Immanuel Kant – Deontological Ethics
Analyse Immanuel Kant’s concept of deontological ethics in the Indian Context.
- Introduction- Deontological ethics
- Brief note on Immanuel Kant and his theory- Features. Give Indian examples
- Critical evaluation
Immanuel Kant's theory of ethics is considered deontological for several different reasons. First, Kant argues that in order to act in the morally right way, people must act from duty. Second, Kant argued that it was not the consequences of actions that make them right or wrong, but the motives of the person who carries out the action.
Kant's first argument begins with the premise that the highest good must be both good in itself and good without qualification. Something is "good in itself" when it is intrinsically good; and is "good without qualification" when the addition of that thing never makes a situation ethically worse.
- Kant then argues that those things that are usually thought to be good, such as intelligence, perseverance, and pleasure, fail to be either intrinsically good or good without qualification. Pleasure, for example, appears not to be good without qualification, because when people take pleasure in watching someone suffer, this seems to make the situation ethically worse.
In the Deontological approach, focus is on the duties and obligations in a given situation, and consider what ethical obligations one has and what things one should never do. Ethical conduct is defined by doing one’s duties and doing the right thing, and the goal is performing the correct action.
- Immanuel Kant, proposed a moral law called “categorical imperative” stating that morality is derived from rationality. According to Kant there are “categorical imperatives” which are in nature of absolute commands and need to be obeyed without exception for action to be judged as ethical.
- According to Kant, ethics based on the consequences are based up on hypothetical imperative and do not have moral sanction. The lack of absoluteness in consequential approach makes them a matter of desire. For instance, where a Public Servant has to take a decision where among stakeholders, one’s gain is others loss e.g. in situation of land acquisition for setting up factory, farmers livelihood is lost but at the same time there will be job creation for Youths. In such a situation Consequential approach becomes a matter of preference for Public Servant with no objective guide to arrive at moral action.
- This framework has the advantage of creating a system of rules that has consistent expectations of all people. If an action is ethically required, it would apply to every person in a given situation. Thus, speaking truth in all situations is categorical imperative which is applicable universally.
- This approach is helpful in resolving dilemmas a civil servant may face during performance of duty where a course of action may resolve a genuine problem by going against established procedure. The categorical imperative of giving precedence to duty helps in resolving such dilemmas.
- This notion of finding a universal moral standard has been criticised by philosophers who argue that because of cultural differences in societies, arriving at absolute standards of morality is not possible.
- This approach can introduce impersonality by eliminating all the emotions for example empathy, which in certain situation can allow an individual to perform better in terms of ethics e.g. in achieving common good.
- This approach may require actions which are known to produce harms, even though they are strictly in keeping with a particular moral rule. For example, in situations like Second World War, where German bureaucrats may justify their actions as result of duty or obligations cast up on them.
- It also does not provide a way to determine which duty we should follow if we are presented with a situation in which two or more duties conflict.
- It can also be rigid in applying the notion of duty to everyone regardless of personal situation
There are multiple approaches to ethics. Judging human behaviour on the basis of a single absolute imperative is likely to produce undesirable situation. The moral standard should be contextual or absolute depending upon the specificity of case.