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Immanuel Kant believed that morality is doing the right thing just because you know it’s the right thing. His theory contradicts other theories of thought such as utilitarianism. Utilitarians argue that the most moral action is one that fashions the greatest amount of good or happiness for the greatest number of people. This theory concentrates on the consequences of one’s actions rather than the intention. Kantian ethics, however, is fixated on the notion of duty and acting on that duty because it is simply the right thing to do. The core of Kantian thought is acting with the motive of duty rather than acting on desires, wants, or self-interests. In addition, Kantian ethics is centered on the idea of not treating others are a mere means to an end. This categorical imperative must also be applicable to all rational agents as a ‘universal moral law’. For a rule or duty to apply, all persons must be able to participate in the behavior.

However, Kant’s views on morality and doing the right thing are rigorous and impractical in nature, as they do not enable any exceptions. Kant argues that certain actions – such as lying, cheating, and stealing – are inherently immoral in principle. One general example of this would be to steal the plans of a terrorist group and alert proper individuals to stop the group from committing catastrophic deeds. Kant would argue that this is a morally wrong action because the motive of the action was to steal and treat terrorists as a mere means to an end. Examples can be made for the shopkeeper as well. For instance, if one of the customers was extremely poor and the shopkeeper decided to tell him that his product was already paid for by someone else so he wouldn’t receive any credit or praise, Kant would still say this action is morally unworthy. The stringent and narrow stance that Kant orates lacks the true essence of human nature. Although outcomes are not the only determinant for evaluating a moral action, consequences remain relevant in principle.

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Kant would also have taken into serious consideration situations when two duties conflict with each other. Doing the right thing just because you know it’s the right thing and acting on the motive of duty does not give a clear position when two duties conflict with each other. For instance, what does one do when a situation arises where the duty to not break a promise comes to a crossroads with the duty not to lie? In Kantian ethics, all duties are absolute and, thus, do not give resolutions to conflicts of duty.

Another point Kant would have to take into consideration is the notion of being a shopkeeper, or business person, in itself. Businesses that pay employees to run their stores are treating those employees as mere means to an end. Owners of businesses pay people to get work done for them in an effort to receive profit in return. The employees, then, are treated that way in return for a profit – an end. This has strong implications for society as a whole. Paying people to pick up trash, having lawyers represent individuals in court, and officers to protect the streets would all be considered to treat people as a mere means to an end. This idea undermines the modern society of money and jobs.

Ultimately, rigid ethical structures that contain particular decision procedures tend to be impractical in certain situations. Kant’s belief that morality is doing the right thing just because you know it’s the right thing is too simplistic and encompasses too many exceptions to fully work. Kant has several objections to take into serious consideration for theory on morality.

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Immanuel Kant’s Beliefs about Doing the Right Thing: Critical Essay.
(2023, December 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 18, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/immanuel-kants-beliefs-about-doing-the-right-thing-critical-essay/

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