KANTIAN ETHICS: A CRITIQUE

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1 KANTIAN ETHICS: A CRITIQUE Syed Omar Syed Agil Tun Abdul Razak School of Government ABSTRACT Kantian ethics is based upon the works of the philosopher, Immanuel Kant ( ). Immanuel Kant is an outstanding figure in modern philosophy. He blend early modern rationalism and empiricism with revelation, set the terms for much of nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy, and continues to exercise a significant influence today in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, and other fields. He argues that human understanding is the source of the general laws of nature that structure all our experience; and that human reason gives itself the moral law, which is our basis for belief in God, freedom, and immortality. According to Kant, the concept of motive is the most important factor in determining what is ethical. More specifically, Kant argued that a moral action is one that is performed out of a sense of duty. This paper intends to look at the basic premises of Kant s ethical philosophy, the background nature of his works, the system of thought that he subscribes to in formulating his categorical imperatives and finally it aims to make a critical appraisal of his approach to ethics based on the available literature on his works. It is hoped that this study will assist lecturers teaching ethics at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels as well as researchers. KEYWORDS: Kantian Ethics, A Priori, Categorical Imperatives, Summum Bonum, Noumena. INTRODUCTION In order to understand Kantian ethics, it is pertinent to study the background of his thought which exercised considerable influence and which played a dominant role in his efforts to formulate and synthesize his conception of ethics. There were several intellectual and historical factors that were synthesized in his mind which created ideas that became the cornerstone of his ethical philosophy. 1. He was brought up in the fold of the Christian Faith, particularly in the Pietistic form of Protestantism. German Pietism emphasized the personal relationship of the individual to God, purity of heart, saintliness of character and devotion to human welfare. The Pietistic taught that religion belongs to the inner life expressed in simplicity and obedience to the moral law. Although Kant rebelled against the rigour of religious practices and later disassociated himself from organized religion, his moral philosophy was an attempt to provide a rational purification of Christian ethics. In fact, he spoke of his own work as that of a poor burglar who is trying as best he can to interpret Christ s teaching(ferm, 1969).The validity of this influence can be vividly observed in two of Kant s five formulations of the Categorical Imperative, i.e, the Formula of the End in Itself Act so as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as on end and never as a means only, and the Formula of the Kingdom of Ends, Act according to the maxims of a universally legislative member of a merely potential realm of ends which are closely related to the Christian doctrines regarding the individual and the Kingdom of God. 2. The strong historical influence of formalism in ethics which acquire its roots from the ethical philosophy of the Greeks, primarily the stoics who describe moral laws as laws of God and laws of nature which, as God s creation, are the expression of the will. The formalistic element in ethics was also evident in the Christian thought in the Middle Ages, and combined with the formalism of Greek thought, was carried over directly into modern ethical philosophy. When at the time of the Renaissance, modern states tended to throw off the authority of the Church, UNIVERSITI TUN ABDUL RAZAK E-JOURNAL Vol. 7, No. 2, June

2 there arose corresponding tendency to found moral laws on laws of nature. With this came a natural tendency towards formalistic views and doctrines of innate ideas. In Locke s writings, the idea of natural law became fundamental, and the trend in the ethical philosophy of Kant is an expression of the premises and assumptions of this period (Urban, 1939). 3. The ideas of Enlightenment too are reflected in Kant s philosophy. The ideals of the American and French Revolution with emphasis on freedom as the basis of progress appears in his essays, and became an important component in his ethical philosophy(encyclopedia of Morals, p.268) In fact he expressed great admiration for the moral philosophy of the Romanticist Jean Jacques Rousseau. 4. The questions that he posed in the process of deriving the basis of his ethics were a reaction that arose out of the two most important philosophical theories of his time, the rationalism of Descartes and Leibniz and the empiricism of Locke, Berkeley and Hume. Kant was also profoundly influenced by rationalism of his era, particularly in the aspect of the role of reason, although, not in the prevailing rationalist attitude of the supremacy of reason, above all else, as a source of knowledge, but within its proper limits in both theory and practice. Kant was a trained Knutzen in the Woff-Baumgarten version of Leibnizian philosophy before Hume aroused him from his dogmatic slumber and gave a completely different direction to his enquiries in the fields of speculative philosophy and he became highly critical of Leibnizianism(Encyclopedia of Philosophy). In fact he agreed with the empiricists that there cannot be innate ideas in the sense of anything known prior to any sense experience but he was not prepared to say that therefore all knowledge must be derived from experience(dictionary of Philosophy) To him the human sensibility and understanding contain a form of structure that mould our experience. Thus there is a combination of the transcendental and empirical factor in cognition as a source of knowledge. The combination of these two factors is evident not only in his epistemology but also runs through his works on ethics. 