The Two Shopkeepers- Kantian Ethics and Consequentialism Essay

1107 Words Dec 13th, 2011 5 Pages
Liza G

Prof. Williams

Ethics

21 November 2011

The Two Shopkeepers

One of the several topics covered in Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals is the issued of two shopkeepers. One shopkeeper is honest with his customers in order to maintain a positive reputation and improve profits. The second one is honest because he thinks it is right and exercises his respect for the moral law. The first shopkeeper is motivated to be honest by the rewards of a positive reputation and profit. The second is motivated by respect for morally right action. Taking these motivations into consideration from the standpoint of Kantian ethics, it is clear which shopkeeper is acting right. Kant believes that actions that are
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This notion of respect for persons has to do with treating people as having intrinsic value in and of themselves. The first shopkeeper is only acting to reward himself through the means of his customers. The fact that he is not rewarding customers with honesty, but complying with the moral law in order to reward himself with a good reputation and profit makes it so that he is not acting rightly. The second shopkeeper, however, is acting in accordance with Kant’s categorical imperative. This shopkeeper acts in accordance with the first formulation of universalizability. Unlike the first, the second shopkeeper is honest because he knows it is morally right. And this passes the universalizability test since an ideal society would inhabit people who act based on the sense of right and wrong, according to Kant. The keeper’s honesty is also reversible, because if others in a society acted out of respect for the moral law like he is, everyone would be acting right towards one another. He complies with the second formulation by his honesty with customers out of respect for the moral law. He is not only using the treatment of his customers as a means for honesty, but also as an end respect for the moral law. In other words, being honest with his customers is not only enabling him to act morally right, but allowing him to be evaluated as respecting the moral law (Singer 274-275). Now, a

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