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How Satisfactory is Kant’s Theory of Duty for practical purposes?

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Introduction

How Satisfactory is Kant's Theory of Duty for practical purposes? Undoubtedly Kants ethics have several strong points which logically make sense and make his theory very successful which is why many people have used it when faced with moral decisions on a practical day to day basis. However we need to ask, are these strengths enough for us to use it to make a fair and rational decision in the modern world despite its inevitable weaknesses? To answer this we need to analyse the criticisms as well as the amendments of Kant's ethics more closely and then come to a logical conclusion that takes all of the factors into account. One of the most fundamental factors of deontological ethics is the importance placed on justice. It is in direct opposition to the utilitarian opinion where an innocent person can be punished if it benefits more people on a larger scale. Naturally our human instinct tells us this is wrong and unfair. The morality of an action comes from its intrinsic value and knowledge that it is the right thing to do and therefore our duty to do it not for the maximum happiness received to the largest number of people. ...read more.

Middle

For example the maxim 'whenever you are driving a red and yellow sports car you should smile'. This has no morality at all; yet it is universalisable so does this mean I should do it? So how exactly do we know what exactly is the right thing? Kant provides a guide to this with his formula for universalisability however there lies one major flaw within it. He states that all people know what duty requires of us because we are all rational beings, but what he fails to notice is that we 'don't all have the same temperaments or desires and therefore don't find all the same situations intolerable'. For example Hitler saw it as completely acceptable to punish, torture and kill thousands of people and you or I may say this was barbaric and wrong. We also may find ourselves in a situation where the act is right but we would not want it to be done to us (e.g. a punishment we deserve because we have done something wrong). Just because we would not want it to be done to us does not mean it is necessarily wrong. An example is the 'capitalist doctrine of self help' where we accept that life is ruthless and we strive to do the best we can for ourselves. ...read more.

Conclusion

If they were considered lesser than the rest of us because they can not think as rationally as we can, then would Kant allow abortions because they are not technically humans yet? The final flaw Kants ethics has is the fact that life has more to it than morality. Humans naturally look at the consequences of any act without even knowing they are doing it. It is human instinct to look at the results of an act before we decide to do it. In conclusion we can see that Kants deontological ethics has many criticisms as well as good qualities. Practically many would argue that it is a very helpful and useful moral theory because we use it every day in our lives, sometimes without even knowing it. However others argue that it lacks compassion and isn't very realistic for everyday use because we can not help calculating consequences and what are we to do when we have two conflicting duties? However, the practical use of this form of ethics must be a personal choice. We have to weigh up the pros and cons of Kants theory and decide if it would be practical for our personal use in our lives today and if it is, then we should do our best to apply it! ...read more.

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