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Explain Kant's ethical theory

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Introduction

Give an account of Kant's ethical theory Immanuel Kant was an eighteenth century German philosopher whose moral views continue to be influential. His ethical theory is based on a deontological point of view, where the act itself has moral value regardless of the consequences. Kant dismisses emotions such as pity and compassion as irrelevant to morality and thought that making a choice based on feelings or fulfilling our desires is irrelevant when making a morally correct decision. His beliefs oppose that of moral relativism, in which a morally good act is entirely dependant on the circumstances or culture in which it takes place, instead believing in the necessity of a perfectly universalisable moral law. A significant area of ethical study for Kant was the investigation into human reasoning. His views were in response to that of the empiricists and rationalists. The rationalists attempted to prove that we can understand the world purely be using our reasoning, on the other hand empiricists argued that all of our knowledge originates from experience. ...read more.

Middle

Duty is what the good will aims to fulfil. It is important that duty is done for its own sake and not to bring pleasure of happiness to yourself of others. For example, it is your duty to help those less fortunate than yourself by giving to charity, but you should not do so just to feel good about yourself. It is only moral if you act purely out of duty and are not guided only by emotions. The categorical imperative is also a crucial part of Kant's ethical theory. The categorical imperative differs from a hypothetical imperative in that acting according to a hypothetical imperative is only to achieve a particular goal. For example, "if I want to be liked I ought to be kind to people". A categorical imperative, however, contains no reference to other ends; they are moral commands that do not depend on anything, therefore the statements contains no "ifs" such as "I ought to be kind to people." ...read more.

Conclusion

The second fundamental principle of the categorical imperative is the formula of end in itself- to treat humanity always as an end rather than solely as a means. By this Kant means that people should not be exploited for selfish gain, as people are rational and independent beings. If we fail to do this we treat ourselves as if we are superior to others. Therefore to be moral we need to value everyone equally. The third formula, the "formula of a kingdom of ends" develops this idea to suggest that everyone should act as if every other person was an "end", a free, self-ruling agent. We ought to act only by maxims which would harmonize with a possible kingdom of ends, as it is our duty not to act by maxims that are incoherent when we attempt to universalize them. By suggesting that individuals are independent and autonomous, however, Kant does not mean to suggest that everyone can decide on their own morality, but that everyone has the ability to use their pure practical reason to know what is right. ?? ?? ?? ?? Sarah Johnson ...read more.

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