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Compare the Natural Law Theory with Kant's approach in relation to killing in war.

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Introduction

Compare the Natural Law Theory with Kant's approach in relation to killing in war. It is important to acknowledge that the theory of Natural Law is defined as absolute (whereby an action is regarded as right or wrong irrespective of differing circumstances or conditions) and deontological (which means that the moral value of an action is judged according to the intention and not the consequences), and is most closely associated with St. Thomas Aquinas, who developed the principles and advances of Aristotle, to produce a moral code (existing within the purpose of nature) which human beings are naturally inclined towards. In addition, Aquinas maintained that the 'moral life' is lived according to reason, which is achieved by following the primary precepts which promote the principles of 'self-preservation and the preservation of the innocent', the 'continuation of the species through reproduction', the 'education of children', to 'live in society' and to 'worship God'. Aquinas also acknowledged four 'secondary precepts' (do not murder, do not abort unborn, defend the defenceless and do not commit suicide) ...read more.

Middle

In contrast, it is also significant to make reference to the absolute and deontological ethical theory advocated by Immanuel Kant, who argued (in The Metaphysics of Morals, 1797) that we are able to calculate the moral worth of an action in accordance to the Categorical Imperative - an unconditional command comprising of three principles informing human beings of their duty by directing them to actions which are good in themselves: The Universal Law (for an action to be morally valid, the agent must not carry it out unless he or she believes that, in the same situation, all people should act in the same way); Treat humans as end in themselves (never treat humans as a means to an end); and Act as if you live in a kingdom of ends (act as if you were a law-making member of a kingdom of ends). Kant also considered that to act morally is to do one's duty, which involved obeying the moral law, and maintained that human beings seek an ultimate end called the supreme good (the summun bonum) ...read more.

Conclusion

that prohibit acts that would be commonly considered wrong (such as murder/killing) and therefore corrects the atrocities that could be justified under a utilitarian approach - the moral value of an action comes from the intrinsic rightness in itself. However, Kant's theory refuses to allow exceptions to different situations, and it could also be argued that a weakness with the concept of universalisability is the problem of different but similar dilemmas - are two moral dilemmas always the same? In conclusion, although there are undoubtedly many intricate issues with regard to the subject of war, it is vital to consider the various arguments provided (including those above) such as the view that the ultimate principle should be to preserve life (W.D.Ross) and the conditions set out in the 'just war' theory. However, my personal view is that although I can acknowledge the arguments provided by idealist and realist thinkers, I believe that in order to justifiably conduct military action, it is necessary to establish an independent system where universal jurisdiction can be enforced, and which will provide an impartial hearing and sentence those accordingly - such as the United Nations. James Yates ...read more.

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