5. Another influential factor that Kant took into consideration in outlining his philosophy and which influences his system of ethics was the development of modern science and the adoption of scientific method, particularly as introduced by Galileo and the other early seventeenth century physicists. He was impressed with Newtonian physics due to its philosophical implications as well as its scientific content and was aware of the challenge for ethics Newton s work presented to humanity. Newton s view of space as an absolute reality was the main influence operating against Leibniz in Kant s early thought, which led him to make a decisive break with the Leibnizian way of thinking. The Copernican revolution which caused a shift from geocentric to a heliocentric system led to Kant s adoption of the hypothesis that the mind s object must agree with the mind. According to this hypothesis, knowledge is a cooperative affair in which both mind and object make a contribution, and mind contributes the relations while objects the relate(jones, 1975). A necessary connection is established prior to experience due to the structure in the mind that organizes experience and shapes it, or in other words the connection between the content of an experience and certain standard forms, or what Kant called a priori that organizes that experience. The scientific revolution which emphasizes the importance of experiment in science, in Kant s view, alters the existing notion of the mind s relation to its objects. In other words, the mind is not passive but active. But he was careful in stating that, although, the concepts in the mind employed in Newtonian physics are a priori, they are limited to the ordered spatiotemporal phenomena and experience and should not be extended in the application to the noumena or things-in-themselves. He wished to insist on the authority of science yet preserve the autonomy of morals. The influence of the development of modern science, particularly physics of his philosophy and the development of his priori concepts could be seen from the following observations he made: `For experience is itself a species of knowledge which involves understanding; and understanding has rules which I must presuppose as being in me prior to objects being given to me, and therefore as being a priori. They find expression in a priori concepts to which all objects of experience necessarily conform, and with which they must agree. As regards objects which are thought solely through reason, and indeed as necessary, but which can UNIVERSITI TUN ABDUL RAZAK E-JOURNAL Vol. 7, No. 2, June

3 never at least not in the manner in which reason thinks them be given in experience, the attempts at thinking them (for they must admit of being thought) will furnish an excellence test of what we are adopting as our new method of thought, namely, that we can know a priori of things only what we ourselves put into them. In fact, the emergence of the collision between one set of principles which constitute the fundamental basis of the system of physical science and another set of principles which constitute the presuppositions of morality became the fundamental antinomy. This made it necessary for Kant by a critical regress to determine whether the scientific principles were absolute or limited to the spatial temporal sphere, which made it impossible to apply them successfully beyond it. Kant s problem, then arose out of a great antagonism of principles, which was already making itself felt in his time, and which has not yet received its final solution, between physical science and the moral and religious consciousness. This problem was necessarily brought into view by the advance of physical science itself and by the attempt which seemed to be a necessary result of that advance, to extend the use of its methods and principles beyond the purely material world. For such an extension seemed to mean nothing less than the inclusion of all man s life, moral as well as physical within the realm of nature and necessity(carid, 1889). This attempt of extension beyond the world of experience or dialectic, Kant argues, leads to contradiction. THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON AND THE PRESUPPOSITIONS OF KANT S MORAL PHILOSOPHY It is pertinent to take note of the fact that Kant s philosophy of nature and his philosophy of morals are part of one well-knit structure, and an understanding in depth of his ethics requires a knowledge of the whole system (Encyclopedia of Moral) Thus, it is not surprising that Kant s first great critical work, the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) deals with his epistemology, concomitantly, lays the method and general foundation for his philosophy of morals. In fact his first treatment of ethics the Foundation of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and the Critique of Practical Reason (1988) presupposes the first critique. In essence, the Critique of Pure Reason is a treatise of Metaphysics. As Kant saw