Deontology: Categorical Imperative and Generalized Form

Topic: #2 Demonology There are many theories of morality that aim to create criteria for an action’s moral value. Kantian Demonology is a one of those theories. This theory values an action, not based on the happiness or pleasure derived from it, but the will behind it. Kantian Ethnologists do not value happiness and pleasure as intrinsically good because there is nothing good other than a good will- since good will is the motive to act for moral duty.

Although Kantian Demonology is logical because it states that season reveal good, it is flawed in that it does not recognize happiness and pleasure as real world motivations for many good actions. In order to understand Cant’s argument, it is first crucial to grasp its underlying concepts. Kant believes that we need to consider what a person is willing to do in the calculation of whether or not his action is good. He defines “will” as a wished state of affairs. Kant thinks that will should not be restricted to possible direct actions.

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He states that the notion should be broad and allow for the will of something unattainable. Kant also allows will to be inconsistent. For example, it is perfectly natural to will to get a good grade on a test and to will to go to bed when you are tired, at the same time. Those are two inconsistent (and contradictory) wills that cannot be achieved at the same time, but since it is natural to have those wills, Kant allows it. He also states that will is only a characteristic of human beings. Animals only have instincts and therefore cannot will to do anything.

Because will is a part of determining moral value and only humans are moral agents, only human beings can assess will. A maxim is a kind of will which governs our actions and varies from person to person. We are not always consciously aware of our maxims but can explain them if we are asked about them. There are two kinds of maxims: One is based on our desire to obtain something while the other is based on our respect for a moral duty. Even if two actions are not externally distinguishable, the difference in which kind of maxim it follows, is significant.

For example, if there are two grocers named A and B. Grocer As goal is to be successful so A believes that in giving the erect amount of change and building a good reputation will help him attain the desired outcome. Conversely, Grocer B simply believes that it is wrong to cheat the people that purchase his goods. Therefore, he always gives the correct change. On the outside, the grocers’ actions are indistinguishable, however when Juxtaposing their maxims, it is obvious that Grocer A is doing something for his happiness and pleasure while Grocer B is following a moral duty and is therefore morally good.

In order to follow the right maxim, we need to know what kind of duties we have s human beings. To find out that answer, we have to understand what a duty is. Kant defines a duty as a universal law, and gives it several properties. First, they are necessary. Duty describes how things must be in order for proper functioning. Furthermore, moral laws are universal; they must hold for anyone, at any point in despite the fact that they ought to be. This is our own failure though- it doesn’t mean that the moral law isn’t universal.

To add to his previous claims, Kant states that an act is morally right only if the errors consistently wills that the generalized form of the maxim be a law of nature. To understand his second thesis, one must first distinguish between hypothetical and categorical imperatives. Hypothetical imperatives are conditional and only apply to a person if the person has the aim stated in the antecedent. On the other hand, categorical imperatives dictate actions without any conditions. For example, a hypothetical imperative would state, “If you want y, then do x” while a categorical imperative would simply state, “do x”.

Kant believes that all moral imperatives are dictatorial. The one supreme categorical imperative that leads to Cant’s second thesis is that a person should always act as if their maxim were to become universal law. Based on this, we can infer that it is morally good to consistently will the generalized form of your maxim to become universal law. One can check their maxims through the categorical test. First you think of your maxim, generalize it, and then think if you would WILL this new generalized maxim to be a law of nature. There are several contradictions to the categorical imperative test though.

First, it s impossible to rationally will our maxim to be universal law at all times. Take for example a woman that has a maxim, “When I am flourishing, I will not help others”. Right now, she doesn’t need help but it is completely possible that in the future she would need help while everyone else will be flourishing- but the generalized form of her maxim will not allow her to get help. If she is actually a rational, she should not will that her maxim hold all the time. Lastly, we sometimes cannot imagine our maxim as universal law.

If we have a maxim that we borrow money if we can’t pay it sack, then the generalized form of the maxim would mean that no one would make promises because they would know that they wouldn’t get the money back. Kant acknowledges the existence of the golden rule but fails to accept it. Instead, he accepts that categorical imperative because, in his eyes, it is stronger since it does not rely on relationships between people. The Golden rule states that an act is morally right, if and only if a person refrains from treating others in a way that he wouldn’t want to be treated. This limits the golden rule to the parameters of human legislations.

The categorical imperative, on the other hand, isn’t based on other people- even if you are the only person in the world, universal laws still hold under the categorical imperative, but wouldn’t under the golden rule. There are several innate problems with demonology that thwart its credibility though. First of all, the theory itself goes against our intuition because it states that everything we do must have a distinct duty as a reason. Therefore, Kant would say that a woman that volunteers in a shelter Just because it makes her happy, is morally iron because she is not motivated by a duty.

Furthermore, Demonology is too strict to be sufficient in real life. Some actions that cannot be willed to be law of nature, but are still morally correct in our eyes, are considered to be morally wrong my Kantian Ethnologists. Cant’s inability to see that happiness and pleasure are legitimate driving forces for many actions in today’s society Just shows how unrealistic demonology is when applied to the real world. It is impossible, nor significant, to taken, the duty or will behind it doesn’t matter.

from Nandarnold

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