar to the view of John Mill, as his utilitarian ethics are based on the greatest amount of happiness.
The major differences between the two philosophers’ concepts are the limitations that each has. Immanuel Kant’s theory is that a deed is proper and morally correct by the highest standards of morality and ethics. An example would be to never lie. This means that even a lie to make someone feel good, such as a comment about their outfit, would not be acceptable.
From one perspective, it can be seen as true because it is better to tell the person that they look ridiculous, so that people around will not be laughing at the person behind their back. This, in a way, circles back to the utilitarian question of whether a person becomes unhappy or receives any negativity when they do not know what someone says behind their back. This is where the two theories unite, as talking negatively behind someone’s back is ethically incorrect, immoral and lying is immoral as well.
So, it is possible to conclude that morality is universal for both philosophers. But, in utilitarianism, morality or the highest truth is not the criterion, it is happiness. This is the set back of utilitarianism because happiness cannot be measured from one person to the other, as the degree of it varies and so, it cannot be universal. Something that makes one person happy can make another indifferent or completely appalled.
Whereas morality is universal, cannot be denied and is the same for all people. Of course, there are times when people cannot consciously choose what the morally right thing to do is because they are physically or mentally incapable. In this case, the standard of greatest happiness would still apply, as people will be limited by the situation and choose what is best. Whereas highest moral principles will stay unchanged, even if people are unable to follow them.
It is a set truth that the principle of greater good and necessities has many more positive outcomes from any perspective (Johnson, 12). This is common to both theorists Kant and Mill but Kant’s ethics of highest morals are universal for all while utilitarianism has some limitations. The neutral and impersonal truth and correctness are the standard that must be adhered to.
Guyer, Paul. Kant. New York, United States: Routledge, 2006. Print.
Johnson, Oliver. Ethics: Selections from Classical and Contemporary Writers. Boston, United States: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.
Mill, John. Utilitarianism. London, England: Parker, Son and Bourn, 1863. Print.
Ward, Andrew. Kant: The Three Critiques. Cambridge, United States: Polity, 2006. Print.
Was Kant Wrong to Argue that Democracy Brings Peace Between States? Essay
Democracy and Peace between States
Kant was a world-renowned political philosopher who among his greatest concepts of peace advocated that democracy could actually create lasting peace between nations. Firstly, he notes that for peace to be realized, a world of constitutional democracies, established by political units, ought to be established. Secondly, Kant’s philosophy greatly relies on the doctrine of the power of the state to protect its citizens; a concept which was largely borrowed from German jurisprudence (Ostrwoski 2010, p. 13).
A reliance on this concept is further affirmed by Kant’s reliance on the supremacy of the constitution. According to Kant’s reasoning, the constitution should guarantee the right of the citizens to be happy and peaceful. From this analysis, Kant’s philosophy was heavily reliant on constitutionalism and the power of constitutional governments to establish peace within given regions.
To a large extent, it can be analyzed that Kant had formulated the problem of constitutionalism by stating that “The constitution of a state is eventually based on the morals of its citizens, which in its turns, is based on the goodness of the constitution” (Lane 1996, p. 58).
The constitutional theory of the 21st century can even be traced to Kant’s’ development of constitutionalism because he states that: “The task of establishing a universal and permanent peaceful life is not only a part of theory of law within the framework of pure reason, but per se an absolute and ultimate goal.
To achieve this goal, a state must become the community of a large number of people, living provided with legislative guarantees of their property rights secured by a common constitution. The supremacy of the constitution… must be derived a priori from the considerations for achievement of the absolute ideal in the most just and fair organization of people’s life under the aegis of public law” (Joerges 2004, p. 67).
This means that citizen rights stipulated in the 21st century concept of constitutionalism stems from the constitution itself. Nonetheless, many scholars have identified shortcomings in Kant’s philosophy and many have made reference to the European Union (EU) as ill equipped to face the challenges on the non-Kantian world outside the EU because it largely bases its policies on Kantian philosophies (Weiler 2003, p. 207).
One of the biggest criticisms to Kantian philosophy stems from the fact that direct democracies means a prevalence of majority rule and this may limit individual liberties. To affirm this opinion (Thompson 1992, p. 58) notes that:
“…democracy is, properly speaking, necessarily a despotism, because it establishes an executive power in which “all” decide for or even against one who does not agree; that is, “all”, who are not quite all, decide, and this is a contradiction of the general will with itself and with freedom”. (p. 58)
In this regard, various forms of government have emerged and they include aristocracy, democracies and monarchs but the classical form of this democracy lies in a mixed from of government which encompasses all the above types of government.
This study acknowledges the fact that democracies rarely go to war or take part in it in first place, but in the same context, it identifies that this concept distorts the realistic form of interstate relations and a support of this concept is bound to make political scholars too sanguine about the ability of democratic nations to deliver world peace. These factors withstanding, this study advances the fact that Kant was wrong to argue that democracy brings peace in today’s world.
