• 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. Emotivism as an Ethical Theory

    Basically, the subject of the statement is contained within the predicate. In the statement 'all unmarried men are bachelors', 'unmarried men' is the subject and 'bachelors' is the predicate. In this statement, the predicate and subject both mean the same thing so it would be foolish to say that the statement is false.

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

    This has wholly been dubbed as positive morality, but is unrealistic as we tend to give it according legal status in the modern context. . Many critics have claimed that Austin's view of sovereignty portrays an image of a powerful and dictatorial monarch.

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

    To do something good is simply because you enjoy doing it, is not in itself moral. Morality is always a matter of conscious choice. Kant makes a distinction between duty and inclination. We may be inclined to do what benefits ourselves, but morality is more than personal preference.

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

    The ideas of prescriptivism give purpose and meaning to moral statements by claiming that when we use ethical language, we are actually recommending or prescribing a course of action which could be applied in view of the situation. For example, prescriptivism states that if I were to say "murder is wrong", I am not just saying "Murder-Boo!".

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

    Moreover, 'In this kingdom nothing conflicts with reason, and the rational being is both subject and sovereign of the law which there obtains'. (Scruton, p.71). This last version of the imperative appears to act as a bridge between ethics and politics, though a politics of a particularly idealistic hue.

  2. Evaluate Korsgaard's discussion of the Universalizability Argument. In what ways does she conform with ...

    It is better to think of oneself, to value himself, to be governed by value he places to himself such as by being human simply, and as a member of the human race. To value oneself as a human being is to have moral identity.

  1. The Ethical Debate Concerning Cloning.

    It is difficult, even on a personal level, to come to grips with what the idea of cloning, and in what many call the postmodern era, it is rare that one universal truth can be found. As such, it is the responsibility of the individual to seriously consider the options

  2. Kant's Theory of Universal Law

    is in itself morally wrong; therefore, it cannot be permissible under any circumstances. Explained by way of logic, it is wrong because, given the hypothetical, if everyone were to lie, then truth-- that which is exploited-- would be eradicated. Should that which is exploited be eradicated, then the perceived purpose in the exploitation is as well.

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