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Kant’s moral theory

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Introduction

The main question which Kant's moral theory was designed to answer is: 'what is the nature of morality?' this question can also be put in different ways: 'what is a moral action as contrasted with a non-moral one?' or again, 'what is the difference between a person who acts morally and one who does not?' Kant believe that this question, or set of questions, could be answered that the key to it lay in distinguishing between acts done from 'inclination' and acts done from a 'sense of duty'. People often indulge in a certain course of action because they are forced to. For instance, if I am waylaid by a thief, I will be forced to turn my money over to him if I have any, or if I refuse, I am forced to suffer the consequences. In such a case, we would not ordinarily describe my actions as being 'voluntary actions', or 'actions done because I wanted to'. Nor would we say that I was 'doing my duty'. In this instance. Not a free agent; I am properly described as not acting either 'inclination' or 'from duty' but rather as 'being compelled to do it.' Hence, it is a requisite of any act being done from 'inclination' or 'duty' that it be the act of a free agent. ...read more.

Middle

Accordingly, the action was done neither from duty nor from direct inclination, but merely a selfish view. On the other hand, it is a duty to maintain one's life; and in addition, everyone has also a direct inclination to do so. But on this account the often-anxious care which most men take for it has no intrinsic worth, and their maxim no moral import. They preserve their life as duty requires, no doubt, but not because duty requires. On the other hand, if adversity and hopeless sorrow have completely taken away the relish for life; if the unfortunate one, strong in mind, indignant at his fate, rather than desponding or dejected wishes for death, and yet preserves his life without loving it - from inclination or fear but from duty - then his maxim has a moral worth. As can be seen from the above quotation, Kant differs sharply from the utilitarians in stressing that the essence of morality is to be found in the motive from which an act is done. All such motives reduced to one - keeps promises by accident, or who repays debts to avoid punishment or who feels that it is to his/ her who feels that it is to his/her advantage in the long run to do so, is not moral. ...read more.

Conclusion

should hold good as a universal law, for myself as well as for others? And should I be able to say to myself, 'everyone may make a deceitful promise when he finds himself in a difficulty from which he cannot otherwise extricate himself?' then I presently become aware that while I can will the lie, I can by no means will that lying should be my future actions to those who would not believe this allegation, or if they over-hastily did so, would pay me back in my own coin. Hence my maxim, as soon as it should be made a universal law, would necessarily destroy itself. I do not, therefore, need any far-reaching penetration to discern what I have to do in order that my will may be morally good. Inexperienced in the course of the world, incapable of being prepared for all its contingencies, I only ask myself: canst thou also will that thy maxim should be a universal law? If not, then it must be rejected and that not because of a disadvantage accruing from it to myself or even to others, but because it cannot enter as a principle into a possible universal legislation, and reason extorts from me immediate respect for such legislation. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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