it, the problem of metaphysics, as indeed of any science, is whether its principles can be necessary and universal and involve knowledge of the real?, or in other words Kant hoped to answer Are synthetical a priori judgements, possible in metaphysics? (The New Encyclopedia Britannica) Kant argued that mathematics that deals with space and time which are priori forms of human sensibility is synthetical. He also confirmed that physics is a priori and synthetic but denied the existence of priori synthetic judgments in metaphysics. To Kant there are two sources of human knowledge; sensibility and understanding (A Dictionary of Philosophy) Knowledge is a cooperative affair between the rational and empirical factor. It is only through the workings of the understanding that sense experience comes to be ordered and classified into experience of an objective world. The first critique stresses the importance of a priori ideas of what he called categories in the realm of experience and they yield valid and real knowledge only when they are ordering and classifying what is given through sense within the spatiotemporal world. However the conditions of knowledge are such that it is not possible to apply the categories which we employ in our knowledge of the objects of sense experience to anything beyond the world of space and time or phenomena since theoretical knowledge in the scientific sense is limited to phenomena, and since God is not spatiotemporal, Kant argues that the scientific a priori categories which enable us to make sense of our experience have absolutely no relevance to noumena and the moral life. He asserts that reason could not find a basis for synthetic judgments which do not refer to objects of experience. Kant s description of the limitation of knowledge beyond the spatiotemporal manifold led him to conclude in his Critique of Pure Reason that there is room beyond the system of nature for another kind of reality, the noumena or thing-in-itself which the demand of reason has to provide space for, in order to set up a defense against the intrusion of empirical science into a region for which its methods are unsuited. He mentions this limitation and the consequences of such limitation to the noumena, which provides a general foundation for his moral philosophy. In saying that he denied knowledge, Kant meant that he was limiting the area of applicability of science limiting it, that is, to the UNIVERSITI TUN ABDUL RAZAK E-JOURNAL Vol. 7, No. 2, June

4 spatiotemporal realm. There is an experience of things in space and time, which he called knowledge, there is also an experience of appreciation of values, which he called faith (Jones, 1975). In other words, he found it necessary to limit scientific knowledge in order to make room for values, and ethics and this provides the justification for his subsequent works on ethics and his ethical philosophy. KANT S ETHICAL THEORY Kantian ethics, in essence, extends Kant s original method of deducing the a priori in experience to ethical judgments with which practical reason regulates action. In his most influential work on ethics, the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant made the most thorough attempts to explain the distinction between ethical principles and laws of nature (The Encyclopedia of Philosophy), as follows. 1. Subjective sense of obligation to obey moral laws, but with no obligation to obey laws of nature. 2. Practical or prescriptive meaning of moral laws compared to theoretical or descriptive meaning of laws of nature. 3. Moral laws are expressed in the imperative mood and laws of nature in the declarative mood Due to these differences, Kant s system of ethics contains moral laws which impose upon a rational being to act in accordance with it consistent with the notion of freedom. Thus, insofar as man is moral, he is rational and in this sense free. THE NOTION OF A MORAL ACTION Duty is the central concept of Kant s ethical theory. Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good, without qualification except a Good will, and a good will, simply one that (1) knows what its duty is (that is, knows what reason commands) and (2) does the dutiful act because it is dutiful(jones, 1975) The good will is the supreme good to which all other values are subordinate and an act is considered as moral not by the consequences of a person actions, or by the measurement of the principle of pleasure and pain and neither by his natural tendencies but his intention to obey moral laws. A good will is good not because of what it performs or affects, not by its aptness for the attainment of some proposed end, but simply by virtue of the volition, that is it is good itself. The good will s only motive is to do its duty for the sake of duty. Thus a moral act is an act done for the sake of duty. The next practical question to ask is what is the nature of duty? Kant explains that duty is the necessity of acting from respect of the law... Now an action done from duty must wholly exclude the influence of inclination, and with it every object of law, so that nothing remains which can determine the will except objectively the law, and subjectively pure respect for this practical law, and consequently the maxim that I should follow this law even to the thwarting of all my inclinations. With the exclusion of the influence of desired and their objects, we have nothing left but the mere form of the will. Thus the moral law is separated from every object of will which can determine it. And nothing remains but the mere form of a universal legislation, thus, satisfies the requirement of being a formal rather than material maxim. CATEGORICAL AND HYPOTHETICAL IMPERATIVES The moral question concerns what principles shall guide our action is an important question in Kantian ethics. Moral principles to be universal and objective must be a priori which have their ground in reason alone, not empirical. Kant distinguishes between what he calls hypothetical and categorical imperatives. When objective principles are conditioned by a will for some end which a rational agent UNIVERSITI TUN ABDUL RAZAK E-JOURNAL Vol. 7, No. 2, June

