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Kant the Man

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Essay title: Kant the Man

Kant’s Principals

In the Foundation of the Metaphysics of Morals, the author, Immanuel Kant, tries to form a base by rejecting all ethical theories that are connected to consequences, and then focusing on our ethical motivations and actions. Kant wants to derive good characters out of contingently right actions. He believes that everything is contingent (everything can have good or bad worth, depending on how it is used). So he is trying to find the supreme principal of morality in all his reasoning. Kant also believes that an action is right or wrong based solely on the reason by which it was performed. However, a Utilitarian, like John Mill, would reject Kant’s reasoning of originating good characters out of actions alone, and instead argue that if an action has bad consequences, then the action was morally wrong.

Kant believes that an action has moral worth only if it is done out of respect for our moral code. He names this moral action a �duty.’ Kant also believes that in determining the moral worth of an action, we need to look at the maxim by which it was performed. So, we need to look at one’s reason for doing an action to determine if it is a duty. If the reason for performing the action is justified, then the action is a duty. However, Kant says there are two different types of reasons for performing an action.

Kant calls these reasons �imperatives.’ The first reason for performing an action, the hypothetical imperative, is based on consequences and on our personal preferences. They are also contingent, meaning that they can be good or bad depending on how they are used. People choose to perform a given action because of the hypothetical imperative. The second reason for performing an action according to Kant is called the categorical imperative. These are not based on our preferences, don’t deal with consequences of an action, and are derived a priori. They are completely separate from hypothetical imperatives. We all have knowledge of categorical imperatives before experiencing them first. They are kind of a second nature for us, which needs to be recognized according to Kant. These are the most important reason for performing an action. These imperatives also have the characteristics that Kant needs in order to make his point that all of our moral principals are categorical, have absolute authority, and are independent of different situations. These categorical imperatives have three different formulations.

The second formulation of the categorical imperative deserves the most attention. The second formulation states that all rational beings should be treated as ends, because they are ends in themselves. So in making a decision, we must choose the action which respects the ends of others and of ourselves. This would be respecting an individual’s autonomy. Autonomy is commanding yourself to do what you think is a good idea to do. Since your self-identity comes from the autonomy principal, it is making choices based on your values. Each person has an idea of how they want to live their life, and with interfering with that idea, we are showing that person a lack of respect for their whole person. A good example of interfering with a person’s autonomy is making false promises to somebody. When we lie to someone, we take away their choice by exploiting them. So when we take away their choices, we take away their autonomy. This is because it distracts the person’s perception on what is the case. If they can’t see everything clearly and make a good, moral choice, that is because they don’t know what they should. So we rob them of the ability to control themselves and their future.

If everybody made choices and acted on their autonomy, would this world be a safe place to live? It wouldn’t, because some people have no morals, and their autonomy tells them it is on their best interest to kill somebody. However, if each person respected the ends of themselves and of others, while

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