Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals
One of the most essential contributions of Kant in the body of philosophy was his idea of moral philosophy that involved the argument of a priori as the basis of morality. A Priori distinguishes the respective philosophical significance and application of deductive and inductive reasoning. Meanwhile, in the economic perspective, a priori is defined as the procedure in arguing the self-evident truth. Kant’s epistemological ideas and metaphysical concepts had defined his arguments portrayed in his book entitled, The Metaphysics of Morals. The main emphasis of Emmanuel Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals was to produce his claims – the morality of an action is not determined by its consequences, only by intentions behind it – plausible by founding what he considered, “the supreme principle of morality”, which was his idea of categorical imperative. Kant had somehow written the book in order to illustrate a short prelude to his more complicated and specifically detailed approach on moral philosophy. In fact, Kant’s work had become a succinct statement of a duty-oriented or deontological morality theory. Kant’s moral philosophy presented in the book was divided into four different perspectives, categorical imperative, sense of duty, maxim, and autonomy and freedom, which were discussed in this overall review.
The concept of categorical imperative is considered as the main emphasis of Kant’s moral philosophy. In addition, Kant also acknowledges the contribution of the deontological ethics in his idea of morality. The view of Kant towards Man’s creation is supposed to be intertwined with the concept of morality. As far as Kant’s perspective, morality is assumed as an ultimate commandment of rationale or logic – an imperative – wherein all duties and responsibilities are being derived. Kant utilizes the word imperative in order to give the idea of imperative as any propositions that consider a particular action or inaction as something essential or necessary.
“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law (Kant, 1785 p.30).”
A categorical imperative proposes a command, such as keep your promises wherein it applies unconditionally. The categorical imperative of Kant requires an absolute and unconditional command that provide authority in all causalities that are defended as an end in it. Categorical imperatives are viewed by Kant as a more appropriate moral reasoning, than the hypothetical rationalization being done during his time. Hence, Kant proposes the alternative of categorical imperatives and incorporated it in the deontological systems of morality. Kant holds that to conceive a categorical imperative is to know what it enjoins, but that to conceive a hypothetical imperative is not to know what it enjoins (Kant, 1785 p.420). Furthermore, categorical imperatives differ from hypothetical in terms of end particularity wherein categorical imperatives need to be applied independently on a particular desire that should arrive on a particular end.
Sense of Duty
The concept of Kant’s morality depends to the deontological perspective of performing a task based on intentions and not merely because of a requirement. For if any action is to be considered morally gratifying, it is not enough to give full consideration on the action’s conformity towards the moral law, but rather, the most important thing according to Kant’s deontological precept is to act morally for the sake of the moral law itself. As for Kant, the most appropriate motive for moral action is nothing but by attaining the sense of duty. In his argument, his perspective implies to mention that some individuals’ activities follow their moral obligations; however, in consideration of intent, people in his very nature conform for the sake of self-benefit. Conformity is only viewed as a contingency and precarious, since the immoral grounds at work can also produce actions that accord with the law, but most of the time encounter transgression. Acting from a motive of duty is performing simply due to the understanding that this is the most acceptable act to perform, not from any other motive. Kant introduces his first formulation under the subject of perfect and imperfect duty. According to him, a moral maxim must possess universality wherein it needs to detach from the specific physical information surrounding the proposals, and is still applicable to any rational being. On the other hand, Kant also gives rise to his argument of the second formulation wherein Kant mentions the moral value of performing an act out of free will and rational action.
“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end (Kant, 1785 p.30).”
The second formulation also covers the aspects of perfect and imperfect duty. Perfect duty does not utilize others as means to an end, while the imperfect duty advances the end to ourselves and others as well. Lastly, Kant also introduced his third formulation wherein covers the hypothetical Kingdom of Ends. In his argument, he mentions that the human civilization should consider the dual places of being a member and a head within their identities. Similar to the other two formulations, he also utilized the concept of imperfect and perfect duty to sum-up his third formulation.
“Therefore, every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxim always a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends (Kant, 1785 p.30).”
According to Kant, the presence of maxims should synchronize with the kingdom of ends in order to form the right harmony. Perfect duty arises when someone refuses to act by maxims in situations wherein incoherence to state affairs occur when attempting to universalize them. Meanwhile, imperfect duty occurs when one considers the refusal of acting by maxim when instability or undesirability in state of affairs occurs.
Maxims are the basic foundation utilized by Kant in order to establish his rational, a priori, basis of morality. From the moral functional perspective, maxim is defined as the subjective rule that aids an individual in decision-making. It becomes the underlying principle that motivates an act and eventually figures out its moral worth, but exempting the end result. According to Kant, behaviors are most commonly produced or conceptualized by differing or possibly associating maxims. In addition, a certain single act can also be formed or guided by different maxims. In one example, the decision of an individual in telling the truth using the maxim, “always tell the truth”, can be considered a morally based action. However, using a different maxim can invert the entire motive of actions such when the maxim, “always tell the truth unless you are sure you can get away with a lie”, can appear to be morally compromise. Kant utilizes the principles of maxim as a form of identification of moral value with his concept of categorical imperatives.
Autonomy and Freedom
The ideas of Kant presented in his book somehow answers the inquiries of the most common morality inquiries, such as the purpose of acting moral, the need to be consistent in moral conformity, etc. All of Kant’s perspectives in his book appear to possess strong link with his idea of freedom and autonomy (e.g. third formulation). Considering the very nature of freedom granted to man, it can progress with no-boundaries or with boundaries; however, the end of these argument answers the most moral act to perform. Kant argues that the very emphasis of freedom and morality is the essence and application of boundaries or limits. As for Kant, the stereotype of freedom dominating the minds of society does not actually involve the capacity being able to do anything; rather freedom is an illusion of the enslaving outside influences present in society. Kant explains his idea through the concept of heteronomy wherein an individual believed to be free is actually tied with the outside forces of society. As for Kant, the capacity of being free is not by being immune to moral obligations, but on the contrary, it is to further unify moral autonomy and freedom.
The idea of Emmanuel Kant in his book, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, involves the deontological principles of moral ethics. The metaphysic of morals had been considered to be an indispensably necessary, not mainly to assess or scrutinize, from motives of assumption, the source of practical principles that presented a priori in reason, but rather morals remain exposed to corruption of all sorts as long as the guiding thread is absent. Kant considers the components of categorical imperative, duty, maxims, and autonomy and freedom in explaining his morality principles.