Kant believed morality to be deontological; the word ‘Deon’ when translated is the Greek term for duty. Therefore the deontological argument is based on doing acts because they are good in themself and not based on the consequences or other factors including emotion. Kant supposed that one was able to create a moral system based on reason. Humans have reason above instinct, and this means that our motivations go beyond mere pleasure .In this essay I will explain and discuss the deontological argument advocated by Kant.
Kant questions what it means to be good and concludes that good will is the will to do the right thing. It’s not good because of what you can get out of it but because it is good in itself. Humans are imperfect and tend to act according to their desires, which is not morally good. An example being if a shopkeeper gave their customer the correct amount of change; if they did this out of fear of being caught out by giving their customer the wrong the change then the act is not a generally good act however if they returned the correct change not thinking about the consequences but doing it for the right reason and purely out of respect for the moral rules. Morality is a system of rules that you place on yourself; moral rules come to us, as we are rational beings. Some reasons we cannot ignore and apply to everyone.
Categorical imperatives are maxims; this being rules that you have to do all the time regardless of circumstances. Kant provides three different formulations about the categorical imperatives. The first of the three formulations is universalisation he writes ‘ I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become universalised’. By saying this he states that one should only act in a way that makes sense for you but also in a way that is considerable and would allow everyone else to act in the same way. A person’s moral law is their will and must be consistent. An example being one must not lie, this is an important maxim as if everyone told small white lies the world would be corrupt and honesty would be a useless trait as lies would be the norm and the truth would be lost in translation. It can be believed that our actions are merely us seeking pleasure and avoiding pain however Kant presents a clear explanation in ‘Groundwork of a Metaphysic of Moral’ where he argues against this point by stating that if pleasure were the only thing to motivate our actions then we would be only have instinct to guide us, as instinct suffices for obtaining pleasure.
The second of the three formulations is to ‘act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether it is in your own person or in the person of another, always as an end, and never simply as a means’ this conveys that one should always respect other peoples status as beings in the moral worth and respect ourselves. Its understandable an example being taxi drivers, nurses and baristas are the means to the end of whatever services they’re providing however this is allowed as the service is provided voluntarily and not in a way which ultimately forces or takes away their free will. Therefore in summary of the second formulation, this is to not use people as means to and end.
...(download the rest of the essay above)