Kant and Mill The Categorical Imperative

The categorical imperative is a list of commands that expresses our duties that we are required to follow. For morality to work it must issue commands. With the supreme principle of morality, there is a distinction between perfect and imperfect duties.

Dutiful actions are caused by reason and will. Perfect duties are those that branch from reason. An action that breaks a perfect duty contradicts reason. Perfect duties are those that we practice all the time like telling the truth. If lying was a universal law that everyone followed then nobody would trust anyone and we wouldn’t get much out of people. Every rational being lies when it is convenient for them but we must practice telling the truth at all times.

Imperfect duties are those that branch from the will. There are no reasonable contradictions that conflict with the will. Imperfect duties are those that we practice sometimes like helping other when we have to and bettering ourselves. For example, when we have children we assist them by feeding and changing them so that they can survive. We better ourselves by continuing to train and practice.

Duty is a universal law that everyone must follow.Our moral worth is based on our duty. Our categorical duty is to respect the dignity of people and not use them as a means. Although we have feelings that support our actions these feelings can’t be our only motive. We have a duty to do the right thing for the right reasons. We also have to use people for the right reasons not as a means but as a means to an end.

We have a duty to respect the dignity of ourselves and others. An example of using someone as a means is making a false promise an example of this is borrowing money when you know you can’t pay the person back. You are just using this person as a means.

Human beings are objectively valuable because we are set apart from everything else, we are rational beings that can make decisions on how we act. Rational beings have dignity.

Because we have shown self-value we are autonomous. Autonomy is Kant’s idea of freedom. Autonomy is acting and choosing freely which factors out our inclinations; all our desires, wants, and impulses. Freedom is the opposite of necessity. Heteronomy is acting on our desires.

Therefore human beings are objects of respect.Happiness is governed by pain and pleasure. To maximize our happiness, we have to do the greatest good for the greatest number. To determine what the “right thing” to do is a cost-benefit analysis is used. This is used by adding up all the benefits and subtracting the costs.

Our happiness is utility, and utility places values. There are 2 objections to utilitarianism one is it fails to respect individual minority rights. This means that whatever the majority agrees on is the “right thing.” There should be a duty of respect for individual rights. The second objection is it is not possible to place everything into a value. There are higher and lower pleasures and the only way to determine what one is worthier is to do both. With human capacity, we are able to do both pleasures and determine what one is better. The one that is usually worthier is usually the one that our culture has convinced us of. Utility/happiness is the only standard of morality.Rick Roderick’s position is that neither Kantianism nor Utilitarianism theories are sufficient moral theories. He argues that they are not practical unless you are using them to think about moral life. I agree with Rick Roderick because there are several objections to these theories.

In Kantianism, there is a principle of morality. This principle states that we have a duty, to always tell the truth. With Kantianism, the consequences are not judged. This means that if we have a duty, to tell the truth, we tell the truth and never think about the consequence. An objection to this theory is if there was someone with a gun that walked into a classroom asking for a person, without thinking about the consequence the teacher or other students would tell the truth.

As for Utilitarianism, the main objective is we must have the greatest good for the greatest number. Unlike Kantianism Utilitarianism judged actions by looking at the consequences. There is this thing called the trolley dilemma which goes along with this theory. The dilemma is that you have a choice to pull a lever and save five people and sacrifice one or sacrifice five and save one. Because we are supposed to do the greatest good for the greatest number we should save the five people over the one.

But what if that one person was someone we knew or someone very young. According to utilitarianism, it doesn’t matter because we are supposed to do the greatest good for the greatest number and we should save the five people over the one.

I believe that there are many other objections to these theories and it just makes sense to me that like Roderick these theories are not practical but are good sources to use in order to think about moral life.

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