Essay on the Importance of Kant’s Philosophy in Moral Life

Before going on to an account of the importance of Kantian principles in moral life, it would be better to take a look at rigorism and other defects in Kant’s ethics. The major defects are as follows:-

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(i) Absence of Practical directives:

Kant’s ethics is formal. It gives very little advice on practical subjects. At some stages it is possible to discern what ought not be done but not what ought to be done. This has been adequately-illustrated in the foregoing criticism of moral maxims for moral conduct.


(ii) Rigorism:

The most noticeable feature of Kantian ethics is rigorism, which takes two forms. First, Kant does not want to accord a place to emotion is moral life and second, Kant does not allow any exception in moral laws.

In Kant’s opinion, action allowing any exception is incorrect. A person is undoubtedly immoral if he cries or is pained by another’s pain or sorrow because in the process he increases the weight of sorrow in the world. It is for him to decrease the distress of others and not be sorrowful at their pain.

According to Kant, every act should be done by the motive purely of duty. Besides this activity carried out with some feeling be it as high or lofty as it may, is rather immoral.


Kant did not intend to convey that it is bad for some emotion to accompany the practical reason his meaning being that the motivation of action should come from reason not from emotion. Thus this opinion is irrational asceticism but rational regorism.

In real life, a person sorrowful due to other’s sorrow can not be declared bad. Emotion is man’s weakness but man is man due to that as he would otherwise have been either god or animal, and until man becomes either or two the value of emotion, in moral life must be realized because the moral stage is a human stage not an animal, devilish or-divine life.

The second form of Kant’s rigorism is the denial of any captions to rudes. It would be better to mention an inclident in explanation of this. Once a parcel of fruit for Kant was brought in a ship, on the way the ship was caught in some trouble and passengers were starving. In view of the emergency, the parcel was opened. When Kant came in possession of the opened parcel, he condemned the opening of the parcel as completely immoral, as the authority to do so was vested in no one but himself.

From the theoretical view point it is correct to say that no man has the right to the property without prior consent of the owner but, in practical, no one would declare it in correct if the parcel is opened in order to avoid starvation. Sometimes exceptions surpass the rules and. then ultimately rules are made for man.


(iii) Psychological dualism:

Actually, the main the responsible for rigorism in Kant’s view was his defective psychology. Kant’s psychological conception is based on dualism of emotion and reason and any ethics based on such a psychological dualism will either be rigorism or headonism. But these two theories are as fallacious as this psychological dualism. Modern psychology no longer credits dualism between emotion and reason. Both are important in human nature, and man’s perfection necessitates the satisfaction of both.

(iv) Individualism:

As had been said before, rationalism becomes individualism because the bases of man’s society are his emotions.

(v) Paradox of rigorism:

Kant certainly does recognise the conflict of reason and emotion in moral acts, which makes it evident that it looks as if it were necessary to maintain this struggle in order to keep the acts moral. This thing contradicts the psychology of habit.

Once one gets into the habit of performing good acts, the mental conflict definitely decreases and can even end but as a consequence, good work done by force of habit cannot be declared immoral.

(vi) How is happiness possible in the absence of sentience?

Kant has declared that happiness is also important in ultimate good. Besides virtue, even in practical ethics, it is Kant’s preaching that an individual should attempt to encourage situations which may enhance the happiness of others.

The result of virtue should be happiness, something for which Kant treats God’s existence as indispensable, but how is happiness possible in the absence of emotion? Actually, including happiness in the ultimate good. Kant brings his ultimate end in the vicinity of perfectionism but this theory of his is not very consistent in his own ethics.

(vii) The conception of ultimate good is narrow –

According to Wright, Kant makes the complete good to narrow, in restricting to Virtue and happiness. The complete good of man includes intellectual, aesthetic and religious values. It need hardly be said that Wright in right. Actually, beauty and knowledge are also essential, in complete good, besides virtue and happiness.

Special Features of Kant’s Ethics:

It would not do forget the importance of Kant’s ethics in view of the foregoing criticisms. The following are its special features:-

(i) Practical value of rigorism:

Kant’s rigorism is not utterly devoid of practical value. Actually, it often happens that a person himself does not know his real aim in doing a particular act. His unconscious passions often mislead him as how doubt in his mind.

Thus, to work always with the duty in mind is the best thing. Kant does not put animal tendencies at the level occupied by transcendental and benevolent tendencies. He does not treat these tendencies as moral but still grants them praise worthiness. It was only after under­standing human weakness that he preached “duty for duty sake.”

(ii) Universality of moral laws as categorical imperative:

According to hedonism, the importance of moral laws is dependent upon the results. In this way, moral laws find their basis in the prudence of the individual. Here Kant’s theory of moral categorical imperatives attains importance. In recognizing the moral laws to be unqualified, universal and imperative, Kant established a major truth.

(iii) Approximation of superiority of reason:

Kant approximated an actual truth in treating reason as the most superior. Reason is the society element which individualises man. In the same way, a good life will fundamentally be an intellectual life. Self sacrifice is the first step towards self realisation but at the same time, it is to be remembered that self realisation implies the conversion and not repression of the baser tendencies.

(iv) Faith in Inner Soul:

According to Kant, “An erring conscience is a chimera”. Man’s inner soul invariably prevents him from doing anything regrettable. Moral crimes result from not listening to the voice of conscience. This opinion of Kant has been supported by Gandhi, Socrates, Christ etc.

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