Role of the categorical imperative in Kant’s ethics Essay

Kant believed that moral duties are largely categorical imperatives. In this regard, he asserted that these moral duties command us to take certain actions hence the word imperative. Additionally, he believed that these moral duties apply to human beings categorically because they are rational beings and have the capacity to make their own choices Analysis of Kant’s categorical imperative The basis behind Kant’s ethics was that every human being or rational being for that matter had the ability to determine their duty through reason.

According to him, this was the foundation of overall ‘good’. Kant highlighted the fact that one cannot use action to judge whether a being was good or bad because sometimes some good actions may be an avenue for committing evil acts. For instance, donating ones’ finances or goods to charity may be considered a ‘good’ act. However, when the person who donated his property to charity is merely trying to highlight the fact that he is wealthy, then this demeans the whole purpose of committing these seemingly ‘good’ actions. Timmons, 2002) Similarly, when one does something that result in a positive result, this does not necessarily mean that they are inherently ‘good. ’ Kant asserted that sometimes these good outcomes can spring from evil intentions. For instance, an entrepreneur who establishes a business designed to outdo his long time rival may employ several people within society hence indicating positive outcomes. However, the intentions of this individual were evil. It therefore makes sense when Kant defined intrinsic good as the good will.

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This means that when one’s intention at the onset of an action are pure, then no matter the outcome or the character traits associated with the action (intelligence, courage), that person will be a ‘good’ human being. (Schroeder, 2005) Kant asserts that the categorical imperative emanates from the fact that human beings have a free will. Kant’s explanations make sense because he argued that in order to act morally, it was necessary for one to first be free or have the choice of being moral or immoral. However, Kant was quick to note that this did not mean that human beings are completely free and that their actions are not pre-determined.

Kant’s explanation was that morality was the predicate for one’s actions. This is because if morality did not pre-exist, then human actions would be haphazard and undefined. This is also the reason why Kant asserted that there must be a God. According to the philosopher, the notion of God makes sense because he is the ultimate definer of what is moral and what is not. He also believed that for the moral imperative to hold importance to one’s life, and then they had to be aware of an after life where they would be held accountable for their actions.

Through these assertions, Kant was on of the few philosophers who managed to link the issue of good, morality and the free will. (Timmons, 2002) One must not assume that Kant’s assertions were in fact based on fixed rules. According to this philosopher, rational beings were not controlled around like machines through pre-set laws; however, there were some inherent rules that one has to determine before committing a certain act hence the ‘a priori’ part in his argument.

These assertions were in opposition to what other philosopher asserted through the a posteriori argument. The latter philosophers believed that human beings moral actions were in fact direct results of their experiences. When something happened to them that reinforced a certain truth, then that experience would form the basis of their subsequent moral judgments. However, these philosophers’ arguments do not hold water when one analyzes certain scenarios. For instance, a friend may request for a loan from a friend and promise to pay it back but may not do so.

According to this experience, the ‘a posterior’ philosophers would argue that the lender would never lend money to other people because he would conclude that borrowers never keep their promises. This assumption is obviously untrue because that specific lender may still continue helping out his friend. This is where Kant’s arguments make sense because through pre-determined decisions, one can understand the reason behind the lender’s actions. Through the a priori argument, Kant is trying to assert that human being always make the choice to apply certain actions prior to engaging in an experience. Schroeder, 2005) Kant also asserts that the how human beings act is largely determined by the categorical imperative because experience is insufficient to compel one to act in a certain manner. The categorical imperative cannot be proved through experience. For instance, when a person decides to walk alone at night and they get mugged, then that person will learn that one should not walk alone at night because they can get mugged. However, experience only tells us about what the truth should be and not how it is.

In this regard, Kant asserts that if one presumes that the cause of a certain outcome was as a result of a certain truth, then that will be the case. In the case of the lone walker, he/she decided that it was the idea of walking alone at night caused the negative outcome of being mugged. This was therefore a decision meant to understand the nature of that experience. Kant believed that the mind imposes those ideas in one’s head so that certain actions can only reaffirm them. In other words, Knit was trying to say that a categorical imperative relies on ‘should’ rather than on ‘is’. Schroeder, 2005) Kant continues to add that the kind is largely responsible for one’s actions as a human being. This is because the categorical imperative allows one to understand why certain issues are not universal laws and it therefore leaves room for the inconsistencies of the human life. For instance, taking the same example of the lone walker; he/she may still continue walking at night after deciding that the robbery was a stroke of bad luck. Through, Kant’s categorical imperative, it is possible to understand why human beings sometimes act in an irrational manner.

Human actions are largely inconsistent and may not apply universally because every on always engages their mind before a certain experience. Kant places a lot of importance on the role that the mind plays in shaping and determining our experiences. In his famous book grounding for the metaphysics of morals, Kant asserts the following ‘Act as if the maxim of you action were to become by your will a universal law of nature’ ‘I ought never to act except in such a way that I can also will that maxim should become a universal law’ (Timmerrman, 2007)

Through the latter words, Kant was trying to explain the essence of his moral imperative. In order to understand the difference between the latter sentences, it is necessary to illustrate this with an example, when a doctor is debating whether or not to assist a patient in terminating treatment, then the categorical imperative does apply. Good will can only come into play when a certain subject has pre-determined it. If that though in itself is good then the consequences of those actions may not apply to one’s respective situation hence the first sentence.

However, one’s actions should only be conducted after deciding to make those pre-determined thoughts the guiding aspects in one’s decisions hence the last sentence. (Timmons, 2002) Kant’s latter assertions also make sense owing to the fact that human being can make certain laws universal if they make the conscious decision for others to follow them. This statement affects the way human beings perceive or regard one another. According to the philosopher, truth only becomes so when a human being regards the other as an end and not as a means to that end.

Consequently, any rule that one chooses consciously should be such that it can result in the same person being treated as an end rather than as a mechanism to get to that end. Conclusion The categorical imperative is based on the fact that overall good is determined by one’s intentions before a certain experience. Kant also believed that the categorical imperative occurs prior to an experience in order to act as a guide to one’s experience. Through these assertions, human beings can now understand the role that the mind plays in shaping experiences.