5 wish to achieve, the imperatives are hypothetical. But when the objective principles are unconditioned but would necessarily be followed by a rationale agent, the imperatives are categorical. Kant calls moral imperatives, categorical, because they are limited by no conditions and separated from the consciousness of pleasure and pain and various inclinations such as in the hypothetical imperatives. Thus to Kant, the essence of morality consists of acting in accordance with a categorical imperative. Moral duty requires that the agent sacrifices his desires rather than violate the categorical imperative. Kant formulates five expressions of the categorical imperative which constitute the requirements of morality and as a test of genuine moral imperative. One such requirement is based on the principles of universalizability. In this formulation, Kant makes universalizability of the rules or maxims of actions the test of morality. Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become universal law. In other words, in order for a rule or maxim to be a true moral imperative, the rules that the agent intentionally follows in performing the actions can be universalized consistently without self contradiction. This criterion is purely formal and thus it is the categorical imperative. All maxims and specific rules of conduct can be judges morally right or wrong according to this general criterion. If universal obedience of a rule contradicts the very purpose of a rule as in the case rules permitting lying, stealing, then the rule cannot be part of a true moral code. In contrast, a rule such as Do not make false promises can in principle be followed without exception and thus, qualified as a moral duty. The historical importance of Kant is partly that his criterion is designed to be rational and objective for deciding which the authentic moral imperatives are. Thus, practical reason, like theoretical reason was for him formal rather than material. Lacking any insight into the world of moral consciousness, we can only ask whether our actions are based on the formal character of law that it is the same for all persons in similar circumstances. It is, thus, not surprising that he put such stress on this first expression of the categorical imperative, the principle of universalizability. This will ensure that the actions of men are determined by reason alone, detached from any inclination, except for the sake of duty, or what he calls the autonomy of pure reason. The second expression or formulation of the categorical imperative calls for the treatment of human beings in accordance with his status as autonomous moral agents rather than as a means to an end. Thus act so as to treat humanity, whether in your person or in that another, always as an end and never as a means only. The implication of this maxim is that each rational being in striving for his own ends should ensure that he does not violate anyone else s rights. The equal status as autonomous moral agents means that none of them may coercively subject others to their own private interest. To treat someone as a mere means is to regard him as without a purpose or an end. Such treatment will necessarily breach the first formulation if it is acted upon universally, due to the fact that no rational agent would act in a way that takes others aims as his means just as he would not want others to act in a similar way towards his ends. Man and generally any rational being exists as an end in himself, not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will, but in all his actions, whether they concern himself or other rational beings, must be always regarded at the same time as an end. All objects of the inclinations have only a conditional worth; for if the inclinations and the wants founded on them did not exist, then their object would be without value. But the inclinations themselves being sources of want are so far from having an absolute worth for which they should be desired, that, on the contrary, it must be the universal wish of every rational being to be wholly free from them. Thus the worth of any object which is to be acquired by our action is always conditional... Rational beings... are called persons, because their very nature points them out as ends, that is things whose existence is an end in itself: and end moreover for which no other can be substituted, which they should subserve merely as a means, for otherwise nothing whatever would posses absolute worth; but if all worth were conditioned and therefore contingent, then there would be no supreme practical principle of reason whatever. If then there is a supreme practical principle or, in respect of the human will, a categorical imperative, it must be one which, being drawn from the conception of that which is necessarily an end for everyone because it is an end in itself, constitutes an objective principle of will, and can therefore UNIVERSITI TUN ABDUL RAZAK E-JOURNAL Vol. 7, No. 2, June

