Categorical Imperative in a Grey World





Categorical Imperative in a Grey World

Kant formulated the belief that the world is composed of two types of laws: the basic natural laws and the laws of morality. Basic natural laws are the laws that nature imposes on us based on our perception and understanding of the universe through our senses. On the other hand, moral laws are a set of authoritative universal laws that humans set on themselves based on their reasoning. Lying and breaking promises fall under moral laws. Kant saw all humans as deserving of what is morally right and saw them as capable of reasoning. From this, he drew his theory of categorical imperative. According to this, a man should reason out two things before committing an action. Firstly, they should ask themselves how humanity would turn out if everyone acted as they were about to. Secondly, they should also not use the possible result to justify their chosen course of action. Kant saw humanity as possessing the free will to do as it desired but believed that morality was a categorical imperative: to be adhered to despite one’s inner desire at all times ADDIN CSL_CITATION {“citationItems”:[{“id”:”ITEM-1″,”itemData”:{“DOI”:”10.1093/0199288836.001.0001″,”ISBN”:”9780191603648″,”abstract”:”This book contains chapters on various features of Kant’s moral psychology and moral theory, with particular emphasis on a conception of rational agency autonomy. The opening chapters explore different elements of Kant’s views about motivation, including an account of respect for morality as the distinctive moral motive and a view of the principle of happiness as a representation of the shared structure of non-moral choice. These chapters stress the unity of Kant’s moral psychology by arguing that moral and non-moral considerations motivate in essentially the same way. Several of the chapters develop an original approach to Kant’s conception of autonomy that emphasizes the political metaphors found throughout Kant’s writings on ethics. They argue that autonomy is best interpreted not as a psychological capacity, but as a kind of sovereignty: in claiming that moral agents have autonomy, Kant regards them as a kind of sovereign legislator with the power to give moral law through their willing. The final chapters explore some of the implications of this conception of autonomy elsewhere in Kant’s moral thought, arguing that his Formula of Universal Law uses this conception of autonomy to generate substantive moral principles and exploring the connection between Kantian self-legislation and duties to oneself.”,”author”:[{“dropping-particle”:””,”family”:”Reath”,”given”:”Andrews”,”non-dropping-particle”:””,”parse-names”:false,”suffix”:””}],”container-title”:”Agency and Autonomy in Kant’s Moral Theory: Selected Essays”,”id”:”ITEM-1″,”issued”:{“date-parts”:[[“2006″,”2″,”23″]]},”number-of-pages”:”1-288″,”publisher”:”Oxford University Press”,”title”:”Agency and Autonomy in Kant’s Moral Theory: Selected Essays”,”type”:”book”,”volume”:”9780199288830″},”uris”:[“″]}],”mendeley”:{“formattedCitation”:”(Reath)”,”plainTextFormattedCitation”:”(Reath)”,”previouslyFormattedCitation”:”(Reath)”},”properties”:{“noteIndex”:0},”schema”:””}(Reath). 

Lying and breaking promises, according to the categorical imperative, is immoral. If everyone in the world lied to one another, the world would plunge into mayhem. People would not be able to have meaningful dealings with one another. Additionally, it would infringe on our rights to free choice since the information on which the choice is based is corrupted. The same goes for promise-breaking. If people were to break their promises, the intrinsic value and power a promise or an oath holds would be lost. According to Kant, even if lying or breaking a promise in a particular situation would result in a morally good outcome, it should still not be done. The ends do not justify the means.

In my opinion, Kant’s views on morality offer a simple enough yet perhaps too simplistic view on morality for the world’s liking. He offers a black and white system in a grey world where almost all actions could fall on either side of the morality scale given their context. Immoral acts do not occur within a vacuum. They are a byproduct of numerous decisions made by numerous people over time. Looking at immorality as Kant does therefore offers a two-dimensional view of a three-dimensional problem. This, however, raises the problem of how much context to give an act before deeming it either immoral or moral. I believe that people can lie or break their promises in cases where the end does indeed, justify the means. And not just any end, but a selfless end. If lying protects others from harm, then it is no longer an immoral but a moral act -despite satisfying only one of Kant’s criteria. For instance, lying to your recovering alcoholic friend that you no longer drink to give them moral support in their recovery journey is a moral act. It is a selfless lie committed to protect another.

Works Cited

ADDIN Mendeley Bibliography CSL_BIBLIOGRAPHY Reath, Andrews. “Agency and Autonomy in Kant’s Moral Theory: Selected Essays.” Agency and Autonomy in Kant’s Moral Theory: Selected Essays, vol. 9780199288830, Oxford University Press, 2006, doi:10.1093/0199288836.001.0001.

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