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Friday, April 2, 2010

Principles of Morality: An Essay

Humans must not treat each other merely as a means to satisfy an end. Human beings are objects of dignity and not a mere machine, thus deserving respect to and from each other and respect to the law as well. Respect, although a human feeling, is a self-wrought rational concept and, thus, free of influences. This is the true essence of ethics that is supposed to exist among human beings. However, as Kant implied in his Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals this is not always the case, that humans behave to each other in pursuance of freedom, human rights, violence, peace and anything attributing to his own well-being as well as to the well-being of others and the community in general. Kant has acknowledged in his arguments that aside from respect and duty, human acts accordingly based on his inclinations and, or worse, out of fear. However, it was emphasized that with obedience to law the actions would be in conformity to that law and would become a binding principle among humans.

Respect is properly the conception of a worth which thwarts my self-love. Accordingly it is something which is considered neither as an object of inclination nor of fear, although it has something analogous to both. The object of respect is the law only, and that the law which we impose on ourselves and yet recognise as necessary in itself. (Kant)

Humans need guidance to be enlightened and eventually be free and at the same time, need a universal law to exist among them for their own sake. This law would be the imposing object of humans to themselves as a result of their will. This include the common day-to-day congenial acts of humanity such as honesty, faithfulness, respect for each other, trustworthiness, non-imprisonment of innocent individuals and be like the example that was in Kant’s Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, keeping ones promises.

Why is it a wrong deed for A if she took the hand of B forcing the latter to shoot C? This case would be an act of deception and coercion and obviously a crime, in which case, against the universal law. A have “bypassed”(Hare 13) the agency of B as A used B as the shooting medium. It is also a deception when A impede the rational choice and free will of B to make the decision and the action. This is a violation of the universal law and it is a treatment of humans, in this case B, as without dignity but only used as a means to achieve an end, the shooting of C.

As the source of guidance to the acts, duties and obligations of humans, morality is very important. In fact, as Kant have argued, “it is only a pure philosophy that we can look for the moral law in its purity and genuineness.” This means that even morality itself may have something of its own immoralities within: a hidden motive. To someone of a morally good, or a virtuous, character that someone should perform an act without looking at the effect of that certain action or, without deriving the motive of that act from its possible effect. A virtuous character “wants” or “wills” (or what Kant calls the “principle of volition”) the performance of an act for the act itself and not from the expected results or a return that can be gained from doing such acts. As Kant have put it:

“an action done from duty derives its moral worth, not from the purpose which is to be attained by it, but from the maxim by which it is determined”

Moreover, the virtuous person thus acts in accordance to the “autonomy”, that would be an act of the holy will, which can be viewed as “absolutely good” according to Kant. The autonomy causes the Will of the action a “law to itself”. This is because the Autonomy of the Will is the supreme principle of morality which makes a rational being of freedom efficient and independent upon his choices and actions, as opposed to an irrational being who is fragile to influences of the external environment. However, if the will is only based on necessity of morality, this would become an obligation, and the action resulting from it is called duty. This makes autonomy as one of the important limitations of morality: “part of the dignity of life is choosing one's own path through it. Given those limits, there can be principles so demanding that compliance simply will not be forthcoming.” (Griffin 127)

Human actions have imperatives and are governed by the Ought. Acknowledging its obligations is a way for humans to be within the world with sense and understanding. However, this conception of obligation is not easily accepted or might be challenged by humans due to immaturity, ignorance or fanaticism. Humans are supposed to be rational beings that belong to an intelligible world, conscious and responsible for its actions. It is, however, very evident that humans act in the contrary and as Kant has argued, “can never conceive the causality of his own will otherwise than on condition of the idea of freedom.” This might be attributed to immaturity which not an outside force to him but something that he has self-incurred. This is the lack of courage and resolution from the side of humans to use his “own understanding without the guidance of others.” (Kant) Immaturity would hinder the purpose of morality laws that have an ultimate principle conceived to guide humans in every possible circumstances in life. Without recognizing their respective obligations, humans would be living in darkness, without a well defined function in life. This would hinder the attainment of human freedom, his free will. In Kant’s An Answer to the Question: "What is Enlightenment?" he has emphasized the value of freedom that can only be attained by an enlightened humanity. Without recognition of the obligations, there would be no duty. Without duty means without worth of morality for human actions.

Works Cited
Griffin, James. Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement, and Moral Importance. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986. Questia. 5 May 2008 .

Hare, John E. The Moral Gap : Kantian Ethics, Human Limits, and God's Assistance /. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Questia. 5 May 2008 .

Fully explain what are the real relations that appear among us when ethics, as a pursuit of individual and community well-being, is considered in terms of freedom, human rights, and the principle of non-violence? In this same light, what are the necessary conditions of virtuous human character and the moral obligations character implies toward ourselves and to others? Describe that character and its relation to Kant’s principle of the Autonomous Will. What, if anything, is lost when those obligations are not recognized and challenged by either immaturity, superstitious ignorance, or fanaticism?

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