Kantian Ethics in Scenario #1
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Kantian ethics observes that the certain action is not morally justified. This would mean that the one cannot morally justify a certain wrong action regardless of the intentions of these actions. Therefore, such actions as lying, theft, murder or any other wrong actions are just wrong. There is no moral justification that a person should give even if the action would bring more happiness. The first question that Kant poses is not the universality of a certain action. Before performing a certain action, a person should consider whether any other person in the same situation will act in the same way. This implies that when performing an action, a person simply decides that the action should be universal and every other person in the same situation will act in that way. The second question that a person should consider is whether the action promotes universal moral code of conduct. In this case, the person should consider whether the action promotes one’s own purposes or promotes the universal purpose of human life. Thus, Kantian ethics are based on duty rather than the consequences.
In scenario 1, the first question lies on what I should do after the request that Bobbie has given. She has told me to lie to the lecturer on her behalf and say that she has to miss class because of her brother who was hit by a car and impersonate her father on the car. This is a decision that I will have to make using Kantian ethics. Kant observes that there is a categorical imperative which forbids a person from lying. Human beings should not lie since it is wrong. Bobbie is asking me to lie, which is a universal wrong. Kant observes that there is a strong relationship between categorical imperatives and morality. This implies that whatever a categorical imperative forbids a person from doing is already morally wrong. The universal wrong in this case is lying. Thus, if I go ahead and lie, I would be going against the categorical imperative and hence morally wrong. In this case, I will also have to use Kant’s theory to examine my duty in the situation. The first question is whether I want to promote lying as a maxim or law of nature. If I were to go ahead and lie, it would imply that I am promoting a universal situation whereby people should not tell the truth. One cannot believe the information from another person at any one time. This is not the situation that I would promote since lying is wrong. The second question is whether the act of lying would be promoting the universal moral code of conduct or I would just be lying for personal reasons. In this case, the lie is only for Bobbie’s sake and not for the entire population. I cannot tell a lie even if that lie will be serving my own interests as well as those of my friend, Bobbie. Therefore, Kantian ethics forbids me to lie. I will not lie to benefit Bobbie neither will I impersonate her father.
The second ethical question arises on Bobbie’s side. It is important to use Kantian ethics to determine whether the act of going to rave while we were studying is morally right. According to Immanuel Kant, the wrongness or rightness of any action depends on the duty that an individual is set to fulfill. It does not depend on the consequences of the action or whether the individual seeks to promote own self interests. In this case, it is the duty of every student to study and be ready for their exams. It is the universal duty that for every student to tell the truth to their professors as well as parents. Any other alternative is morally wrong. Bobbie cannot justify the action of going out to rave while other students were busy reading. She cannot also justify the lie that she is planning to tell the professor. This is because according to Kantian ethics, she can only justify the lie if it is what every other person in the world would do at the same situation. Kant observes that a person cannot do anything that they would not be willing to allow everyone else to do in the same situation. A person cannot make his or her own exceptions and cannot change the universal law to suit his or her objectives. Thus, Kantian ethics prove that Bobbie is morally wrong on the two actions, going to rave at night and lying to the professor. Kant says that if the purpose of our lives was only to achieve happiness, then we would seek gratification and pleasure with only hope that this would make us happy. Thus, all our actions must be universal and unconditional in order to be applicable to all human beings. Bobbie’s actions are not universal and are not acceptable to all human beings. Her efforts to seek happiness diminish her moral worth since she is performing the wrong actions.
Bobbie also intends to use me to tell the lie. She says that is what a good friend would do. However, Kant has a different observation. Kantian ethics point out that the moral code of conduct should respect all human beings. The moral community should treat human beings as equal and free members. This is the other part of Kant’s categorical imperative. It insists that a person should treat the other person as an end rather than as the means. This means that people should treat each other in a way that they would also wish the human race to treat them. This implies that human beings should treat each other with respect for humanity. Every person is valuable. Thus, the act of using a person as a means to achieve personal gratification is morally wrong. The idea that the end always justifies the means is not morally right according to Kant. One should always treat others in such way that they would want the human race to treat him or her.
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