Morality according to Kant
I don’t usually read textbooks that I don’t need to. But a few weeks ago I picked up my sister’s English book and sifted through the material trying to see if any of the excerpts there interested me. Well lo and behold I come across an excerpt from Immanuel Kant a.k.a the famous German philosopher who thought it was absurd to deny the afterlife. (*wink) Well you can obviously see why he is one of my favorites. See, Kant is one of the few philosophers that did not discount any conclusion. Modern academics in the ivory towers of the ivy leagues would laugh in your face if theology was brought into the discussion. Kant believed in God, yes, was he a good Christian or a Muslim? No, in fact he was none of these. But let’s put this aside and get back to the piece I was reading. A famous portion of Kant’s work was about the philosophy of morality-what makes us moral and how can we define morality. Unsurprisingly, Kant a belief in a higher moral authority I.e God or what have you was necessary to promote “the ideal of supreme good” without which we can not begin to explain why something is right or something is wrong. Kant also had another interesting idea which I was reading about from my sisters English textbook.
He defined morality in a curious way. Basically, an action is moral if that action, applied as a world view, does not contradict itself. Note however, he is not saying if something “should” be done or what is “best” to do for a particular situation. The theory only seeks to define what is morally right or wrong. So one of the first examples he gives is suicide. If a person is taken to the point to which he/she can no longer bear the burden of living, he/she contemplates suicide. To apply Kant’s philosophy to determine whether suicide is morally right or wrong, the thought process goes something like this: I want to kill myself because the burden of living is too much. It is better to take a gun and end the pain. But, what if every single person in the world thought this way? What if everybody who was going though a hard time (which is basically every human being on earth at one point in their lives or another) decided that death is better than living? We can obviously see how this scenario is self contradicting, it does not work as a world view. If the President of the United States under great pressure, just rather commit suicide than take responsibility and try to better things, then what would happen? What if a mother over worked by her mischievous children decides to just end it? What of a father who is underpaid and grilled at work? That might as well destroy the human race and hinder all progress.
Of course I have my own moral philosophy and this is natural as I am a Muslim and believe God determines good and bad, right from wrong. But Kant’s theory is where I think the religious and the scientific cross paths. It seems whatever God deemed wrong would naturally fail if applied as a world view. Take stealing for example. If all human beings felt like taking whatever they want from whomever, would we even have a thing called society? I don’t know about you but Kant’s moral philosophy (and of course there is much more to it than this) is pretty interesting. It doesn’t work 100% of the time but hey, what social theory does?