The To assess a decision with the universal law

The process of deliberation that occurs in one’s mind when making ethical decisions has been argued for a long time. In traditional, religiously-directed thought, it was assumed that a higher power defined ethical boundaries. However, Emanuel Kant believed that religion and ethics should be as far apart as religion and political decision making. He was a deontologist who thought that reason should be the deciding factor in ethical dilemmas because it was a truly objective measure of any action one might take.  Emmanuel Kant tries to create a moral standard that is based on reason rather than religion by creating a concept called the categorical imperative to enhance decision making with formulas for moral thought and objectivity.    The first “pillar” of Kantian ethics is the idea of universal law. To assess a decision with the universal law doctrine you must first assume that no human can be an exemption to moral and ethical standards. This means that a moral decision must place one in other people’s shoes. Kant is referencing a concept of equal status for all when making decisions as one of the most important tools. Universal law is asking yourself before you decide to take an action if you would be okay with everyone making that decision universally. This is where the exception part becomes very important, because you cannot believe that yourself if the exception to the universal law.  Think about it as I can only take action x if I am okay with everyone taking action x. A great example of this is the idea of lying truths. Would the world be desirable if everyone made deals with people, already knowing that they aren’t going to hold up their end of the bargain? The answer is no because in turn no loans would be replayed, no compromise would ever be found in politics, and there would be an increasingly untrusting society. Kant uses a bit more severe of an example by talking about suicide. If an individual is questioning suicide, they must first think of a world where suicide is a universal law, he says “One sees at once a contradiction in a system of nature whose law would destroy life… Therefore, such a Maxim cannot possibly hold as a universal law of nature and is, consequently, wholly opposed to the supreme principle of all duty. (963)” Another intriguing example is stealing, even on a very small scale. Under universal law, I cannot decide to steal a candy bar from a store because a world where everyone stole candy bars would lead to undesirable outcomes. While the concept of universal law is important, one must not forget about the next main concept.Our decision-making is a process heavily influenced by our experience. So, in turn, by making a person think that they are making a decision by themselves while actually doing something for another person, they are being treated like a means rather than an end. This idea is covered in the second “pillar”, The Formula of Humanity as an end in itself. Kant says “Man, however, is not a thing and hence is not something to be used merely as a means; he must in all his actions always be regarded as an end in himself. (966)” There are many ways that humans can be used, opposite from only being an end, as means, through things comparable to manipulation or lying. In this respect, Kant says that when you lie to a person, you are manipulating them by making them fall for something that is false. He believes that this is the ultimate ethical mistake that one can morally make because all humans have equal moral worth and you are taking that away by manipulating them.  He also makes this claim because a person only has control over their own actions, and by lying you are removing the one thing that makes us our own beings. In a nutshell, this concept urges us to not ever use someone for our own personal gain, because we do not ethically have control over another human being.      I find myself agreeing with a lot of Kant’s ideas, his argument is strong for for three main reasons. First, I appreciate the idea of no-one being an exception. This is important because it preaches to the idea of true equality. Of course, equality among individuals and groups is a value that should be held in the highest regards, but Kant gives us a true way to value equality by looking at universal law. This is because we cannot make ethical decisions if people are unequal, or treated with different considerations. Second, his ideas about moral responsibility speak to me in a broad way. If I were to try to use a human as a means by lying, even if it was to do something good, and it ended up leading to a bad situation it would be my fault. Along the same lines, if someone lies by omission, or to deceive me, the decisions I make cannot be morally paced upon my head. Finally, I agree with Kant because universal law is practically an application of the golden rule. That of course being that you should only take an action that you would also like to be done to yourself. While this is a good rule to follow, Kant makes the stakes a bit higher by including the whole world. This makes us take a more grandeur view of our decision, increasing its magnitude and the amount of time that we will think about it. Even though I find myself agreeing with the philosophy, there are some criticisms that must be examined. Like any ethical idea, Kant’s are subject to critique. My critique sets out a problem for Kant in the twenty-first century. With an ever-growing population it may be hard to validate any decision. For example, if I am trying to decide whether I should get my license and my own car, I would think about if everyone got their own car. There would be more pollution, more traffic, and way more road rage. Mass population sizes mean that a lot of things that we do in daily life that are not usually considered morally askew would be demonized. Kant would most likely reply to this by saying that not everyone will be making the decision at the same time. He would also probably mention that we are not supposed to pretend that we would suddenly be the trend setters of this new universal law, instead it would have already existed. In juxtaposition to the critique I gave above, this is one with more focus on the second categorical imperative. It begins to fall apart because if you care about people, which Kant professes to do, then you ought to care about promoting their lives and welfare instead of doing bad things in the name of keeping your hands clean. The defender would then say that you are infringing upon the autonomy of those people because that is one of the only things that humans have.    In conclusion, Kant’s ethical philosophy has a lot to offer. The theory of universal law is a practically full proof way to assess decision making on any scale. However, not using humans as a means is also very important because we should only try to control ourselves, and no other people. I agree with Kantian philosophy because it represents equality, it contains a clear judgement of guilt for actions, and it is an application of the golden rule. While the mass population criticism has some ground, Kant or any other defender could easily defeat it with logic. Kant creates the Categorical Imperative in response to religion in order to show that reason should be the driving factor in moral decisions and gives us formulaic ways to measure and therefore calculate morality and ethics.