Ethical Philosophy

Essay by AM1954University, Bachelor'sB, February 2013

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The Categorical Falsehood

Ethics is a difficult study to be manipulated into a science, as few sciences wrestle with the difficulty in finding norms that ethics does. However, it is one thing to pursue descriptive ethics by explaining observed human behavior, and another entirely to attempt normative ethics by proposing sweeping generalities that dictate the way people should behave. Kant, through the first formulation of his categorical imperative, makes such an attempt, and in doing so fails to create a desirable scheme for ethical law, instead making ethical decision-making unnecessarily difficult.

When speaking of the first formulation of the categorical imperative, I am referring to the claim by Kant that "the universal imperative of duty can be expressed as follows: Act as though the maxim of your action were to become, through your will, a universal law of nature" (Kant, 24). Within the first formulation, I will focus on the requirement "Act as though the maxim of your action were to become a universal law of nature" rather than the possibility ("through your will") of it being made so.

Furthermore, normative ethics is defined as the study of what is right and wrong, and rules which govern the difference.

It is my belief that Kant creates a scheme for ethical law which rejects progress and reason. As his first example, Kant asserts that because suicide implies that life affirmation "led to the destruction of life itself," life contradicts itself and could not exist in the first place (Kant, 24). This demands that all actions be justifiable on their own terms, with no consideration given to the results of such actions, or the circumstances which justify the action.

Ethics demands consideration of the ends which an action achieves. Consider the inventor of the automobile who imagines a new and revolutionary product...