Viet-Duy PHAM (99563905) “The starry heavens above me; The moral law within me. ” – Kant, Immanuel (1724???1804)- Through ancient times and evolution of history ethics has always been viewed as a center of societies of mankind, embracing practical nature links it with many other areas of study, including anthropology, biology, economics, history, politics, sociology, and theology with the teaching of Western philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, or Asia with the view of Confucius, Lao-tzu or Meng Tzu etc.
Yet, “ethics remains distinct from such disciplines because it is not a matter of factual knowledge in the way that the sciences and other branches of inquiry are. Rather, it has to do with determining the nature of normative theories and applying these sets of principles to practical moral problems” (Singer P, 1985). And through times many question about the practicality of religion ethics and secular ethic, which can be apply to mortal societies.
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Some argue that, there are more similarities than differences when comparing ethics, in this paper will intend to introduce the Kantian ethics teachings and explore the resemblances and differences compare to the teachings of Christian ethics. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, (2008) defines “ethics” as the study and evaluation of human conduct in the light of moral principles, which may be viewed as the individual’s standard of conduct or as a body of social obligations and duties.
Whereas Morals, is dealing with or “capable of distinguishing between right and wrong, of teaching or in accordance with the principles of right and wrong”. The purpose of ethics is to show the difference between rights and wrongs. Kantian ethics is based upon the teachings of the philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724???1804). According to Dr Boeree, C. George (1999), Kant in his “Religion Within the Limits of Reason,”… “argues that man are born with the potential for both good and bad…” and “although there is an inborn moral sense, it must be developed by moral instruction” (Boeree, C.
George, 1999), and in Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant (1785) determining morality by The Categorical Imperative, combine with the concept of “motive” is the most important factor in determining what is ethical, Kant (1785) claim and insist that the only thing that has intrinsic goodness is a “good will”, which is a composite of aft the rational means available within the individual.
Kant (1785) writes, “There is no possibility of thinking of anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be regarded as good without qualification, except a good will” (p. 393) with notion of acknowledged the worth that exists in every human being and insisted that actions resulting from (personal) desires cannot be free and that freedom is to be found only in rational action (Singer P, 1984), and freedom, which is needed by man to choose the absolute good based upon his morality.
Kant (1788) argued in Critique of Practical Reason that a moral action is one that is performed out of a sense of duty and capability of practical reason to answer the question of what makes an action right whilst still taking as the central activity the development of a goodwill, therefore, goodwill of a person is absolute, it performs not for any end, it is simple, and the virtue of willing it is an end in self, i. e. good in itself. As Kant (1788) states “… ood must be an object of desire in the judgement of every rational man, and evil an object of aversion in the eyes of everyone; therefore, in addition to sense, this judgement requires reason… ” (1788) which mean we can know what is right or wrong only through abstract reflection moral rationalism. And motive is the most important factor in Kant’s ethics therefore it is possible for an action to have negative consequences while still being a moral act.
For example, if acting out of because you want society to think highly of you that is not moral act, but act in a sense of duty you because you rationally understand it is universally values of humanistic, even somehow in the process you accidentally fail or made some un-intent errors, your action is still considered a moral one. Through that views one can see that Kantian ethics is centered within reason must be demanded of all rational beings; hence, rational action cannot be based on a single individual’s personal interest, but must be action in accordance with something that can be a universal law.
Goodwill is developed by acting on maxims that can pass the test given by Kant’s principle of morality in the Categorical Imperative, “I should never act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law. ” In other words, in order for your act to be moral, you must be able to universalize the principle you acted upon.
So, if it is right for you, it would be right for everyone to act the same, Kant divides the duties and imposed this formula as the perfect duty, which is not to act by maxims that result in logical contradictions when we attempt to universalize them. Further Kant also imposed the imperfect duty, which is the duty to act only by maxims that we would desire to be universalized, Pecorino (2000) referred that’s an act which should do as possible but can not be expected to do always (Pecorino Philip A, 2000).
For example lying may seen as immoral but if in a situation of life and death of a love-one or national securities which involve many innocents, through and after rationalize balancing factors relative within, one can lies to save the situation with conforms to the preferences of humanity. Since it depends somewhat on the subjective preferences of humankind, this duty is not as strong as a perfect duty, but it is still morally binding. And Kant also states every rational action must set before itself not only a principle, but also an end.
Which lead to Kant derives second formulation of the categorical imperative: “Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or that of another, always as an end and never as a means… ” meaning an act out of goodwill with respects, not act and treat other as a tools or consequences interest benefit, any act in which a person uses another simply for his own pleasure or gain is immoral. Kantian ethics strive for the “highest good” with basis views that ethics can be derived from pure reason — and compelled to accept certain codes of conduct.
