Immanuel Kant’s Argument that Ethics is Based on Reason Essay

September 10, 2022 by Essay Writer

Immanuel Kant argues that ethics is based on reason. I find Kant’s argument to be very convincing. In this essay, I will first summarize the argument. I will discuss an objection that one can possibly raise. I will reveal a serious hidden flaw in the objection. Finally, I will consider a possible rejoinder to my criticism and explain why it also fails.

To the best of my knowledge, the most powerful argument that Kant makes for rationality states as follows: 1. If every person makes false promises in order to get out of their problems, then all people will not trust each other’s promises.2. If all people do not trust each other’s promises, no one will get out of his or her difficulties by making false promises.3. Therefore, if every person makes false promises in order to get out of their difficulties, no one can get out of his or her difficulties by making false promises.

In the argument, Kant’s propositions would be valid given that all the premises were true. Kant states that, for an action to be morally good, it does not necessarily have to conform to moral law but rationality. It should however be done for the sake of law. His first premise postulates that rationality is the only virtue that can be conceived as right without justification. People should not make false promises as they may not be trusted.

Kant therefore explains that if all people made false promises, then, no one would trust and help each other. His argument postulates that the virtue of reason is important in enhancing all other virtues.

Others virtues like courage, talents and temperament may fail to be right. Kant advances the notion that fortunes such as riches, health and honor arouse pride and false presumptions. Without the reason to correct their influences on the mind, nothing would ever be right.

Good that is normally done for the attainment of a desired end does not render it acceptable. Reason is simply acceptable in its own right. The two arguments seem to concur that morals are enshrined in reason as far as the will is determined. It would therefore be right to deduce that if reason would be judged while disregarding its expected effects, conformity to law would generally be served by reason as its principle. I would have a good basis to agree with Kant that ethics is based on reason.

I think this argument would also be reasonable. Some people might regard the goodwill premise as problematic. They might even argue that it is false. For instance, they might ask, “Why do right if it is not doing good to yourself?” and, “Why consider the effects of your actions on others?” Sometimes, doing good means you have to reap a lot from it as a person.

It is even hard to determine whether what you have done is lawfully good or just good without reason. Plausible as the objection sounds, it cannot stand a careful analysis. Doing good does not necessitate conditions or purpose to be attained afterwards. We do the right thing because at the end, it benefits us.

We do the right thing out of will and would expect the same from others. It tends to be objective and at the same time subjective. Another fact worth being considered is the sense of duty and self principle of prudence (Richard, 45). Failure to observe your duty is by any means immoral.

We may decide to ignore our prudence principles. Failure of duty poses serious consequences on others. Being prudent can, at some point, be unfavorable to you. The care of duty therefore counters this objection. Individualism is eliminated and instead, a sense of duty is incorporated.

Following moral laws itself is not enough. There must be good will in you in order to do what is right. We also expect the same good will to be applied to us. We are rational beings and should not misuse each other (Sober,23). Our maxim must be capable of becoming a universal law.

It is not right to do something just to get you out of a bad situation. However, you would find that in some cases, this may not be true. For instance, lying to get yourself out of a pressing situation may at that point sound good to you. If doing this became universally accepted as a law, you would be uncomfortable.

This action would result in harm on other beings. Thus, you owe the rational being a duty of care. It is not really obligatory but one is expected to follow the law. The outcome does not determine what is right (Popkin, 18). It may not result in any harm but it may lack goodness in itself. Doing right is based on the reason rather than its expected affect you and others.

However, it is still possible that my opponents would make the following rejoinder. If doing right is based on reason, why would one care how it impacts on others. Reason may not be measured against the results. Reason may be right but, at the end, achieve an undesirable outcome.

A reason may be good but may not be capable of qualifying as a universal law. Therefore, doing right does not make you responsible to anyone. My reply to the objection above is that the results may be determined by reason. It is unreasonable to weigh the impact of an action without first thinking of reason.

The first thing that should come to your mind is whether it is right to do an act or you should think of the consequences first. The answer to this would be the power of goodwill. It does not require justification. It does not need to be conceived as good. Good will is not good because it attains some anticipated end. It is simply a desirable quality of virtue. It is the goodness in itself.

The superlative good is considered as moral consists only of the notion of the law itself (Blackburn, 34). This fact is possible as long as goodwill is determined by reason. Possessing the virtue of reason is the first and key factor in doing right. The outcome is highly, if not, parallel to reason.

In fact, without reason, any outcome would be good or right by virtue of chance. It would not be certain whether the outcome would dictate the duty of rationality to human kind. You would only hope that what you have done is right. You would not want the same to be done to you since there would not be certainty. Reason therefore precedes results. Reason may be good but may have negative results.

This concept may be fair since doing right does not mean the results must be good to you. It may also have no effect on others. What makes it right is good will. Good will is itself enough to make it right. However, this does not dictate that you ignore the results of your actions. At the back of your mind, you ought to think about the repercussions. In conclusion, ethics is based on reason as long as it is inspired by good will.

Works Cited

Blackburn, Simon. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 1994. Print.

Popkin, Richard. The Columbia History of Western Philosophy. New York, USA: Columbia University Press. 1999. Print.

Richard, Popkin. The History of Scepticism from Savonarola to Bayle. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 2003. Print.

Sober, Elliott. Core Questions in Philosophy: A Text with Readings. New Jersey, USA: Upper Saddle River. 2001. Print.

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