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Free «Foundation for the Metaphysics of Morals» Essay Sample

Foundation for the Metaphysics of Morals discusses and analyses moral rules and principles of ethics and moral judgment. Ideas and concepts discussed in this work became a ground of deontological ethics and philosophy. Professional duties are owed to and by all members of the professional community. As Kant states, each rational person should be treated as an end and not as a means to an end. By virtue of their admission to the professionals have the right to expect treatment as unique talents and have assumed the duty to treat other professionals in a like manner. Kant believes that in itself there is nothing good except a good will, and only when a person acts from duty do the person's actions have moral worth. Kant gives a special attention to the autonomy of reason and the moral law. Thesis Kant believes that every rational creature has inherent worth; therefore, a rational person will always act to treat himself and other individuals as ends in himself.

Foundation for the Metaphysics of Morals underlines that autonomy acts as the link between the analysis of morality and the moral will and free will. Autonomy is that property whereby the will is a law to itself. Kant writes that all other things in nature are subject to laws of the kind which are usually called causal. To say that anything in nature is subject to law is a way of saying that the behavior of that thing can be described in scientific laws or generalizations which are based on observation. The will is not haphazard or capricious and for that reason cannot be described using scientific laws. When the will is subject to moral law and acts out of respect for that law, then a different kind of principle is at work. Kant states that the motive of the truly moral will is not open to observation. Freedom as a property then will belong only to something which can be a law to itself.



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Kant states that the moral demands of a situation may coincide with what a person should like to do, but frequently they do not. Personal desires are part of the situation and may have to be taken into account in determining what the moral demands of the situation are. Once a person knows what the situation demands of him morally, he cannot alter the situation. It is because a moral situation makes demands upon people in this way that the conception of a moral law has grown up the primary concept of legal rules. Applied to modern business practice, these laws underline professional people should respect one another as persons--as peers in the community. These are lofty goals, but surely they do not change because of the gender of the community member. Kant claims

“The will of an intelligence is free, its autonomy, as the essential formalcondition of its determination, is a necessary consequence. Moreover, this freedom of will is not merely quite possible as a hypothesis (not involving any contradiction to the principle of physical necessity in the connexion of the phenomena of the sensible world) as speculative philosophy can show: but further, a rational being who is conscious of causality through reason” (Kant 33).

Kant’s approach to ethics is based on deontological principles of moral and ethical behavior. Kant believed that in itself there was nothing good except a good will, and only when a person acted from duty did the person's actions have moral worth. He also believed that every rational creature has inherent worth; therefore, a rational person will always act to treat himself and other individuals as ends in himself. For example, intentionally injuring others would always be wrong because a rational person would never intentionally injure himself.

As Kant stated, each rational person should be treated as an end and not as a means to an end. By virtue of their choice, people who commit suicide have the right to expect treatment as equal to other citizens and have assumed the duty to treat other people in a like manner. Deontological theories focus instead upon the correctness of the action itself. Suicide is correct if a person sees no way out in his/her life. As Kant expresses this idea: “when the question is of moral worth, it is not with the actions which we see that we are concerned, but with those inward principles of them that we do not see” (Kant 87). Such people show any clear way in which to resolve conflicts of duties, and they do not present any overwhelming reason why the prohibition against certain actions should hold without exception. For example, Kant believed the moral choice to be truth telling irrespective of the consequences, since if no one told the truth individuals would have chaos in society because communication would be meaningless. To the categorical imperative Kant added the "practical imperative," that in considering actions one must treat all persons, including oneself, as an end and never as a means. Many people who commit suicide have reflectively considered Kant's suggestions and found his categorical imperative too rigid.

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Decision to commit suicide should be identified as prima facie that is intuitive for every person. Adherence to these duties was the preferred moral course of action irrespective of the consequences foreseen in a particular circumstance. The viewpoint is complex but may briefly be described as stepping away from a situation mentally and pretending that you will predetermine right action in a particular society without knowing what role you would have in that society. Without benefit of knowing one's role in society, an ethical agent can make a judgment about justice that is fair, since it is untainted by the self-interest of that agent. Most of us believe deeply that it is simply wrong to kill without justification or, to put it in deontological terms, individuals have a duty not to other but share an opposite opinion as for themselves. Kant underlines:

“the mere dignity of man as a rational creature, without any other end or advantage to be attained thereby, in other words, respect for a mere idea, should yet serve as an inflexible precept of the will, and that it is precisely in this independence of the maxim on all such springs of action” (Kant 54).

