Kantian Ethics Essay

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Kantian ethics is premised on what ought to be done. It is grounded on reason, a rational calculation of decisions and actions geared for the common good. In this context the common good is predicated on natural law, a set of rules whose universal character of what is right cuts across cultures.

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Kant stated that human action is an exercise of reason. Along these lines, reason plays a necessary part in the realization of whatever ends are proposed to us by our empirical natures, i.e. By our experience of objects as providing us with incentives to act. To the extent that we pursue such ends -- ones determined by what Kant calls inclination -- reason does not set any ends of its own. It is merely, in Hume's phrase, the slave of the passions. Thus, if Kant's account of morality were perceived as symmetrical with his account of theoretical knowledge, then a view of practical reason as subordinated to ends set by nature (inclinations) would define the limits of involvement of reason in human action. (Gardner, 1999: 310) Kant's moral theory is manifested in categorical imperative. It is an a priori structure of action analogous to the a priori structure of experience, the difference being that whereas the latter is necessarily realized in the phenomenal world and appears to us as what is the case, the former appears to us primordially as what ought to be the case. It coincides with what is the case only in so far as our actions do in fact proceed from the moral law. Its realization in the phenomenal world is practically necessary but from the theoretical view contingent. (Gardner, 1999: 313-314)

TOPIC: Essay on Kantian Ethics Assignment

Kantian ethics discussed the duties of virtue that include respect and love others. Kant argued that ethics is a system of ends; it is manifested in free self-government by rational beings who strive for their own perfection and happiness of others. Kant described that an action is a perfect ethical duty if omitting it means refusing to set a morally required end or means setting an end contrary to a morally required one, an actions violates a perfect duty if it involves setting and contrary to one that is morally required. Kantian ethics mentions the concept of the sphere of light which states that "any action is right if it can co exist with everyone's freedom according to universal law or if on its maxim the freedom of choice of each can co exist with everyone's freedom in accordance with natural law." This concept recognizes the importance of respecting the rights of other individuals by not infringing over them in instances wherein the individual is pursuing or protecting their own rights. (Kuehn, 2001)

Kantian ethics compared with utilitarianism can be evaluated along the perspectives of the dynamics and interplay of society and the individual. Utilitarianism is a political and moral philosophy associated with Jeremy Bentham. Human beings were motivated by a desire to achieve happiness and to avoid pain. Accordingly, Bentham thought, the morally correct political decisions were those that sought the greatest happiness of the greatest number in society. This happiness could be quantified in the form of utility -- that property in any object whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good and happiness and the object of policy makers should be to maximize aggregate social utility. Bentham did not seek to prescribe the course of action, which would maximize happiness. The definition of what counts, as utility would in the end be left to the members of society. Each individual should define his or her own good and in social decision making interest of each individual should enter equally into to the overall calculus of utility. (Marsh and Stroker, 2000)

The critique on Kantian ethics is that on a positive note, it places importance and utmost value on the individual. The individual from Kant's standpoint is an end in itself. Within this context, the individual's welfare is put on the top priority. For instance, using Kant's approach, the individual cannot be sacrificed for the benefit of what would be good… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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