6 serve as a universal practical law. The foundation of this principle is rational nature exists as an end in itself (Jones, 1975). In other words, according to Kant morality demands that we act on the sort of policies which, if adopted by everyone would generate a community of free and equal members, each of whom would in the process of realizing his own purposes also further the aims of others. The moral law that an agent acts upon or obeys is not imposed by any external authority but is the product of his own will as rational agents. Thus he is the subject and legislator of the law. With this, arise the third formulation act only so that the will through its maxims could regard itself at the same time as universally lawgiving The will is therefore autonomous and free, and... it is easy to see how it happens that although the conception of duty implies subjection to the law, we yet ascribe a certain dignity any sublimity to the person who fulfills all his duties. There is not, indeed, a sublimity in him, so far as he is subject to the moral law; but in as much as in regard to that very law he is likewise a legislator, and on that account alone subject to it, he has sublimity (Taken from Jones, 1975). This maxim or formulation of the categorical imperative makes the individual morally sovereign and enables him to reject all external authorities (McIntyre, 1973). It leaves the individual free to pursue whatever it is that he does without giving direction as to the source of his rules of action. Thus, when all agents submit themselves to universal laws which are the products of their own wills as rational agents and treat each other as ends, we have what Kant calls a kingdom of ends. The conception of a kingdom of ends in which each agent is at once the giver and the subject of laws is a picture, in moral terms of the essence of pure democracy in which freedom and law are reconciled. Thus, Kant formulates the Kingdom of ends in accordance with the following maxim act according to the maxims of a universally legislative member of a merely potential realm of ends. The objective of Kantian ethics is to generate such moral community which consists of free and equal members, each of whom in the process of realizing his ends also further the ends of others. This conception of Kant anticipates the notion of rationality as perceived by the moral philosopher and an economist, Adam Smith, that each individual in the process of pursuing his self-interest leads to the attainment of social good. Although Kant would disagree with the usage of the term self interest which connotes the attachment of desires to the will which relates to hypothetical imperatives. Previous moral philosophers, Kant writes, fail to recognize the autonomy of the will. Consideration of ends is not of primary importance to the moral agent because to Kant to act morally is to act for the sake of duty and not to promote greatest happiness to the greatest number in the utilization ethics. But the act of an agent to adopt his maxims devoid of such tendencies would create a systematic harmony of purposes in order to generate a Kingdom of ends. Morality consists in the relation of all actions to that legislation whereby alone a kingdom of ends is possible. Thus, Kant formulates the maxim act as though the maxim of your action were by your will to become a universal law of nature What Kant intends to do here is to provide a principle of analogy of the moral law to the law of nature which implies that the moral law is purposive and universal and which every member in a Kingdom of ends will be subject to(encyclopedia of Moral) Nevertheless each member sees himself under laws which, being independent of nature, are not empirical but are generated form reason alone. Kant distinguishes between ethical state of nature and ethical community. An ethical state of nature is characterized by mutual ill-will among men and by the dominion of social passions. It is a conflict between pure subjective consciousness, each of which refuses to recognize the other and seeks to subordinate it and eliminate its status. The ethical state of nature is overcome by the foundation of an ethical community whose operative principle is the mutual recognition of all consciousness and the constant decision of each to regard all the others as equal in status and as ends in themselves (see Yovel, 1989). THE IDEA OF SUMMUM BONUM IN KANTIAN ETHICS One of the most important issues in Kantian ethics is the idea of Summum Bonum or the highest good. It reverts to the issue of the end of all moral actions, an unresolved issue since the time of the Greek philosopher Aristotle who argues that happiness is the aim of all men. The idea of Summum UNIVERSITI TUN ABDUL RAZAK E-JOURNAL Vol. 7, No. 2, June

