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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

On Kant’s Moral Theory

Immanuel Kant believed that moral theories, such as Aristotle’s eudaimonia, Hume’s notion of utility, or the Stoic principle of apathy, are not sufficiently general, universal, and fundamental. He was looking for a universal, a priori law of moral action that is determined solely by reason. He believed that the ultimate moral law can be a priori, only if it is a law of action free of the desire of achieving any aim or good.

In the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant writes, “There is no possibility of thinking of anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be regarded as good without qualification, except a good will.”

In this statement, he is positing that there is no state, goal, or object that can be regarded as intrinsically or universally good—everything, including happiness, love, intelligence, or health, is compatible with moral wrong. Kant notes that in moral and political theories there is a divide between theories that are based in the right and those that are based in some ultimate good or value that our actions ought to maximize. The aims for achieving good outcomes like love, happiness, health, or anything else cannot dictate our moral ideas.

What is morally right can be understood only in terms of a rule. We have to do what is right, not because it is expected to lead to a good end, but because it is right. Moral actions are not only according to duty, but also because of and from duty. In judging morality of actions or social policies, consequences are irrelevant.

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