• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Explain Kant's ethical theory

Extracts from this document...

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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Practical Questions section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Practical Questions essays

  1. Explain the importance of good will in Kant's ethical theory.

    One of the first major challenges to Kant's reasoning came from a Swiss philosopher, Benjamin Constant. He said that since truth telling must be universal according to Kant's theory, one must (if asked) tell a known murderer the location of his prey.

  2. Emotivism as an Ethical Theory

    Take for example the statements '2+2=4 and all bachelors are unmarried men'. Both of the statements are true because they contain within themselves the means for verifying the truth. Wittgenstein called them tautologies as 2+2 means the same as 4 and an unmarried man means the same as a bachelor.

  1. Austin's theory of law is based on coercio

    be re-characterized as part of a long chain of reasoning for eventually imposing a sanction (Austin spoke in this context of the sanction of "nullity") on those who fail to comply with the relevant provisions. However, such a re-characterization misses the basic purpose of those sorts of laws-they are arguably about granting power and autonomy, not punishing wrongdoing.

  2. In what sense (if any) was Machiavelli's approach to politics 'scientific' rather than 'moral'?

    For Machiavelli, it is best for a prince to have a reputation for being miserly (Raab: 1964).

  1. Explain what scholars mean when they say that ethical statements are no more than ...

    Human behaviour needs to have such complicated complications and diversities taken into the account, and this is something which emotivism fails to do. Another main criticism of emotivism is as follows: If all conduct and action is simply a matter of expressing our psychological response to an event or situation,

  2. Compare Utilitarianism With Kant's Theory of The Categorical Imperative And Explain Which You Think ...

    pain, so therefore instances such as the sadistic guards occur (where it is morally correct from them to torture a man, as they receive more pleasure from doing so, than the pain the man receives).

  1. The Ethical Debate Concerning Cloning.

    Typically Roman Catholic view of reproductive technologies is negative. In condemning cloning, the Roman Catholic Church stressed that every human has "the right to be born in a human way" and Pope John Paul II called for an unconditional worldwide ban on the use of cloning.

  2. `Always tell the truth and Always keep your promises' Kant's Categorical Imperative.

    In other words whatever moral rule (or maxim) you choose to adopt, would it make rational sense for everyone else to adopt it as well? If so, go ahead and let that moral rule or maxim guide whatever course of action is open to you.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work