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DSST Business Ethics Study Guide sm

Because motive is the most important factor in

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Because motive is the most important factor in Kantian ethics, it is possible for an action to have negative consequences while still being a moral act. For example, if acting out of a sense of duty you attempt to save a drowning child, but in the process you accidentally drown the child, your action is still considered a moral one. Kantian ethics has been criticized on several points. First, some say Kant’s approach gives little aid for complex situations. For example, what if there are conflicts of duty? Suppose you decide that two duties are (1) telling the truth; and (2) protecting your friends. But what if a madman with an axe asked you where your best friend was so he could murder him or her? Do you tell the truth and thus lead the murderer to your friend? Or do you lie and save your friend’s life? Interestingly, Kant believed telling a lie was always wrong even if a vicious murderer asked you where your friend was so he could murder him. Second, some say Kant dismisses emotions such as pity and compassion as irrelevant to morality. But many think these are “moral” emotions that cannot be separated from morality. Why should helping an old lady across the street out of compassion not be considered moral? What is wrong with compassion and pity? Third, some say Kant’s approach does not take the consequences of actions seriously enough. What if a well-intentioned person with a good motive causes a number of deaths? He would be morally blameless according to Kant’s view. Or, what if a well-intentioned babysitter dries your cat in a microwave oven? Would you say, “That’s okay, her motive was good.”
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Introduction : An attraction to the Kantian doctrines of obligation is begun along the following lines: (1) If the purpose of life were just to achieve happiness, then we would all seek pleasure and gratification and hope that it would lead to happiness. The problem is that happiness is not totally within our power to achieve; to a large extent, happiness is a matter of luck. Consequently, being happy and being good are two different things. (2) If we are to avoid skepticism or even nihilism and our ethics is to be rationally based, it must be unconditional ( i.e ., have no exceptions) and be universal ( i.e ., be applicable to all human beings). I. The good will is the only good without qualification. A. The good will is a will that acts for the sake of duty, as a "good-in-itself." B. Kant emphasizes these important considerations about duty: 1. The class of actions in accordance with duty must be distinguished from the class of actions performed for the sake of duty . 2. Kant believes only actions performed for the sake of duty have moral worth. He seems to suggest that the greater one's disinclination to act for the sake of duty, the greater the moral worth of the action. a. If one performs an action by inclination, then that action, on
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Because motive is the most important factor in Kantian...

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