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Ethics - Essay Example

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Since these duties would apply to every rational individual, ethics would prevail as individuals would be acting under universal laws that are absolute, therefore, without events of contradictions occurring (Kay, 2007). This paper will examine Maria von Herbert’s interaction with Kant as seen in the reading by Rae Langton, thus pointing out the problems, with Kantian ethics, their severity and how the Kantian can suitably respond. Firstly, it is crucial to examine the details of the letters and the events that followed in order to chronologically assess the situation and pinpoint the main issues. In Rae Langton’s reading, a theme of friendship between Maria von Herbert, a young Austrian and Kant seems to welcome the reader. Herbert is presented as a keen follower of Kant and even with the on-going enmity between Germany and Austria; she still seems to be devoted to Kant’s ideologies. In the season of autumn in 1791, Herbert wrote Kant a letter disclosing her suffering caused by losing her lover due to revealing certain information to him. Agitated from emotion, she said that she had contemplated suicide but because of Kant’s theory, she had decided otherwise (Langton, 1992:2). Herbert felt that she should confess about a certain truth that she had not told her lover so that she could be at peace with herself. After confessing, the lover turned cold and the love that he had felt for Herbert faded, thus making Herbert miserable. Herbert had fortunately read Kant’s theories and since she was devoted to the Kantian ethics, she had decided not to take her own life as it would be morally unacceptable (Langton, 1992:2). Kantian ethics instructed that every individual was compelled by a duty to do what is morally right despite the consequences. In this context, Kant had argued that committing suicide was going against the categorical imperative, which in itself is a command that demands individuals not to commit suicide (Kant, 1785). Herbert was a staunch follower of Kantian ethics so she felt that it was morally wrong to commit suicide despite the pain and agony she was feeling. Although she had not taken her life, she wanted Kant to reveal to her, the values or worth of living such a miserable life with a lot of emotional pain and no good. She wanted Kant to give her an alternative that could make her feel that her life was worth once again. She also indicated that Kant’s philosophy had not helped her in dealing with her troubles (Langton, 1992:3). The letter evidently moved Kant as it conveyed a theme and a message of truth, virtue and honesty. These were qualities that moved Kant because he believed that speaking the truth was not only an ethical duty to oneself but to others (Mahon, 2009:214). Therefore, he sought a friend who advised him to reply to the letter. Kant talked about the dispute between desiring to keep individuals’ private matters to themselves and the need to openly talk about them especially when in a situation of immense love. Kant said individuals had an inward urge that set limits to excessive openness and allowed them to keep some aspects of life locked within them. Kant simply meant that it was ethically allowed for individuals to keep private matters to themselves but this was supposed to be recognised from lying (Langton: 1992: 3). Kant told Herbert that her lover had every right to be angry with her and she had to face the consequences of being dishonest. Kant declined to talk about suicide because he thought that talking ...Show more


Shortcomings with Kantian Ethics as Viewed from Maria von Herbert’s Exchange with Kant Introduction Immanuel Kant came up with an ethic theory that was duty oriented, which required people to first determine their duty in order to do what is considered ethical…
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Ethics essay example
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