Kant’s Second Formulation

Telling the truth is always a virtue that a person should have. Imagine if a person only lied because they knew other people were lying; making it only fair. This is all avoided with Immanuel Kant’s philosophical views. Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher, had created the “Categorical Imperative” which stated there was only one moral obligation. Kant believed that the representation of a principle was a binding command that was viewed as a principle. The formula of that command is called an imperative. Within the rules of the Categorical Imperative, it is stated that one must express the intended action for itself and with no other purpose. If someone is to do something that is against the Categorical Imperative, then it is not moral.

Kant argues that morality should be viewed as deontological; the ethical theory stating the morality of an action should be based on whether the action is right or wrong. The right and wrong can be determined through a series of rules rather than basing it upon the consequences of an action. Throughout Kant’s work there are a series of tests that have been implemented to tell whether a moral statement is correct or not. An example of how this ethical theory works is murdering a person. People should avoid murder, not because it will keep them out of prison, but because they know it is wrong. Even in the worst circumstances a person should always chose to do what is right not because of the consequences of their action, but because right should always be chosen over wrong.

The Categorical Imperative is different than just a regular imperative or even a hypothetical imperative. A hypothetical desire commands a person having a relevant desire. An example of this would be going to college for Accounting. If you want to go to school for Accounting, you must take Accounting classes. If you don’t want to go to school for accounting, then this command isn’t relative to that person. An imperative is just viewed as a direct command. An example being, “Don’t run a red light.” These views are different than the Categorical imperative because the categorical gives commands without set standards and limits. Even if you want to do something that is bad that will benefit you in the end, you still must not do it.

There are two main formulations explaining what the Categorical Imperative (CI) is and how to apply it to everyday moral obligations. Kant states that all his formulas coincide with one another. The conceptual foundation of one formula leads to the basis of the next formula. The first formulation is known as the Universal Law, which states “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law [of nature].” Maxim as stated in the first formulation is the rule on which a person acts. In other words, the formulation is saying one is not allowed to do something if everyone else can’t do it as well. No exceptions for oneself. An example of a maxim that would go against the Categorical Imperative would be “Whenever anybody want’s some money, they tend to make a false promise, borrow the money, and then never pay the lender back.” If this maxim was adopted by everybody as the categorical imperative states should be, then nobody would borrow others money because they know they will not be getting it back later.

The second formulation known as the Formula of the End in itself says “So act as to treat humanity, both in your own person, and in the person of every other, always at the same time as an end, never simply as a means.” The formulation can be viewed as a way for Kant to introduce the idea of respect for another human. There are two duties that derive from the second formulation. The perfect duty to act on no maxims that use people as mere means, and the imperfect duty to act on some maxims that foster people’s ends. An error that is often brought up with this formulation is the ruling out of using people as means to our ends but is supposed to be viewed as ruling out the use of people as a mere means to our ends. Although it is not the humans means to our ends, but rather the humans humanity that is being treated as a mean to our ends. Kant believes that all ethically moral requirements are met within this principle, the Categorical Imperative, meaning that all others are immoral actions that are irrational and violate the CI.

Kant also spoke about a person’s moral worth. People’s actions determine their moral worth. Actions are either right or wrong and a person is morally worthy or lacks moral worth. Kant believes that for someone to be morally worthy, they must be motivated by morality. If someone desires to achieve or do something, this action cannot give them moral worth but rather comes from doing a duty regardless of whether it was liked or not. When we act, whether or not we achieve what we intend with our action is often beyond our control and the morality of our actions cannot depend on their outcome. What we can control however is the will behind these actions. That is we can will to act according to one law rather than another.

The morality of an action therefore, must be assessed in terms of the motivation behind it and not the consequences associated with it. According to Kant the only thing that is good without reason is the good will. A good will is good, not just for what it produces. Courage, health, and wealth can all be used for the wrong purposes Kant argues, and therefore cannot be “intrinsically” good. Happiness is not intrinsically good because even being worth of happiness Kant says, requires that one possess a good will. The good will is the only unconditional good. To summarize Kant’s view on moral worth, a good person is someone who does their duty because it is their duty.

To every theory there can be errors within. Kant believes lying is wrong because we all must follow rules that everyone can do. If someone were to lie, then it would be acceptable for everyone else to lie as well. Everyone lying would make it useless to lie because no one would ever be believed. People believe that the error behind Kant’s beliefs if the idea that you can never lie. They believe it would be justifiable to lie in order to save someone’s life. Although error may be present in his theory, Kant states that his ethical theory requires belief in free will, God, and the immorality of the soul.

Immanuel Kant also created the transcendental idealism. This theory states the relation between the mind and objects. There are three different components that make up this theory. The first one being there is a distinction between appearances and things as they are in themselves. The second, space and time are a priori, subjective conditions on the possibility of experience, and hence only pertain to the appearances, not the things in themselves(Citation). Third, we can have determinate cognition of only of things that can be experienced, hence only of appearances, not things in themselves.

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