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Kants Ethical Theory - Essay Example

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Great philosopher Immanuel Kant presented his world renowned theory of ethics, which enables us to distinguish between right and wrong deeds. This paper expects to elucidate this theory in detail with exclusive emphasis on discrimination between autonomy and heteronomy and formulation of the categorical imperative…
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Kants Ethical Theory
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Kants Ethical Theory

A number of great philosophers presented their views in the field of ethics. This paper intends to analyze only one of them, Kan Immanuel. (Hunt, 2009)
As stated by Banham (2003), Immanuel Kant was a famous deontologist and holds a famous status during 18th and 19th centuries. Kant was a moderate rationalist, who based his ethical conclusions on reason rather than on empirical research or on introspection into the actual workings of the mind. He refused previous theories and attempted to find a middle way between the empiricists, who thought that all true judgments were either probable or analytic (true by definition), and the extreme rationalists, who thought that all true judgments were analytic. He argued in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) for the existence of a class of judgments that were synthetic rather than analytic and also a priori rather than a posteriori. Synthetic a priori judgments played a large role in all his thinking.
Kant held a theory of value according to which the only thing good in itself and without qualification is a good will. That will is good which acts out of a sense of duty. When we turn to his theory of obligation we find that an act is not judged right by virtue of its consequences, actual or intended; rather it is right if it is done out of respect for moral law. (Banham, 2003)
Dickerson (2003) affirms that during 1785 in his Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant claimed to be seeking "the supreme principle of morality." This he discovered in the "Categorical Imperative": "Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." This principle is called an imperative because it tells us what kinds of actions we should perform, and it is called categorical rather than merely hypothetical because it commands actions of a certain kind without any regard for the practical effects they will have. For example, we should not make a deceitful promise to extricate ourselves from a difficulty not because we are likely to be found out or because lying causes harm to ourselves, but because it is logically impossible to will that everyone in such a situation should behave in the same way. It is logically impossible because universal adherence to the maxim to lie under such circumstances would destroy the institution of promise keeping. (Dickerson, 2003)
Another formulation of the Categorical Imperative, which Kant called the "universal imperative of duty," is this: "Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature." A third formulation, based on the assumption that rational nature exists as an end in itself, is the following: "Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any others, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end." Kant identified the Categorical Imperative as an a priori, synthetic, practical proposition that is, a proposition that is necessarily true, though not true by definition, and that pertains to conduct. (Dickerson, 2003)
Kant presented two types of free will; 'Autonomy' and 'heteronomy'. Autonomy is the liberty to operate autonomously without any ... Read More
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