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Describe Kant's reasons for defending the need for the categorical imperative. How useful are Kantian ethics for drawing conclusions about abortion?

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Introduction

A. Describe Kant's reasons for defending the need for the categorical imperative. B. How useful are Kantian ethics for drawing conclusions about abortion? (A) Kant's belief was that we should act for the sake of the action, not for an ulterior motive. Laws should be universal, and we should follow them out of a sense of duty. By doing this we are following our own intrinsic goodness. So why was it so important to Kant to defend the need for his theory? In 1788, Immanuel Kant, (a deontologist), laid a new foundation for ethics and religion with the categorical imperative. Kant believed in the freedom of humans to make their own decisions and considered the exploitation of humans to be the worst evil. Human reason gives us the right to choose and we are therefore able to freely make moral decisions. The categorical imperative states that if 'I ought', therefore 'I can'. It is an absolute law that has no conditions and is consequently a method of making moral decisions. When making decisions, we should not follow our inclinations, but our duty, which is more than just personal preference. Kant's imperative is categorical, in that it tells us which of our actions would be good in the form of a command. ...read more.

Middle

The goodness of good will is not derived from the goodness of its results, but it is having the right intention that makes the good will good. Due to all of these aspects, Kant feels that it is a sense of duty that drives humans to do morally good actions, and avoid those that will be morally bad. His ethics appear to be only a tool that leads us to morality. However, by not providing us with any rules or laws, it could be hard to see which moral rules can and cannot be universalised. (B) Kant explains non-ethical theories as either, true without knowledge, or possibly true or false, with validation through knowledge. Ethical theories on the other hand are knowable through reason, not experience and they may not be true. So by looking at abortion through reason, how easy is it to draw conclusions about abortion? There are so many moral dilemmas surrounding abortion, the rights of the mother, the rights of the foetus, the concept of potential life, personhood etc. Kant rejects the view that we can know and make decisions about abortion from experience, and he says that we make them through reason instead. So how easy is it to reason whether abortion is wrong or not? ...read more.

Conclusion

A further part of Kant's theory is to say that, if "I ought", therefore "I can". So if one ought to have an abortion, because it is the best thing to do, then one can have an abortion. This assertion however would be strongly renounced by Kant's followers, as a perverse assertion of his ethics. With all the debate, we can see that Kant is apposed to abortion, and condemns it as morally wrong. So the usefulness of Kant theories for abortion are very one sided. If a woman found herself in the situation, it may be easier to look at a morality that is biased towards a certain end, but nevertheless, many women will still want an impartial view when making decisions about abortion. Kant does not give us an moral guidance concerning the issues of rights or personhood, these are conclusions we should supposedly draw for ourselves. For that reason, Kant's ethics may be suited to some, but the majority of people would want to be able to decide about their own body and their own life for themselves, and not have to follow rules that should apply to everyone; especially as abortion is not necessarily considered an issue for everyone, men cannot have babies after all. Useful may not be the right term to use in this situation; convenient maybe would suit it better, in particular in relation to Kant. ...read more.

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