Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who is seen as one of the most influential thinkers in the history of Western philosophy. Historians regard him as the central figure in modern philosophy. His works in the fields of ethics, epistemology, aesthetics, and metaphysics greatly influenced almost all the philosophical movement that came after him. Kant founded a new era in the development of philosophical ideologies.
The fundamental concept of his philosophy revolved around human anatomy. He believed that the human mind creates the structure for all human experience. He also argued that human reasoning gives itself the moral law which stands as the foundation for our belief in God, immortality, and freedom. Thus, religious beliefs, scientific knowledge, and morality are mutually secure and consistent because they are based on human autonomy. Kant encouraged the use of the free and proper exercise of reason by people. His philosophy influenced many prominent philosophers including Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Soren Kierkegaard among others.
Definition of Kant’s deontological principles
The term deontology is derived from the Greek words “deon” and “logos” which means duty and science, respectively.
The deontological principle states that man is under a moral obligation to act in accordance with laid-down rules irrespective of the outcome. In the principles of deontology, an action is only regarded as morally good not because the result of the action is good but because of some characteristics of the action itself. Most scholars consider the deontological theories to be formalistic because their major principle is based on conforming to some rule or law.
Immanuel Kant was the first philosopher to define deontological principles. According to him, apart from good will, nothing is good in the world without qualification. He went further to define good will as one that decides to act based on the moral law rather than out of a natural inclination. He also claimed that these moral laws contained maxims that are categorical. Similarly, humans are bound by duty to act in tandem with these categorical imperatives. Based on this background, in this article, we would look at some of the facts about Kant’s deontological principles:
It encourages humans to only follow laws they can obey.
Kant believed that a genuine moral law must not be attached to any type of conditions. According to him, a moral maxim should be applicable to every human being and must be removed from the specific physical details that surround its proposition. He also argued that every human has a duty to refuse to follow certain maxims that produces results which contradicts logic and reason. Moreover, he stated that even though some imperfect duties are based on pure reason, humans should still seek to ascertain how these duties would be performed. Furthermore, imperfect duties are circumstantial. In other words, an individual cannot be performing them constantly. Thus, the difference between an imperfect duty and a perfect duty is that it is not possible to ever complete an imperfect duty. On the basis of the above explanation, Kant urged that humans should only act according to the maxim they can conveniently follow if it becomes law.
It discourages the use of humans as a means to an end
In this imperative, Kant suggests that humans should consider every rational action not just as a principle but also as an end. He observed that most ends which exist in nature are subjective because they can only be followed if they are in accordance with a hypothetical imperative. He defined a hypothetical imperative as a conditional demand of reason that tells us the actions to take to achieve a certain goal. For example, we must exercise when we need to lose weight. Kant claimed that it is only an end that can be pursued categorically that should be seen as objective. Furthermore, the free will is responsible for all moral and rational actions. However, this is contradictory because it claims that a person is just a means to an end instead of an end himself.
As a result of this contradiction, Kant arrived at the conclusion that humans have the perfect duty to not use themselves or other people as a means to an end. For example, a slave owner would be exercising his moral rights to own a slave over another individual. However, this logic is against the categorical imperative because it dismisses the slave as an end in himself and also denies any basis for taking free rational activities. Kant argued that it was inhumane to treat another individual as a means to achieving an end. Thus, he concludes that a person must try to maintain and uphold his moral duty to achieve an end that is equal for everybody.
It encourages humans to avoid maxims that create disorder
A genuine free will is not under any interest, instead it is subject to the laws it creates for itself. Also, the will must consider those laws as if there are others under the laws. Based on this, Kant stated that humans should treat themselves and others as ends and not as a means to an end. In addition, people should only follow maxims that create an organized state of affairs when they are turned into universal laws. Man should also exercise his imperfect duty by refusing to follow maxims that leads to a chaotic state of affairs for everyone involved. Kant suggested that we can use our rational judgment to apply this formula to any maxim so as to determine how morally permissible they are. For instance, let us consider the act of picking flowers from a public garden. Doing this requires an individual to adopt a maxim that would support his actions. Also, when this maxim is viewed through the lens of the categorical imperative, there seems to be nothing wrong with the action. However, if everyone in that community decides to also pick flowers from the same garden, there would be no flowers left which would result in a chaotic state of affairs. Therefore, the proper thing to do will be to go buy flowers from a shop or even plant them. In conclusion, Kant believes that humans must act as if they are a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends.
Kant deontological principles were based on the ability of humans to have rational thoughts. He believed that our emotions and desires should not be a deciding factor for taking moral actions. Instead, our behaviors should be based on a sense of duty, obligation, and rational actions.
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