Pure reason, or the way of thinking about something that exists, is contrasted with practical reasoning. Kant determined that imperatives are what one should do, which hold true for all and Categorical imperatives are moral. Where Christian Ethics also strive for the “highest good” the “summum bonum”, but with the some differences views that Christian belief that man exists in freedom, each individual as living as having an individual soul which is of inestimable worth and responsibility before God.
Christianity as in Singer, Peter (1985) explain Christian Ethics derived from Judeo-Christian and ethics are through God’s teaching through scriptures bible, as it related to the Christian perspective, Nelson’s Bible Dictionary (2007) states that biblical ethics is “living righteously, doing what is good and refraining from what is evil in accordance with the will of God.
The term refers not to human theories or opinions about what is right or wrong but to God’s revealed truth about these matters” and with perspective such as “God’s people are called to holiness because they are God’s people: “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:45) and in The New Testament this principle “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. “(Matthew 5:48) which shown that wisdom, happiness, consciences of rights and wrong can only be achieved through faith and belief in God and Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Within “Chapter 1: What is Christian Ethics? ” of the book Christian Ethics written by professor Harkness, Georgia (1957) argues “Christian ethics is defined as the systematic study of the way of life set forth by Jesus Christ applied to the daily demands and decisions of human existence…”(Harkness 1957, Chapter 1:1) for the Christian the ultimate standard of ethics is Jesus Christ and His teaching and “… Its main focus will be on Christian action and on the principles, derived from the Christian faith, by which to act.
It is at the point of a multitude of decisions about what to do or what not to do ??? how to do right and how to avoid doing what a Christian ought not to do ??? that the daily strains of living are most acute. Though there can be no exact blueprint by which to settle all these dilemmas, there is light to be had from our gospel… ” (Harkness 1957, Chapter 1:1) Furthermore, Barth Karl (1886 ???1968), a theologian argues “… that man derive their moral worth from the ‘command of God’… ” (as cite in Barre, Elizabeth A. 2004).
Moral goodness is believed to have its source in the perfect goodness of the God, Christian believe is by far the most important of all realities. Secondly, they believe that the God they worship has given humanity moral guidance. As Barth (1886 ???1968) argue that “Man is not in the position to solve the ethical problem by his thought” and “[Yet], it is through the unescapable severity of this doom that we come upon the reality of God. ” (as cited in Barre Elizabeth A. 2004) because Barth thinks that regardless of the sophistication of a moral system, it must also have within it a motivating factor or it will fail.
An ethical system may have the loftiest of goals, but without a motivating factor, it fails as a system. Knowing one’s duty is to love one another, but lacking the desire to do so does not fulfil the demands of the system. People must want to behave in moral ways. And that is through the love of Gods and follows his rule. And Jesus’ commandment to love is the essence of Christian ethics, it stated within “the great commandment in the law,” with first “… You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. ‘ and the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ‘ (Matt. 22:37???40).
With Golden Rule such as “… do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt, 7:12) Further with quotation of Jesus such as ” if any man smite your cheek turn other also…”(Ramsey Paul, et el, 1993) with these teachings, Christian ethics in general has tended to stress the need for grace, mercy, and forgiveness because of human weakness, with the rules of obedience to the divine one. Christian ethics are God-centered, deriving its absolutes from the unchanging nature of God, as revealed in the Bible: New International Version (2008) Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you…”… and… “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35) and other statement such as “… We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:5) meaning, Christians not only have a responsibility to point out and demolish others non-Christian reasoning (which consider up against the knowledge of God), but foremost the goal of Christian ethics is to following His teachings fulfils the Law of God.
Christian ethics are, “The science of human conduct as it is determined by divine conduct” (Sinivirta Mikko, 1997)… the Ten Commandments, for example, are referred to as positive ethical instruction in the New Testament.. “A systematic explanation of the moral example and teaching f Jesus applied to the total life of the individual in society and actualized by the power of the Holy Spirit” … “A systematic study of that sense of oughtness that flows out of one’s relationship with God through Jesus Christ in the context of both biblical revelation and a community of faith involving both being and doing, individually and socially” … (Sinivirta Mikko, 1997) these views simply shown that Christian ethics, believe true meaning of moral ethical within Jesus, whom they accept not just as Christ and Lord but as the incarnation of God the Son.
Many of the Christianity rule of ethics teaching like the Ten Commandments, not only it compatible with Kantian ethics “maxims of universal law”, with intents to treat other as end, not as mean, to which it has some resemblances that both Christian and Kantian needs a basis moral law as maxims to act upon on. And as Morton A (2004) state that “the emphasis on treating people as end not as means, fit well with the Christian conception golden rule of each individual as living as having an individual soul which is of inestimable worth”.
