Friday, August 23, 2019

Immanuel Kant's critique of happiness as an ethical principle Term Paper

Immanuel Kant's critique of happiness as an ethical principle - Term Paper Example Immanuel Kant's critique of happiness as an ethical principle In his deontological theory, which is based on duty, he emphasized on the pre-eminence of reason that lead to the actions. He indicates that it is a person’s duty to act morally by obeying the moral law. He mentions, â€Å"Everyone must admit that if a law is to have a moral force, that is, to be a basis of an obligation, it must carry with it absolute necessity† (Kant, 1785, p.51) ii. Kant defines duty as practical and unconditional necessity of action which holds true for all rational beings. (Kant, 1785, p. 26) Kant describes happiness as a natural purpose of life. He quotes, â€Å"All rational beings that are dependent; and thus one purpose that they not only can have but that we can assume they all do have as a matter of natural necessity. This purpose is happiness† (Kant, 1785, p. 20). Kant, however, finds happiness as an ambiguous feeling. He says, â€Å"The concept of happiness is so indefinite that, although each person wishes to attain it, he can never give a definite and self-consistent account of what it is that he wishes and wills under the heading of wanting happiness† (Kant, 1785, p. 21). A person’s perception of happiness is dependent on his experiences in life. A person might feel that wealth will give him happiness; someone else may want knowledge while those who feel that life itself gives pleasure may wish to have long life. However, they may not know with wealth comes anxiety in them and envy and maneuverings of others; which make the person unhappy. Knowledge may show a person the dreadfulness of evils which he was ignorant of and hence scare him. Long life accompanied with continuous illness is a burden more than a boon. Hence they may not feel as happy as the imagined on their achievement. Additionally, if a person pursues happiness, he can only get bits and pieces of advice which may be frugality, diet, restraints etc. and not detailed guiding principles as we have in case of moral laws. To explain the path of actual happiness, Kant (1785) mentions, â€Å"the completed idea of happiness requires the thought of an absolute whole—the thought of a maximum of well-being in my present and in every future condition† (p. 21). Kant (1785) adds, â€Å"There couldn’t be an imperative that in the strict sense commanded us to do what makes for happiness, because happiness is an ideal not of reason but of imagination, depending only on empirical grounds. (p. 22). Thus, a person will achieve what he imagines as happiness, depends on several factors that can impact his future states and that there is not even remote possibility that he will take up a single action that can deviate him from his mission of complete happiness. In any scenario, it is not possible for a human being to have the kind of foresight and capability to plan and achieve his sources of happiness in such a manner. Hence he can never be happy as understood in a common man’s language. Kant has expla ined that an action based on impulse to satisfy one’s feelings cannot always be right. Such an action that is motivated by some sort of inclination can never be based on moral laws. Also, what makes a person happy can be cause of other person’s unhappiness. It cannot be ethical to make another human being unhappy. Thus Kant has explained the meaning of happiness in a manner that it does not play any role in the ethical system. Alternatively he has chosen to define happiness as the end purpose of any human being’s life and not an ethic. He says: Humanity might survive even if

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