Theory of Ethics

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Ethical Theory of Kant


Kant began his career as an astronomer and later delved into moral philosophy. Kant set out to determine existence of a moral law by which all people must live, and abide by. For Kant such a law had to be both universal and categorical and must be "completely a priori in reason".


Kant begins by defining reason. He argues that rational, thinking beings are provided with the faculty of reason and reason is meant to serve as a guide for the will. According to him, reason is meant to guide, in the creation of the good will, a will which can ascertain through a priori reasoning the laws of morality.

A priori reasoning creates judgments that are based upon reason alone, independent of all sensory experience, and therefore apply with strict universality. A priori judgments are traditionally analytic in nature. Kant proposes a radically different form of judgment - synthetic a priori.

Synthetic judgments are those whose predicates are distinct from their subjects, and can therefore provide new knowledge about the subject. Kant feels that in some fields, namely arithmetic, geometry and metaphysics, synthetic judgments can also be a priori, meaning that they rely on no external experience.


Kant then goes on to dwell on intuitive, self-evident condition of a moral law, or duty. He proposes that rational beings may have many duties, both perfect and imperfect, and internal and external. Kant has created a law that is universal on two fronts; it is applicable to all persons and in all situations. With this Categorical Imperative, Kant has given us the pure, rational form of moral law. All other moral laws must be derived from this synthetic a priori foundation.

The inherent worth of the pure, rational form of law lies in its...