‘Kantian Ethics are helpful for moral decision-making in every kind of context.’ Discuss.
· Sebastian Kelly, Holiday Work
To begin, I believe that Kantian Ethics has more weaknesses than it does strengths when making moral decisions. Whilst treating humans as ends in themselves is a positive notion and encourages the abolition of slavery, I believe that in some circumstances humans have to be treated as means to an end for the majority to benefit. As such, I also find Kant’s theory to be somewhat inflexible when dealing with more complex moral decisions and also find it to be limited by the conflict of duties when attempting to resolve such decisions.
Firstly, Kant’s theory advocates moral absolutes which we ought to follow, which can be worked out by reason. These are known as categorical imperatives. Therefore, in order to decide whether an action is ultimately right or wrong you would first need to universalize the maxim. For example, Thomas Hyde suffered from ALS, a disease that rendered his body inactive yet left his mind functioning. He requested from Dr. Jack Kevorkian that he be helped to die. If we were to subsequently universalize the maxim ‘anyone with ALS should be helped to die’ we immediately encounter a contradiction of the will. Kant would argue that we wouldn’t want to live in a society where people were killed because they were disabled. This in my opinion, is a major weakness of Kantian Ethics as Thomas Hyde, despite his request, is left to suffer against his will. However, this is subjective as someone like Thomas Hyde may argue that he would want to live in such a society as he would not want to carry on living with such a condition. Therefore, this subjectivity of Kantian Ethics leaves it vulnerable to personal opinion, which is perhaps the very notion Kant tried to avoid instead likening himself to a reason based approach.
Furthermore, another statement of the Categorical Imperative claims that we should act in such a way that our maxims become in themselves, universal laws of nature. I find this to be more useful when making moral decisions. If it was to be the case that all those suffering from ALS simply died then we would be deprived of Stephen Hawking’s brilliance, among many others. I would argue that Thomas Hyde would certainly not have wanted to condemn every sufferer of ALS to simply die as he was only requesting it for his own personal circumstances. This brings to question a further weakness of Kantian Ethics – its inability to consider individual circumstances....