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Describe Kant’s theory of duty as the basis for morality.

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Introduction

Describe Kant's theory of duty as the basis for morality. Kant's ethical theory's had an immense effect on how people viewed morality. The German Protestant lived from 1724 to 1804, and worked to create a rational basis for morality. His ideas are highly significant, as the influence from science, the enlightenment and Rousseau's positive view of human nature, has challenged and influenced many people's views. The foundation of this theory is the sense of moral obligation, or duty, we each possess. Kant then proceeded to use this idea as a foundation for his own moral philosophy, as have many philosophers after him. Kant proposed that our actions cannot be good unless they are also morally right- these two qualities must exist together. By this, Kant is separating the ideas of good behaviour and good will. 'Good will' is a term often used by Kant, and can be also defined as 'good intention.' Kant put this concept at the centre of his ethical theory by suggesting, 'there is no possibility of thinking anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be regarded as good without qualification, except a good will.' Kant's most important contribution to ethics was his idea that our actions are only truly good when we do our duty for it's` own sake. ...read more.

Middle

Although criticised for being too optimistic by some, if all people followed his theories as he suggested, the world would benefit considerably. How satisfactory is Kant's theory for practical purpose. A main criticism of Kant is that it is far too optimistic. This can be attributed to many factors, but mainly that Kant himself had an unrealistic positive outlook on the world. This is why his theories are often difficult to apply to practical situations. Kant's maxim does have a certain advantage in practical situations. It provides a test, which people can work out themselves- they do not have to look at physics or God to decide on morally right actions. Apart from this plus, it is difficult to find any other examples of Kant's theory being useful to apply to practical situations. An example of this is Kant's belief that all humans have a sense of moral obligation. This is not necessarily true, many people do not think about the morality of their actions, or feel that they have to. Kant also suggested that our moral actions should be categorical imperatives not hypothetical ones. But if you take away desire and consequence from an ethical decision, it does not encourage people to act morally at all. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, if I was poor and starving and needed to steal to eat, I could excuse myself as I could see my actions as right, as I need to steal in order to survive. Didn't Kant say that humans are of value and should be respected, especially above objects? Kant also suggested that if something cannot be universalised, it cannot be right. How far can this rule apply in practical situations? Kant said the principle of universalisability applies to people in the same situation as you. Therefore, stealing when you are starving can be seen as morally right; as you may believe it is acceptable for everyone who is starving to steal. What are the boundaries to this rule though? Is anyone ever in the same situation? A person could say that it is fine for 44 year old, divorced and alcoholic homeless men to steal to survive, but not for anyone else. The theory then begins to seem illogical, as the principle becomes relative, rather than absolute. Kant never explored these ideas. In conclusion, it seems as though Kant's ethical theory is awkward to apply to practical situations, as the faults in Kant's work only makes moral choices more complex. It can be said though, that Kant's theory can help to guide our practical ethical decisions, by making us consider the morality of our actions- as long as we do not follow his rules to closely. ...read more.

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