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With respect to Kant's ideas, both the categorical imperative and the practical imperative can clash with human welfare and even prescribe actions that lead to human suffering such as cuisine. In this situation, the strict Kantian would commit suicide reasoning that the action of continuing a life without purpose is wrong per se and that any perceived consequences should not be considered. Kant’s point of view is vulnerable to this criticism but is subject to the weakness of answering the question of the source of the prima facie duties and whether there might be more prima facie duties. In other words, the moral agent might reasonably ask why he/she should accept the decision of suicide as his own and evaluate the consequences of these moral actions.

There is something in the contents of the moral act that gives it greater significance to the average man than any conception of beauty. For Kant, the moral act is something more than a momentary event in the changing experience of the agent. It is liable to be repeated and must therefore partake of certain enduring properties that have already appeared in his perceptions. Whether by the influence of private reflection or of public imitation, all moral behavior is described in terms of general concepts. In either case, the presence and authority of memory signify that the act is not a detached and unrelated fact of consciousness but a type of behavior embodying the fixed tendencies of the agent. The "causes" which excite loyal support are utterly different in moral tone and intellectual values. The totem for the one and the superb devotion to truth or honor for the other represent the wide diversity of causes. Yet the essential meaning is the same. Loyalty is a universal concept created by the fundamental needs of moral living. It has the same right to an independent status as the more physical appetitions of hunger, thirst, and sex impulse, or the primitive emotions of love, hate, and anger. Whatever is incessantly repeated has universal and objective character, and loyal adhesion to a cause belongs to that class. individual may deduce that the cardinal virtues--justice, courage, temperance--are primarily the fruits of repeated action, understood and approved by the reflective mind as necessary and veracious expressions of the native properties of mankind.

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A new factor is introduced, called by such terms as duty, sense of right, moral authority, dictate of reason, conscience. It implies that the concepts of loyalty, veracity, justice, should be deliberately incorporated into our manner of thought. Individual have a situation very different from that which confronts the artist or the logician. Individual should never suggest to the one that he ought to strive for the representation of beauty or to the other that he ought to deduce nothing but true conclusions from his authentic argument. To neither of these is a choice open; they can do but one thing. The moral actor, on the other hand, faces two contradictory courses, and the conviction that he ought to take one rather than the other comes to him with overwhelming authority. He may decline to obey the command, but he cannot alter its terms. So insistent is this urge as recorded in history, in drama, and in the transactions of the individual mind that individual are bound to reckon with it in any study of moral phenomena. It is just as clearly a function of the human mind as is the effort to think logically or to express feelings in creations of art or by the silent admiration of the eye. In addition, the universal quality rests not alone in the perpetuity of the sense of obligation but also in the imperative tone it gives to every type of action. Loyalty is a fine moral virtue, but individual must examine critically the ends to which its zeal is to be directed. Thus, it is my duty to seek the unemotional facts in my scientific research, to be unmoved by censure or reproach or threat, to speak the truth without fear or reservation, to hold to my deductions until good evidence yields a better solution to the problem In every case the moral act carries with it an inescapable constraint that points to an object beyond the confines of the immediate field of behavior.

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In addition to the materials which underlie moral effort, there is the problem of an adequate explanation of the object which effort has in view and the suitable means for reaching it. The theory of ethical values demands careful consideration. Typical solutions have been suggested in ancient and modern speculation, and these must be analyzed with sympathetic attention in order to formulate a workable system. Individual turn to some of the conspicuous problems which have occupied the mind of observer and finally attempt to expound the meaning and application of the moral sanctions, their stern reality and their pervasive influence. It is futile to make an extended analysis such as this without the attempt to expound the meaning and application of the moral sanctions, their stern reality and which the most objective science, as physics or biology, finds in its tractable subject-matter.

In sum, in Foundation for the Metaphysics of Morals Kant is sure that individual cannot justify the adoption of the rule of inclination instead of reason; and he thinks that, even though individual make the exception for ourselves, individuals only confirm the universality of the categorical imperative as a law of reason. It is possible to apply the moral rule in the same way to the other duties; for example, giving a deceitful promise to pay when people know that individual cannot fulfill it, declining to develop a natural talent, and refusing to aid a neighbor in distress. Self becomes a cardinal article of faith. Still, the highest purposes of the soul can be fulfilled only under two conditions, which Kant calls postulates: its immortality and the existence of a divine Providence. The adjustment will not be an exact equivalence between goodness and contentment in every case. The history of the individual and the race contradicts such a deduction. In Foundation for the Metaphysics of Morals, there is a logical argument against it: if the will produces but one kind of moral quality in conduct, namely, goodness, then that quality can have no coherent meaning, since goodness and badness are complementary terms and one has no standing without the other.


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