Kant and MacIntyre: What determines morality?

Essay by vinni119 January 2004

download word file, 8 pages 3.7

Downloaded 153 times

Can one be moral by merely attempting to be moral? Or must one adhere to strict moral laws at all times in order to be truly moral? Two philosophies on this issue come from Immanuel Kant's writings in "Good Will, Duty, and the Categorical Imperative" and Alasdair MacIntyre's writings in "Tradition and the Virtues". The Kantian approach to morals is one of law. He states:

The pre-eminent good which we call moral can therefore consist in nothing else then the conception of law in itself, which certainly is not only possible in a rational being, in so far as this conception, and not the expected effect, determines the will (Kant 167).

There are undeniable rules of morality that dictate our actions. To be moral, these laws must be followed always, and not based on the consequences, but on the soul fact of whether or not it can be applicable to all.

MacIntyre's works, on the other hand, talk of duty and obligations based on history and roles. It is from the histories and social obligations that a person's morality is shaped. It is the mere attempt to be moral that brings someone to the greater good in life, and it thus makes them a moral being. Both philosophers are convincing in their arguments: Kant's idea of universal laws and MacIntyre's idea "of quest for the good" are both appealing arguments (324). But even so, Kant's theory of universal laws also is not without flaws.

According to Kant, moral worth is one of the most important characteristics that a person can possess. It is not merely enough to be intelligent, wise, caring, giving or anything else which traditionally defines someone as "good", instead one must "do right out of principle" (Kant 165). Kant believes that it is not simply enough...