Kant's Moral Theory

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It is no denying that Kant’s moral theory expounded in the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals revolutionized moral philosophy. By looking briefly at the history of moral theories, we can see what a radical innovation it was. Ancient thoughts about ethics, from Socrates to St. Augustine, primarily focused on how to bring out the prosperity of human beings – namely, what is the best life for human? Classical philosophers almost all agree on the notion that maintaining harmonious reciprocal relations with others embodies the optimal life that anyone would want to pursue. This sentiment leads to an emphasis of an inseparable rapport between virtues and happiness. Christianity, instead, turns to another form of harmony, that between human…show more content…
A good will, in his view, must be good in itself, and it should be the condition to all others. From this presumption, Kant started to embark on the concept of duty which contains the good will. “The concept of a good will is present in the concept of duty, though under certain subjective limitations and hindrances.” To this end, an action can be considered moral only if it is carried out from a sense of duty which entails a good will. Kant differentiated between two kinds of actions – doing something from duty and doing it for other reasons. Here Kant used some specific examples to elucidate his point. He took the example of a shop-keeper who charges the same prices to inexperienced customers. His action is, for sure, in accordance with what duty asks him to do. However, he did it not from a sense of duty but from a selfish consideration that he might lose customers if he does not give the cheapest prices in a buyer’s market. He then took another example in which a man lost hope in life because of his predicament. Yet he preserved his life, not because he wants to live – in fact, he prays for death – but because of a sense of duty. In this case, the maxim Preserve Yourself gains moral content. Similar examples can be given in support of his ideas. Quintessentially, Kant believes that to judge an action moral, it must be done from a pure sense of duty, deprived of any other…show more content…
The first proposition essentially reiterates his emphasis on duty - “for an action to have genuine moral worth, it must be done from duty.” The second proposition obliterates the importance of purpose of an action in the evaluation of the morality of an action. “The maxim that the action involves,” Kant argues, is the source where an action done from duty gains its moral value, not, as many think, the purpose that’s to be attained. The third proposition brings out the implication that to perform from a sense of duty – stripped of volition and personal preferences – is to respect law. There are some serious implications in Kant’s call for duty. First, it appears that, from Kant’s argument that inclination bears no weight in the evaluation of an action’s morality, Kant praises a way of doing in which your volition plays no part, or, even better, your volition does not align with the duty. This implication can hardly be neglected from the examples that Kant gives in the first chapter of the Groundwork – an action is carried out out of pure duty, when the inclination and personal interests is against such action. To make my point clear, I would like to use an

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