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The Golden Rule Vs. Categorical Imperative

1509 words - 7 pages

Immanuel Kant defines duty as the recognition of a moral obligation to do what is right, 100% of the time, regardless of what could come of it. Also, Kant states that in order for an act to be wholly moral, it must be carried out by a sense of duty. This type of obligation termed by Kant is called the “categorical imperative.” The categorical imperative, according to Kant, acts as a basis to which moral requirements stem from. The categorical imperative also equates to Catholicism’s’ “golden rule” in that they both call for treating human beings as ends, not as means.
Duty, according to Kant, has four motives, self-interest, self-preservation, sympathy, and happiness. Kant goes on to ...view middle of the document...

He also states under the categorical imperative that all laws be universal. If something is illegal or immoral, it is in all cases regardless of the situation, without exception. And finally, we should all act as if we live in a world filled with ends themselves, according to Kant. Kant assumes that we, as humans, are all able to abide by the same moral laws, regardless of the circumstances.
According to Kant, the categorical imperative is the basis of morality. Kant states, “Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will and general natural law” (Kant 16). Before you begin to act, Kant states that you must decide what rule you will be following if you were to act, whether you are willing for that rule to be followed universally. If you are willing to universalize the act, it must be moral; if you are not, then the act is morally impermissible. Kant believes that moral rules have no exceptions. Therefore, it is wrong to kill in every situation, even self-defense, for example. Since murder would never be considered universally acceptable, it is not moral in every situation. Kant believes that moral rules have no exceptions. The act is either wrong or right, according to Kant’s universality law.
Kant's categorical imperative has three propositions that must be met in order for the action or duty to be truly moral. The first one says that actions are genuinely good when they are undertaken for the sake of duty alone. For example, many people may help others because it gives them pleasure to spread happiness to other people. However, this would not be considered a moral duty according to Kant. Instead, he believes that a more genuine example would be someone who feels no charitable inclination, but rather works to help others because he or she recognizes that it is his duty to do so.
The second proposition states, “An action done from duty has its moral worth, not in the purpose that is to be attained by it, but in the maxim according to which the action is determined” (Kant 12). What Kant means by this proposition is that although one may reach a positive outcome, it may not necessarily be moral because the principle of volition might have been wrong. One must first have a moral desire, or will, before one can commit a moral duty.
The last proposition, which follows from the other two, states, “Duty is the necessity of an action done out of respect for the law.” (p. 13) Kant goes on to explain what he means of this proposition by saying that one can have an inclination for an object as the effect of his/her proposed action; but one can never have respect for such an object, just because it is merely an effect and is not an activity of the will. An object of respect must not serve one’s inclination; rather it should exclude it from considering when a choice is being made. What Kant means by all this is that because an action done from duty must exclude altogether the influence of inclination and every object of the will,...

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