When analyzing the biggest threat to the emergence of war between nations in the 21st century, we can deduce three most significant possible causes of war. They are nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and ethnic or religious conflicts (Ostrwoski 2010, p. 7).
For instance the conflict between India and Pakistan had been the closest the world had come to a nuclear war and this can be traced to the first concept described above (nuclear proliferation) (Ostrwoski 2010, p. 3). Interestingly, the United States (US) which is the world’s biggest democracy has in the recent past waged a war against Afghanistan which manifests the two possible causes of war (terrorism and religious conflicts) also discussed above (Tinnevelt 2010, p. 86).
Contrary to Kant’s philosophy of democracy and peace, the recent September 11th attacks in the US, as alleged by terrorist groups, was a reactions to US’s democratic interventions in religious conflicts on the terrorist’s part of the world. From this analogy, it can be said that democracy is a great contributor to the three causes of war discussed above; meaning that the vaulted political machinery of democracy has consistently failed to work (Ostrwoski 2010, p. 8).
Inevitably, nuclear proliferation which is a big threat to world peace has the potential of increasing conflicts between nations. In relative terms, the threat of nuclear weapons to the realization of world peace increases from an increase in nation-states that posses them. Equally, the risk of nuclear weapons also increases with an increase in the number of nuclear weapons but the same risk is also evident in establishing world peace, when terrorists get hold of such weapons.
Interestingly, some of the world’s biggest democracies have shown the worst examples by possessing these nuclear weapons. It is also very interesting to note that of the eight countries alleged to have (or have) nuclear weapons (US, Russia, China, France, UK, India, Pakistan and Israel) are majorly democratic states. In detail, six of the states are democracies and only two are dictatorships (Ostrwoski 2010, p. 8).
The US which is the biggest democracy in the world, started developing such weapons when it was quickly rising to be one of the world’s superpower. In this regard, nuclear bombs have been synonymously associated with world power and unfortunately, nations such as the US have used them in causing massive destruction to people through wars, as can be evidenced from the Hiroshima bombings in Japan.
When the US started developing these weapons, nations across the globe went ahead and started developing the weapons as well. This led to an arms race and inevitably the cold war. Regardless, maybe these states would have possessed the weapons anyway, but the root of the arms race stems from the fact that the US, which is arguably the biggest democracy in the world started the movement and set precedent for other nations across the globe to follow.
The pursuit for nuclear weapons across the globe was therefore inevitable. The rush to have these weapons has been characterized by a flurry of excuses, with the US claiming that it first developed the weapons to stop Hitler but the production of such weapons never ceased even after Hitler was defeated (Ostrwoski 2010, p. 8).
Later, the US claimed it needed the weapons to protect the state from the Soviet Union. However, it apparently became clear that the nation used the weapons to wage war against Japan. In fact, after Japan was defeated, the production of these weapons increased tremendously (Ostrwoski 2010, p. 18).
From this analysis, it can be seen that democratic states not only develop nuclear weapons to protect themselves against their enemies, but to advance their power in global politics and sometimes even wage war against other nations. All in all, this is the coin of political realm, even though democracies are supposed to protect its citizens against the danger of war in today’s society (as purported by Kant); but it is hard to ignore the fact that democracies are a great part of the problem.
Terrorism is another good example of the failure by democracies to establish world peace. It had been evidently clear from the terror campaign that the UK and the US invaded Afghanistan, thus increasing anxiety amid India and Pakistan, which were on the brink of a fully blown nuclear conflict (Tinnevelt 2010, p. 5). It is also interesting to note that the biggest targets of terrorism activities are majorly democratic nations and they include the US, UK, Germany, France, Israel, Italy, Turkey and Peru (Tinnevelt 2010, p. 5).
The leading reason advanced by most terrorist organizations for targeting these democracies is the fact that democratic countries have consistently adopted unfavorable foreign and domestic policies (Ostrwoski 2010, p. 8).
It is also interesting to note that democratic regimes which have noninterventionist foreign policies are seldom targeted by terrorists; meaning that the issue here is not a moral evaluation of terrorism and its antecedents but rather the exploration of the question about whether democracies provoke or discourage terrorism (which is also a big threat to world peace). Undoubtedly, democracies provoke terrorism acts.
Ethnic and Religious Conflicts
Ethnic and religious conflicts are probably among the leading cause of organized conflicts and a big threat to world peace. Though a significant portion of these conflicts have been largely characterized by dictatorships and oppressive regimes, a significant portion of the conflicts have also been perpetrated under democratic regimes.
For instance, religious and ethnic conflicts evidenced in Turkey, Yugoslavia, Spain, Philippines, Russia, Peru, Namibia, Mexico, India, Georgia, and Colombia have all happened under democratic regimes (Tinnevelt 2010, p. 5).
