What Role Does Reason Play In Determining The Content Of

1855 WordsMay 5, 20178 Pages
What Role Does Reason Play in Determining the Content of Morality Immanuel Kant and David Hume diverge in their ideas about the nature of morality and do not see eye to eye on how to determine whether or not an action is morally permissible. Kant holds that practical reason alone can be used to determine whether or not a line of behavior is moral, whereas Hume believes that reason is inconsequential to morality and that the way to determine whether an action is moral is to examine the sentiments that it provokes within us. Despite these differences in Kant and Hume’s theories of moral philosophy, adherents of the two philosophers, nevertheless, for the most part agree on the contents of morality. However, though the moral rules that…show more content…
For Kant, in order to determine the morality of a particular behavior it is necessary to be able to appraise that behavior rationally—free of emotional coercion. According to his Universal Law Formulation (ULF) a moral act is one that we can rationally will that others carry out as well. By the same token, to behave in a way that is immoral is to conduct oneself in such a manner that we cannot rationally will that others comport themselves in. What Kant’s reliance on reason as the ultimate determinant of morality means is that the moral rules constructed by Kantians are steadfast and unwavering. Granted it is admittedly possible for some Kantians to say that the moral rules generated from Kant’s philosophy are able to accommodate extenuating circumstances, Kant’s insistence on putting practical reason over empirical factors means that the ULF will either pass or fail a maxim consistently, regardless of circumstances. It follows from Kant’s argument that all beings endowed with rational faculties will be able to use either the ULF or the Formula of Humanity to derive the same moral rules, regardless of the particular state of affairs they are faced with. Of course, it is certainly possible for an individual, say Shelly Kagan, to use the ULF to pass a maxim that say something like “Shelly Kagan can kill whoever he wants, whenever he feels like it,” such maxims, however, abuse the ULF by bringing in circumstantial factors—the name Shelly Kagan for instance is a
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