7 Bonum in Kant s practical philosophy is derived from the formulation of a new imperative which contains a definite content act to promote the highest good in the world. To Kant, this imperative is a more complete and comprehensive imperative than the basic categorical, one where the latter tells us how to act while the former tells us in addition what should be the end of moral action. The formulation of this new imperative and the idea of the highest good no longer restricted Kantian ethics to the domain of personal, internal morality because it fulfills the need to conceive some sort of final end for all our actions and abstentions taken as a whole. It does not merely determine the absolute principle of the moral will but goes on to define its total objects. In the initial stage of Kantian ethics, the formulations of the categorical imperative provide a test for a genuine moral action in a sense being defined as an act done for the sake of duty alone, without regard to circumstances or the end result of actions. However, the Kantian ethics contain another element which complemented the formal ethics, the end duty or the material element which serve to satisfy the double need of reason (1) to the logical requirement of reason that the sphere of action be totalized systematized synoptically; and (2) to a subjective psychological condition of the human mind, to our natural needs as humans. Kant regards that the moral system would remain pure, absolute and incomplete without the material component of Summum Bonum as he argues that such a situation is incompatible to human nature who is interested and involved in his environment, and who demands to know what is the result of this right conduct of his and subjecting himself to the categorical imperative. Thus Kant s complete ethical system tries to determine not only the absolute form of moral action but also its supreme content, Summun Bonum. The former demands action only from maxims that can be universalized (principle of Universalizability) and the latter the promotion of the highest good. The problem with these two forms of Kantian ethics that need to be resolved is their reconciliation. Kant attempts to do this by emphasizing that the Summum Bonum provides all actions with a final, objective end-concept, but only as an accompanying idea and it focuses the multiplicity of subjective intentions and objective consequences of each individual and of humanity. The Summum Bonum is defined as the union of Universal happiness with the greatest morality. Despite Kant s view that duty excludes regard for one s private happiness because even though happiness is in a sense and end, it is not specific, concrete to aim at, he includes happiness as one of the elements in Summum Bonum which is universal happiness. This is so because as a creature of needs and desires, the rational being has an aspiration to happiness as an inherent part of his nature. However, it is unfounded to claim that in Kantian ethics morality is not sought for its own sake but ultimately for attaining utilitarian goals. Given the fundamental aspects of Kantian ethics, it is clear that whoever performs a moral act in order to gain happiness does not aim at morality at all but the satisfaction of his inclinations. Thus although, happiness is aspired, it is denied any influence over the decision making in Kantian ethics, and the moral man performs an act for the sake of duty and hopes for happiness, which is universal happiness. Thus the highest good can no longer mean the individual s private virtue and happiness but rests in the cooperation with other rational beings to create a new world-system that combine universal happiness and morality. Nevertheless, the idea of the highest good. Cannot be realized by man himself.yet he discovers within himself to duty to work for his end. Hence he finds himself impelled to believe in the cooperation or management of a moral ruler of the world by means of which alone this goal can be reached (Religion within the limits of Reason Alone). Practical reason presupposes a belief in God, freedom and immorality. God is required as a power capable of realizing the Summum Bonum, of bringing together virtue with happiness, immorality is required because virtue and happiness manifestly do not coincide in this world; and freedom is the presupposition of the categorical imperative. Thus practical reason provides the basis for believing in the existence of God as a result of the necessity for the attainment of Summum Bonum (Yovel, 1989). A CRITIQUE OF KANTIAN ETHICS A critical appraisal of Kantian ethics will bring forth the following issues: UNIVERSITI TUN ABDUL RAZAK E-JOURNAL Vol. 7, No. 2, June

8 1. The principle of universalizability as a test for moral actions. This idea of absolutely binding duty is certainly rather odd. The questions that have to be answered are Does any such idea as Kant described ever move mean to action? and If it does, why is it valuable for people to act in accordance with it? The formulation of the Categorical imperative that involves the rule act only on that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law is seriously defective. It is possible to generalize into universal rules all sorts of maxims that no one would hold to be obligatory because it is morally neutral, for instance the maxim I should have a cover for my book can be universalized without self contradiction but yet is not obligatory and no one is obliged to adopt it. It is not an adequate statement of the nature of obligation. Kant would have replied that such an act, if I were to perform it, is not a moral act, even though the maxim can be universalized because to him, to act morally means to obey nothing but law in general. 