Both have resemblances that moral can not exist without God (Boeree, C. George, 1999), but with Kant the slight different is that he think although man never prove the existence of God we must act as if he existed (Gogan, Aisling, 1992). In others words man recognizes God only after he has first recognized his inner-self duty through practical reasons.
Even though Christian ethics teaching about standard, justice, a motive-dynamic, guidance or a model, a relationship between rules and results, and harmony, these characteristics also found within most cultures views of a good ethical system: but Christian ethics also shown a differences kind of fanatics blindness faith and irrational belief within the notion of that to be obedience to one supreme divine being, it is different to Kantian ethics which help and lead people to understand the sense of moral and evolve with times through rationalization, and once man understand he’ll become respect to the code of that maxim of moral, but if man does not understand the moral values but only act accordance to his faith “because God said so” or “because it written in the Bible”, without analysing it values ‘why and what affect will it moral values be? ‘ Then that is not even acting moral as all, rather it is amorality.
Take example in issues as such euthanasia, abortion, homosexuality etc, clearly Christianity will forbid and judge such as “immoral to God’s will”, but with Kantian ethics moral of practical reason, it created an open-door to fit the situation in sense of morality necessary. An essential problem in Christianity motivated ethics is the apparent tautology inherent in concept that what is commanded by God is morally rights. Which lead to question of scepticism whether something is right because the gods love it, or whether the gods love it because it is right? Since a person act upon God’s wills, out of fanatics or afraid of God’s anger, without practical reasons, then he’s not doing moral at all.
And base on Kant’s views on motive of action rather than the consequences (even if the consequences please to God will), it contradict the rules and wills of divine perfect God in Christian ethics, take example the teaching of faiths and obedience to God words, in the Bible New International Version (2008), Genesis (22:1-24) a story ‘The Binding of Isaac’ which God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, clearly that, asking Abraham to violate God’s own rules the sixth commandment “You shall not murder”, if that happen either ways listen or not listen it is clearly violate Kantian ethics views of treat other as ends, not as means, also it its contradiction the categorical imperative “…to act accordance with a general law-like principle that one could want to govern ever one else” (Morton A, 2004)
As seen there are differences and similarities views on ethics as discussed in this paper but overall there is a clear vision and concept that needs to be used more often in the societies, as research shows that there is a great-rule in both Kantian and Christian ethics. In order to have highest-good in society, ethics will without a doubt be involved. As long as human beings have thought seriously about ethics, reasons has played a vital role. Therefore the need for cooperation, respect and communication between many differences views on ethics to somehow bring together a compromise or even result in respect for each point of view, since “being moral” s not a case of following our tradition blindly. We should be able to justify what we do. References: Barre, Elizabeth A. 2004, Ethics beyond the borders of philosophy: Karl Bath’s theological complement to Kantian Ethics, Seminar Paper for Course on 19th and 20th Century Theology, Florida State University, viewed 22/09/08 Bible: New International Version 2008, Biblegateway Online, viewed 21/09/08 Boeree, C. George, 1999, Hume and Kant, viewed on 28/09/08 < http://webspace. ship. edu/cgboer/humekant. html> Gogan. Aisling, 1992, God in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason: The Codgito The MUN Student Journal of Philosophy, Vol 3 viewed 29/09/08 ; http://www. mun. a/phil/codgito/vol3/v3doc1. html; Harkness Georgia, 1957, Chapter 1: What is Christian Ethics? : Christian Ethics, Religion Online, viewed 21/09/08 Kant, Immanuel, 1785, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals in Ellington, J. W. (trans) (1993) Grounding for the Metaphysic of Morals, Hackett, USA, 396. Kant, Immanuel, 1788, The Critique of Practical Reason (trans Thomas Kingsmill Abbott, 1829-1913), viewed on 10/09/08 Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2008 viewed 18 September 2008 ; http://www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary/ethic; Nelson Thomas, 2007, biblical ethic, Nelson’s Bible Dictionary Online viewed 21/09/08 < http://www. ebible. com/dict>
Pecorino Philip A, 2000, Chapter 8: Ethic, Categorical Imperative, An Introduction to Philosophy, An Online Textbook, Queensborough Community College, CUNY viewed 23/09/08 Ramsey Paul et el, Press, 1993, Basic Christian Ethics, Westminster John Knox, p170-180, viewed 27/09/08 http://books. google. com. au/books? id=aYNeQx-8-2QC&pg=PA171&lpg=PA171&am p;dq Singer, Peter, 1985, Ethics, Encyclopedia Britannica, Utilitarian Philosophers, viewed 12/09/2008 < http://www. utilitarian. net/singer/by/1985—-. htm> Sinivirta Mikko, 1997, Humanism, Christianity and Ethics, Coninental Theological Seminary, viewed 23/09/08 < http://www. espoohsrk. fi/html/humanism. htm>