Research studies show that about 25 of the most recent intrastate conflicts have been either religious or ethnically instigated and a staggering 23 out of the 25 intrastate conflicts have prevailed under democratic regimes, either partially or fully (Ostrwoski 2010, p. 17). In fact, in some cases, democratic regimes have been successfully overthrown because a significant minority of the population has felt neglected by such regimes.
Empirical evidences have shown that democratic states have promoted ethnic conflicts but a close scrutiny of the process of democratization explains this phenomenon. Even in the biggest democracies across the globe, people have since immemorial voted along ethnic or religious lines although these two parameters (ethnicity and religion) can be closely analyzed together.
In close analysis, people hailing from one ethnic subgroup have always voted for a candidate coming from their ethnic group or sometimes the same people have been seen to vote for candidates they believe best represent their own interests.
This kind of scenario also inevitably brews controversy among voters because voters who fail to propel their candidate into office always harbor some form of resentment on voters who prevented their candidate from entering office in the first place. Even an increase in the population of another subgroup may potentially seem threatening to a specific ethnic group since they may feel like other ethnic groups are a potential threat to advancing their own interests.
The nature of democracy therefore leads to the thriving of such animosities because it gives one vote to a single person and this means that it is easy for one candidate from the majority ethnic groups to capture office; thereby sidelining the wishes of other ethnic or religious groups. Thus, it can be said that democracy, from its own inherent nature possesses the seed of ethnic conflict.
The theory of democratic pacifism is usually advocated by academicians, politicians, diplomats and a significant population of the general citizenry; however; the biggest question we should ask ourselves is: are democratic states really peaceful? In another context, we should majorly ask ourselves is the world’s biggest democracy (US) peaceful?
History affirms that these states are not peaceful and in fact, some of the world’s deadliest conflicts have been instigated by democratic states. Affirmatively, the two bloodiest wars in the past ten decades have been the two world wars plus the American civil war which led to more than 620,000 deaths (Ostrwoski 2010, p. 16).
However, theorists of democracy as a facilitator of peace, such as Rummel, argue that democratic states have a lesser frequency of war when compared to dictatorships but the truth of the matter is that these theories ignore many other potential influencing factors of peace (Tinnevelt 2010, p. 5). These theorists tend to incline towards the classical liberal state which defines states with limited powers but the truth of the matter is that there are very few states in the world which are classical liberal today.
Also, from the analysis of the democratic liberalist states, it is evidently clear that democracies bestow a lot of power on governments and this essentially becomes very dangerous in the upheaval of citizens’ rights. In other contexts, it can be viewed from the dangers of power that power essentially kills; meaning this is a contravention of democratic pacifism theories advocated by scholars such as Spencer Weart (Ostrwoski 2010, p. 19).
However, there’s no doubt that democracies lead to a number of positive outcomes such as the fact that: democracies rarely, if ever, go to war with each other; democracies tend to be more peaceful than each other; democracies have a less internal voice and democracies have relative peace; however, it is still hard to ignore the fact some of the biggest democracies like the UK and the US have been the biggest instigators of war. It can therefore be seen that the realization of peace happens from structural make up and not by coincidence or accident (Joerges 2004, p. 207).
Kant’s assertion that democracies lead to the attainment of world peace is a misplaced argument because contrary to his philosophy, democratic states have constantly destabilized world peace because some of the biggest world conflicts have been instigated by some of the world’s biggest democracies.
The US and the UK in particular are singled out in this study as the biggest democracies although in many instances, they have been fighting with many nations; considering the fact that they have taken part in some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts. These countries are also at the forefront in the war against terror by carrying out invasions even though they are supposed to uphold world peace through their constitutions (as purported by Kant).
Also, this study identifies that democratic governance by the virtue of its own structure is ethnically motivated to brew conflict. This arises out of the fact that democracies encompass a “one man one vote” policy where the majority rule and the minority lose. This kind of policy has brewed conflicts of a civil nature.
Religious conflicts have also majorly occurred under democratic regimes and the kind of conflicts which have either been provoked or occurred under democratic regimes are still endless. These issues withstanding, it becomes clear that democracy in its own nature brews conflict and Kant’s argument of democracy as a facilitator of peace is definitely wrong.
Joerges, C. (2004) Transnational Governance and Constitutionalism. London: Hart Publishing.
Lane, J. (1996) Constitutions and Political Theory. Manchester: Manchester University Press ND.
Ostrwoski, J. (2010) The Myth of Democratic Peace. Web.
Thompson, J. (1992) Justice and World Order: A Philosophical Inquiry. London: Routledge.
Tinnevelt, R. (2010) Global Democracy and Exclusion. London: John Wiley and Sons.
Weiler, J. (2003) European Constitutionalism beyond the State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.