On Morality: Immanuel Kant Hits it out of the ballpark


Immanuel Kant was a 19th century German philosopher who is widely considered to be of major significance, especially for his work on ethics.

Ethics is far from being a quaint notion; moral responsibility is extremely important to us right now as any visit to Twitter can confirm. Most of the posts express moral outrage at some politician or policy, like these selected at random:

  • Yeah, they make it legal to kill unarmed black kids in FL.
  • Maine governor: Medicaid expansion ‘sinful’
  • As Poll Numbers Fall, Scott Walker Continues to Dodge Criminal Corruption Probe

Twitter is where the tribes of today gather around the campfire to discuss what needs to be fixed.

I’ve studied various ethical philosophers and at first thought Kant was too rigid. He says right is right and wrong is wrong and no loopholes. I have come to think that Kant hit it right on the head, if for no other reason than that we humans will find that moral loophole, if it exists, and drive our tanks through it.

If you have a high philosophy tolerance, you can read Kant’s argument here. If you have a low philosophy tolerance, you can chew on his maxims, which, in modern English are these:

  • Human beings are never to be used as a means to your end.

      (No manipulation whatsoever)

  • Do not do a thing unless you think it would be a good world if everybody did it. (Just a little fudging? Kant says, “NO”)   

If you apply Kant’s maxims to world events, you can see that we are living in an appallingly immoral world. Kant says you must see that it is also possible to live in a much better world and you should start with yourself. Apply the maxims to your own behavior and multiply by seven billion and see what happens.

Three Minute Philosophy: Immanuel Kant-(Warning, this philosopher has no aversion to profanity)

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