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Describe Kant’s theory of Duty as the basis of morality (33 marks).

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Deontological Ethics and Emanuel Kant Describe Kant's theory of Duty as the basis of morality (33 marks). Emanuel Kant was a German Philosopher who lived in the late 18th century and was arguably one of the greatest thinkers of all time. He came up with a guide to morals in direct opposition to teontological or consequential theories. Many people use his ethics as a guide to living a moral life, but what exactly is Kant's ethics? How did he believe we should face moral problems and how can we apply it in our every day lives? Instead of situation based theories his theory was deontological ethics. This is a very absolute and objective form of ethics, which has been worked out using a rational thinking process. Kant believed that an ethical theory should be universalisable to be morally correct. This means it must be able to be applied to everyone all over the world regardless of situations or circumstances. Kant believed for this to be possible it must contain something that was 'unconditionally and universally good'. This must me something that is 'intrinsically good' which is good in itself, the highest good 'without qualification'. This thing that determines the moral worth of our actions cannot be instrumentally good, something that only becomes good pending the results of the action or like some things such as happiness, which are possible of making a situation morally worse. ...read more.


We all have an innate intellectual power that we are born with which we can use to work out rationally where our duty lies. Kant believed that it was unacceptable to look at consequences of a particular action and then decide if we should do it or not because there is not enough evidence for us to make a proper decision from. Rather we need to look at the actual experience of moral obligation and this is the feeling of what we think we 'ought to do'. Following what our duty prescribes involves the idea that what we feel we 'ought' to do is what is right. We should all have a feeling of moral obligation; we all know the good and right thing to do so therefore we should do it. Therefore our duty becomes to obey our rational thinking which prescribes what the morally correct thing we ought to do is. However, we still have not established what the 'supreme principle of morality is'. This one rule that we all must follow as a means to our rational thinking is something which Kant calls the categorical imperative. By imperative we mean something that tells us what actions would be good in the form of a command, usually using the words 'I ought'. ...read more.


With this he prescribed a formula which we can all follow to see if a maxim is universalisable. Before acting we have to ask what rule we would be following if we carried out this act and this is the maxim. Then we are to ask ourselves if it was possible and would we would be willing for it to be followed by everyone at all times in all places. If it cannot then it is a contradiction in either the law of nature or in the will. Then quite simply, if it can be universalised do it, if not then don't. In conclusion we can see that to follow Kants deontological ethics we must 'act solely in accordance to duty and for the sake of duty only' (Palmer - Moral Problems). It has been a very popular theory, which many people follow, sometimes without being aware of it. However we do need to ask is it of practical use in out lives today? Can we honestly say that it is useful, practical and realistic when making moral decisions? In my next section I shall be looking at these questions in a little more depth to see if we can logically come up with an answer. ?? ?? ?? ?? File: 137.doc Printed by ckd 14/02/2002 11:12 ...read more.

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