In his Critique of Pure Reason ( 1781) Kant distinguished between things a. we experience them (phenomena) and things as the are in themselves (noumena). In the world of e e phenomena everything is totally determined simply because our minds seek reasons every thing that happens. We impose causality upon our experience, it is the only way I which we can make sense out of it. Kant holds that we can be both phenomenally conditioned and noumenally free. According to Kant one should act as if there were a God even if God cannot be proved . One acts to fulfil one’s own moral imperative as though God had commanded it without attachment to the result of action. Acting morally has become an end in itself. If a person beliefs in God behaving morally could be seen as a way to achieve by gaining His approval. On the other hand Kant wants moral,development to be free from all considerations of consequences
Kant’s ethics start with the experience of moral choice. It is therefore an exercise of the will. To behave in a kindly way in dealing with others is to express a goodwill towards them. For Kant it is the will that is the agent of creating value and of illustrating the pure practical reason.” The Doctrine of Virtue” Kant follows Aristotle in seeing virtue as human excellence. What counts for a person to do his or her duty is not mere obedience,but a goodwill. Having a goodwill is an attitude rather than simply a way a way of behaving. What we do is merely working and of our virtues. In choosing to act morally Oneida exercising an inner freedom in following a sense of purpose.
Kant sees self development of virtues as its own reward and ethics,action springing from the pure practical reason,is the sole means of bringing this about. The intention of one’s morality is to set aside all ego‐cent redness and move towards an unconditional and universal sympathy. Although he acknowledge evil Kant does not see it as a separate power influencing one’s choices or frustrating the working out of the good. Rather he sees as a muting or failure to acknowledge and respond to the moral law. Due to our conditioning or circumstances we may be dominated by ego‐centredness,and this means that our moral choices will fail the test of the categorical imperative since they will be based on self‐ interest.
Absolute or relative
Moral choices can be related to the society and particularly to the established values of the society which they are made. All ethical theories based on contract carry with them the values of those who enter the contract .Axiological,ethics is specifically the study of values underlie moral choice. A key question for ethics is whether all moral issues are culturally conditioned and actions judged right or wrong with reference to the underlying values or whether there is some way of getting beneath the cultural diversity and touching some absolute standard. It this of course that Kant has attempted to do with the concept of the categorical imperative. It focuses on the sense of moral obligation without reference to to the consequences of an action nor yet to the social or cultural matrix of values within which it is experienced.
Just as within his theory of knowledge Kant saw the mind as having an active role determining how we are to understand sense perceptions so in the are of morality in the mind is active in pursuit of its highest goals and only in the light of these does it evaluate sense perceptions in terms of the expected results of action.
In the end Kant’s ethical theory comes down to individual integrity. What counts morally is that one should be able to justify what one does rationally and universalise the maxim that lies behind it.
But does that provides with an absolute set of moral values or one that is relative to its cultural setting? The answer could seem to be that for each individual the moral demand is absolute in that it is not depended upon an assessment of facts or predicted consequences. But since no two people is will have exactly the same “goodwill” will experience moral demands differently it means that,in practise, there will be aside variety of actual ethical practice. Viewed from the outside there will be variety ; viewed from the perspective of the moral subject all may be applying the same principles.In the end morality depends on values and it was Kant who recognised that values are something we impose on experience, not something we can discover within experience.
The for Kant is ‘autonomy’. If the intention is right then one will act on the whims of one’s senses but with autonomy. But the principles of one’s action comes from practical reason alone,they are not imposed on from outside.
It is difficult to overemphasise the importance the importance of Kant for the whole development of ethics from his day through to the twentieth century . With Kant the human reason and stand supreme. Man takes his rational stand and no longer looks outside himself for outside himself for external guarantors of moral rectitude. GOD BECOMES A POSTULATE OF PURE PRACTICAL REASON PART OF THE STRUCTURE WITHIN WHICH THE MIND WORKS.It is a short step from this point to start to see the whole of moral as something that is to be created by the human will and imposed on the external world or even philosophy in which human meaning and purpose plays the central role. As we look at Nietzsche and later at existentialism we are examining philosophical ideas which look back to the contribution of Kant. His was a Copernican revolution indeed,from the on values are seen generated by man,not encountered by him.
Kant wanted reason to prevail over the ambiguities of inclination and experience. He therefore sought a moral,principle that would be universally applicable. It was to be a principle based on theoretical reasoning but on pure practical reason which is our rational will.
He saw morality as involved only with those situations where a person acts out of a sense of duty. To do something good simply because one enjoys doing it is not itself moral. Morality is always a matter of conscious choice.
He was therefore concerned with duty for duty’s sake irrespective of the results of carrying it out.
Kant’s categorical imperative states that for one’s action to be morally good one should be able to will that it should become a universal law of nature. In other words a choice is moral only if it can be universalisable without contradiction.
For Kant morality is outside the realm of nature. The good will is concerned about duty for the sake of duty,and it cannot be supported by facts about the world,only by our own experience of a moral challenge.