Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Kant’s Moral Theory: Deontology and Autonomy

Immanuel Kant grounds his moral theory in deontology, but he is not preaching subservience to the commandments. He talks about autonomy, but he is not preaching the anarchist type of total freedom. In Kant’s moral philosophy, deontology and autonomy go together. He holds that it is your duty to obey the moral law (categorical imperative) only if you have the autonomy to be the author of that categorical imperative. Once you have authored the categorical imperative (accepted it) as the right way, it becomes your duty to obey. The man who adheres to a categorical imperative, does it because it is a categorical imperative of his own choice. In the Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant writes: “The dignity of man consists precisely in his capacity to make universal law, although only on condition of being himself also subject to the law he makes.” Kant holds that when we choose our own categorical imperative, we make the choice not as individuals but as rational beings, or the men who participate in, what Kant calls, “Pure practical reason”—the will to act with autonomy (independently) is the same as the will to act in accordance to the categorical imperative. This ensures that all rational people opt for the same categorical imperative and the society enjoys the benefit of a common code of morality.

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