Problems with Kant

Problems with Kant

Lack of Emotion in Moral Judgement

  • Kant’s moral philosophy, also known as Kantian Ethics, excludes emotion from moral judgement. He insists that only duty, categorised as a ‘respect for law’, should guide our actions.
  • Critics question this de-emotionalised approach, arguing that compassion, empathy, and other emotions are essential components of ethical decisions.
  • Kant’s denial of moral value to altruistic acts performed with a feeling of compassion challenges common-sense morals. It’s hard to accept that an act of kindness has no moral worth if it arises from genuine empathy.

Rigidity of the Moral Law

  • Kant’s moral law is absolute and cannot incorporate exceptions; it is often labeled as overly strict or rigid.
  • For instance, it implies that lying is always morally wrong, even in cases where lying can prevent harm to others.
  • Many argue that such rigid principles do not reflect the complexity of real-life situations and could lead to unacceptable consequences.

Implicit Contradictions

  • There’s a contradiction within the Categorical Imperative. While it empowers individuals as ends in themselves, it also demands that we prioritise duty over personal satisfaction.
  • Common sense proposes that happiness should be the ultimate goal of human life. However, Kant’s deontological view conflates fulfilling duty with moral correctness, often to the detriment of personal wellbeing.

Rigorous Demands On Rationality

  • Kant’s philosophy demands extraordinary levels of rationality from individuals, assuming every agent is perfectly rational and capable of making morally perfect decisions.
  • Critics question the possibility of such perfect rationality, considering human nature, fallibility, and subjective biases.

Inadequate Account of Human Nature

  • Kant’s theory emphasises duty to the point of neglecting other facets of human nature.
  • Critics argue his views lack psychological realism and overlook the complexity of human emotions, motives, and circumstances that often influence our moral decisions.

Application Difficulties

  • Applying the Categorical Imperative to assess morality of complex ethical dilemmas might be challenging.
  • It doesn’t provide specific guidance on evaluating conflicting duties.

Neglect of Consequences

  • Kant’s ethics focus on motives instead of outcomes. Critics argue that considering negative consequences is essential in ethical evaluations.
  • Consequentialist theories, like Utilitarianism, counter Kant’s views by emphasising that the moral worth of the action lies in its result, not in the intention.