2. The principle of morality demands that a rational being conforms simply to law in general and this means, it would seem, that he must ignore the specific character of the rule and act simply from the notion of following a rule because it is a duty to do so, then the consequence of such a notion would be the justification of all sorts of acts that most people would call immoral. This would happen as long as the intention is to act solely for the sake of duty without regard to the results that our action produces. A person will find praising as morally valuable actions that common sense calls indifferent or even wrong. These considerations show that the principle of universalizability cannot be a positive criterion of duty. Neither is it a negative criterion. There are many acts that people condemn that have detrimental effects only on the individual concern whose maxims can be universalized without self contradictions. Thus it is incorrect to say that the essence of morality consists in acting in accordance with a categorical imperative. But if the emphasis is on the need for generality and the permissibility of exceptions to the rule due to certain unavoidable circumstances then such a principle has its moral significance. 3. The principle of universability is a necessary but not a sufficient condition in Kantian ethics to provide a complete guide for moral action. It merely provides a procedure for making a moral decision and do not determine any specific purpose. So the categorical imperative is best seen not as a source of moral principle, but as a test of these principles we already have. The formulation that one should only adopt and act on principles which everyone could adopt, doesn t tell us which of such principles we should adopt. It also provides no grounds for deciding what is right in a situation where apparent moral duties collide and one must be sacrificed in favour of another. With respect to this problem, utilitarian ethics seems clearly superior than Kantian ethics. 4. The moral applications of the principles of universability raises at least three controversial questions (The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Macropedia). i) There is the question of commitment to a general rule. This controversial question deals with whether every agent in performing some action logically commits himself to a general rule. The objection sometimes made is that every situation is unique, so that a person who makes amoral judgment in his own case is not logically required to legislate for everyone. There are three ways of avoiding such generalization beyond one particular case. One way is by not giving or having any reasons at all for one s actions. But there are several difficulties with such a method. A second way is by having insufficient reasons for one s actions. A third way is to make reasons so detailed that they apply only to oneself or to one s particular group. ii) iii) There is also the question of criteria of relevant similarities. The principle of universalizabilty refers to similar persons and similar circumstances but does not reveal which similarities are to count as the relevant ones. There is the question of its standing as a moral principle. The problem of relevance leads to a controversial question about the moral application of the principle of UNIVERSITI TUN ABDUL RAZAK E-JOURNAL Vol. 7, No. 2, June

9 universalizability. In what sense is it a moral principle? Kant s principle of universalizability also presupposes teleology in the sense that it assumes or presupposes the norms of which our reason tells us we must not violate for example the question of why certain things are good and others are not will lead to arbitrariness. 5. In Kant s view, only a good will is morally valuable; and a good will is good in itself without regard to what it affects. This notion of good will is so strange and as such out of touch with actuality. Hume agrees with Kant that a good will is the unique object of moral value but he held its goodness to lie in its benevolence not in its dutifulness. In fact, the position taken by Kant involves a vicious circle(jones, 1975). It should be clear that no action can be virtuous or morally good unless there is in human nature some motives for doing it, apart from the sense of duty. It will not be appropriate to claim that the virtue of telling the truth lies in telling the truth because it is vicious to do so, because this will lead to a vicious circle. It could be that the motives underlying a certain act have been forgotten because it is already a common practice imbedded in the behaviour of rational beings. The tendency of Kant to remove all natural inclinations from the will as a way of defining a moral act is to define an act which is not observable in today s life, in a sense an act derived from pure will alone, which is inconceivable. It is impulses and to determine one s actions by rational considerations alone, and the only motive being, to act for the sake of duty alone, and nothing else. Kant pays too little attention to the factors that diminish and sometimes demolish responsibility. 6. Kantian ethics makes the individual morally sovereign; it enables him to reject all external authorities. To recognize this, which Kant calls the anatomy of the moral agent, is to recognize also the external authorities, even if divine, can provide no criterion for morality. To recognize this is to claim the unlimited capability of pure reason and the categorical imperative to provide a complete criterion for morality and a perfect assessment of moral actions, or in another sense, if this claim is denied, the inability of Kantian ethics to provide a complete test of proposed or existing maxims and the inability to become a source of moral imperative, since the formulation of categorical imperative cannot be an exhaustive list. Kant s conception of a good will, principle of universalizability, are all based on the limitations of pure reason and thus due to that they failed to conform to actuality. This rejection of external authorities does not necessarily produce a complete criterion of morality. 