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A Root-a-toot-Duty: An analysis of Kant’s Categorical Imperative

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A Root-a-toot-Duty: An analysis of Kant's Categorical Imperative For some time now philosophers have discussed the possibility of the existence of right and wrong. The issues of morality and ethical decision-making play an integral role in human conduct and we are constantly contemplating whether or not the choices we make are 'moral'. As an intuitive species when presented with a choice we are continuously plaguing ourselves with the question of: "Which alternative should I choose and what motive should be behind my choice?" Ultimately it is this unceasingly bothersome question that Kant tries to answer in his passage The Role of Reason. In fact for this question Kant establishes a universal formula - the categorical imperative - by which all acts can be measured as either morally praiseworthy (in accordance with the will) or not morally praiseworthy (in accordance with something other than the will - a means). This 'formula' which, commands us to follow duty as established by the law no matter with whom or what you are dealing, according to Kant is universally applicable for the 'moral' way to behave in any situation The will Kant says, is the faculty of acting according to a conception of law. When we act, whether or not we achieve what we intend with our action is often beyond our control thus the morality of our actions does not depend on their outcome. ...read more.


It is not the effect or even the intended effect that bestows moral character on an action. All intended effects "could be brought about through other causes and would not require the will of the rational being, while the highest and unconditional good can be found in only such a will." (Singer, 129) Furthermore, having established that our actions cannot be moral on the ground of some conditional purpose or goal but rather in the motive for which they are done, Kant now establishes a categorical (as opposed to hypothetical) imperative which serves as a golden rule for moral action. The passage seems to develop a formulation of the Categorical Imperative which prescribes us to act from duty in all situations: "An action done from duty does not have its moral worth in the purpose which is to be achieved through it but in the maxim by which it is determined. Its moral value, therefore, does not depend on the reality of the object of the action but merely on the principle of volition y which the action is done." (Singer, 128). Arguably from this we can develop Kant's account of the categorical imperative: "Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." ...read more.


In The Role of Reason Kant maintains that what makes an action morally praiseworthy is its being done from a good will. Those acts that are done from good wills are those that are done in concurrence with a sense of duty not those that are done for some purpose: "Duty is the necessity of an action done from respect for the law." (Singer, 128) He places this necessity to do things out of principle alone in an imperative that we must follow. This imperative is not hypothetical for it does not describe conditions to fulfill an end. Rather it is a categorical imperative describing what we ought to do regardless of the outcome of the action. Once again, Kant's categorical imperative states: "Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." 1 Reason reflecting upon choice uses the categorical imperative in order to decide between alternatives. From an act, reason abstracts a principle of action and judges it against the categorical imperative; reason then asks 'ought I to wish this principle of action become a universal law of nature?'. Since it is the ultimate measure by which all acts are judged morally good or bad, the categorical imperative to act in harmony with duty, is thus Kant's supreme moral principle. 1 Nelson, Amaral. Kant's Categorical Imperative. New York: New York. Scudder, Stevens & Clark, 1989. pp 149-156. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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