People often ask themselves what is moral and what is not. They think that laws simplify this process by showing what is ethical and what is not, but it is not always so. Sometimes the laws go separately from ethical principles, and it is very hard for people to choose what they really believe in. Because of these differences people always have to make choices whether to stick to their morals or to blindly follow the laws. This can be a problem sometimes because it is quite complicated to make such choices, but it is something that people had to deal with many centuries ago. This is the main idea which should be brought to the discussion while analyzing the work of German philosopher Immanuel Kant.
Kant wanted to answer these questions and to simplify difficult choices for people. He created a term “categorical imperative”, which was an absolute rule and principle of morals. In his work “Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals” he spoke about many moral laws which are being used by people (Kant, 2009). Kant noted that the consequence was not as important as a motive behind each action; this was what determined whether the principle was moral or no. People evaluate why they are doing what they do, and if it has a noble goal, than there is nothing wrong with such actions. On the other hand, if the motive is unjust, then nothing can justify its consequences in the end.
The work “Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals” emphasizes specifically on the differences and similarities of physical and moral laws. Kant stated that both of these laws had similar principals in their basis (Kant, 2009). For example, they both are universal, necessary and a priori, which means there is no need to have an experience to implement them. On the other hand, moral laws are the ones which tell people things that should be done. He also stated that even if people did not perform moral laws before, they would still be able to distinguish them from immoral as something worthy and noble. Kant stated in his work, “For the metaphysic of morals has to examine the idea and the principles of a possible pure will, and not the acts and conditions of human volition generally, which for the most part are drawn from psychology” (Kant, 2009). In this case it is clearly visible that Kant believed in the idea of existence of certain pure will, which consists of people’s best characteristics. This is similar to his categorical imperative principle, where he believed in existence of universal moral law. This is where the real discussion should start because many people can ask whether such things are even possible. Is it realistic to believe that there is one perfect law, which can be used anywhere by anybody, and may be applied to all of the cases? The same is about pure will. It is something that Kant believed to exist, but there is no logical explanation of it. Of course, not all things can be explained with logic, but Kant himself was strong supporter of this matter.
Another thing, which should definitely be considered, is Kant’s ideas about motives behind actions. In his opinion, motives are the ones, which are the most important. The critical analysis of Kant’s ideas shows that the consequences do not determine anything as long as the motives are moral. Of course, it would be great if all of the actions had positive results just because their motives were ethical; but in the real world it is not always so. According to Kant, bad consequences would only mean that the motives were not moral enough, but how can ordinary people determine the needed amount of morality, which should be put into each action? This is why Kant’s views on morals seem to be too idealistic and off the real world. His work and ideas presented in the work do not relate to all the people. It looks like Kant was writing his work for a specific group of people, without having the rest of the people in mind. Of course, he could have been right taking into consideration the time his work was written; but because of this his work faces a lot of criticism nowadays.
Kant wrote that the main goal of his work was to critically examine pure practical Reason; and that he was doing it so he would not have to return to it and write about it again in his next works. Kant stated that he believed these ideas could be written down in such a way that anybody would understand them (Kant, 2009). He wrote, “…since a metaphysic of morals, in spite of the discouraging title, is yet capable of being presented in popular form…” (Kant, 2009). On the other hand, modern reader may disagree stating that Kant’s vision of a popular form of presentation is quite different from today’s expectation.
As a conclusion, Kant stated that his work focused on establishing the supreme principle of morality (Kant, 2009). As it was mentioned in the beginning of the paper, it is not always easy to find this principle; it is also not always possible to balance morality and laws because they do not always match. This is why some of Kant’s ideas can be challenged and discussed. Nevertheless, he still remains one of the greatest philosophers of the time.
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