7. The existence of dualism in Kantian ethics(yovel, 1989) This arises as a result of the difficulty to reconcile between the pure will and the highest good (Summum Bonum). It also arises due to the problem of a smooth transition from the formal law to the highest good. Kant insists that the highest good is established by the moral law but it is clearly established from the concept of pure will. The concept of the highest good as mentioned in the preceding discussion involved the union between Universal happiness and the greatest morality is derived from the following considerations. (i) (ii) man s natural aspiration for happiness his natural interest in the effect of his act But in establishing the notion of a good will and the fundamental principle of morality these elements were ignored a moral act is an act done for the sake of duty and detached from contingent circumstances and a purpose or end of duty. The pure will is defined through strict exclusion of any empirical consideration, ignoring happiness, while the notion of Summum Bonum attaches this consideration and others in a broader moral context. The will that ties the highest good as its object no longer remains the pure will. The Summum Bonum gives human aspiration for happiness its moral legitimacy. The individual moral agent who is guided by formal law remains passive and reacts only to circumstances, and confining himself to the existing system, attempting to preserve his pure will by following the dictates of the categorical imperative without taking external factors into consideration. However, the Summmum Bonum demands that the individual not only responds to circumstances but also UNIVERSITI TUN ABDUL RAZAK E-JOURNAL Vol. 7, No. 2, June

10 initiates in order to change the circumstances to create new orders and systems. The impossibility of uniting the pure will and the highest good maintain the duality intact. In Kantian ethics, problems such as this are resolved by recourse to transcendent assumptions (noumena) e.g. the postulate of the existence of God. This is due to Kant s emphasis that The idea of the highest good... cannot be realized by man himself. Hence this means the belief in the cooperation or management of a moral Ruler of the world. CONCLUSION Kant s theory of ethics is deeply influenced by his Christian roots and the scientific method and ideals of the Age of Reason or Enlightenment. It is a blend between reason, experience and revelation. Unlike the rationalists and the empiricists, Kant s hypothesis is that knowledge and truth is a combination of the empirical and the rational elements or what he called pure practical reason or a `priori judgment. It is from `a priori judgment and not from empirical means that one can decide whether a conduct is right or wrong. Kant introduced the categorical imperatives that an act is moral if it can be a universal law and carried out with a sense of duty, not as means to an end and people can deduce the same moral laws by living in a kingdom of ends. Kant said that we all aim to reach an ultimate end or the highest good, the Summum Bonum a state in which human virtue and happiness are united. Kant s theory of ethics is deontological which is concerned with the morality of duty, a demand of the categorical imperatives. He understood the limitations of reason in the realm of metaphysics or those which he termed as `noumenon or the `thing-in-itself. The proof of God, soul and ultimate reality belong to this category of knowledge. Kant argues that `it does not follow, just because the existence of God cannot be proved by theoretical reason, that no proof of His existence is possible (Jones, 1975). This study attempts to provide a critical appraisal to Kant s ethical theory. Despite the flaws, the influence of Kant and his works on ethics which emerged from the Age of Enlightenment went beyond the boundaries of his time and place and the revolutionary change it has brought on how some modern societies of today perceive knowledge, truth, religion, values and morality is outstanding. UNIVERSITI TUN ABDUL RAZAK E-JOURNAL Vol. 7, No. 2, June

11 REFERENCES Wood, W. Allen. (2008). Kantian Ethics. Cambridge University Press. Deleuze, Gilles. (1985). Kant s Critical Philosophy-Doctrine of the Faculties. University of Minnesota Press. Sullivan, J. Roger. (1989). Immanuel Kant s Moral Theory. Cambridge University Press. Ferm, V. (1969). Encyclopedia of Morals. Greenwood Press Publishers. New York. Urban, W. (1939). Fundamentals of Ethics-An Introduction to Moral Philosophy. Henry Hols & Co.New York. Jones, W. T. (1975). A History of Western Philosophy: Kant and the Nineteenth Century. Harcourt Brace Javanorich.New York. Caird, E. (1889). The Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kent. James Maclehose and Sons. Maclntyre. (1973). A Short History of Ethics. Macmillan Company, New York. Yovel, Y. (1989). Kant and the Philosophy of History. Princeton University Press. Edwards. Paul. (1973). The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. MacMillan Publishing Company. Flew. G. Anthony. (1985). A Dictionary of Philosophy. St. Martin's Griffin; Revised Edition. UNIVERSITI TUN ABDUL RAZAK E-JOURNAL Vol. 7, No. 2, June

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