Question 1 (a)
Due to the fact that John has a genetic predisposition for performing benevolent acts, his actions of helping people trapped in the World Trade Center have no moral value. There is value in his action but there is nothing moral about it, but since people will not tell that John is genetically predisposed or inclined to be benevolent, they will attach moral value to his action anyway. Looking at the consequences themselves makes the action even more morally valuable to witnesses in that people in trouble are given assistance regardless of whether this person is genetically predisposed to help. John Deserves credit for helping since genetics alone would not have made him available for help, meaning there is so much he has done to make himself ready to help in this particular tragedy. Kant’s ideas on the categorical imperative would not approve of John’s behavior given that he is doing the helping because of inclination, and Kant believes that anything done from inclination lacks goodwill.
On the other hand if John is morally numb or in shock but still goes in and helps, his actions have moral value because as Kant says, people who act out of a sense of duty have goodwill and this attaches moral value to their actions. John is not acting from desire or inclination but out of a sense of duty as a fireman, and this makes his act morally valuable. In this instance, John deserves credit, and Kant would easily approve it as a categorical imperative. Acts done out of sympathy are not necessarily founded on the moral law while what is done out of duty is based on goodwill and the moral law. A higher sense of morality makes some people answer the call of duty while a lower sense of respect for the moral law makes some people fail to meet their obligations.
1 (b) Criticisms to the testing of the Categorical Imperative
The usage of duty as the only way to determine goodwill locks out people who may desire to do morally upright things while allowing people without desire for bad things to actually do them since lack of desire qualifies them as goodwill. For example since one might not desire to be evil, being evil is okay as per Kant’s formulation of the categorical imperative. The weakness is that it allows potentially evil or morally wrong actins to be considered right. The strictness is the ruling out of inclination and desire which are potential drives for good actions that can benefit people. Kant’s response to such criticism goes back to the fact that people ought to engage inactions that they would want to see universally replicated. In other words, before one chooses to be evil, he or she should ask herself or himself whether or not being evil is the kind of action that can be universally commissioned (Kant 23). Therefore there is a controlling element to the categorical imperative. This applies even to people who may witness others suffering and choose not to help thinking it is not their duty. In such situations, all that matters for is for the people to ask themselves whether they would want to see their indifference to people in trouble being practiced by everyone in the world. There is a sense of duty on humanity to obey the moral law. Therefore Kant’s categorical imperative stands in the face of this criticism.
(c) Dershowitz’s triangular conflict in torture is about a case where there is a possible bomb that is about to go off and the only way to get information from a terrorist is by torture, which is illegal. The three points of the triangle are: if the terrorist is tortured to extract information to save citizens who would be hurt by the bomb, principled opposite to torture will have been compromised. If the terrorist is tortured in secrecy, the ideals of democratic accountability will be in jeopardy, and lastly if nothing is done, the bomb will go off and citizens will be killed.<…>
The question in the psychological account of our moral judgments is: what causes people to judge acts as unjust in cases of partiality, equality, violations of contracts, desert, bad laws, and violation of legal contracts? The question in the normative account of moral judgments is: once people do a reflection on the sources of people’s moral judgments of justice do people find themselves questioning the reliability or truth of those judgments or does their confidence in these judgments remain unchanged? Mills this that answers to these questions about moral judgments do not provide answers to normative questions because of elements of natural and instinctive disposition to make certain judgments or act in some way; laws can also be unjust and interpretations of acts can vary leading to unreliable answers to normative questions about morality and justice.
(ii). Applying the Principle of Utility to Suicide
According to Mill’s principle of utility, actions are right so long as they bestow the greatest happiness and the least pain to people (Shaw 31-33). Suicide entails an individual taking his or her own life for various reasons. If on chooses to end his or her life so as to avoid what he or she considers a troublesome life, the individual will be accessing maximum happiness for himself or herself (Sheng and Sheng 170). But on the other hand the people around the person such as the family will be agonizing over the loss of a loved one and will ultimately bear the burden of handling the dead person, an undertaking that can be troublesome especially if he or she kills himself or herself at a time of poor preparedness for the immediate family. Also, the negative effects of the suicide will reverberate across a large section of society in an indirect manner. For example if the person committing suicide had children, they will be left under the care of either family members or the state which will be burdensome. Therefore suicide fails to meet the principle of utility, and it is wrong. But the suicide of a tyrant who is a menace to millions of people in a state and has caused the deaths of many people can be viewed to be satisfying the principle of utility. The only hitch is that taking any form of life is a sad affair and therefore even if people may not like the tyrant, they may still agonize over the loss of a life.
(iii) Laziness and the categorical imperative
Laziness is about failing to develop one’s talents or working hard. This leads to dependence and poverty. According to the categorical imperative, on should do what he or she will be comfortable seeing everyone else in the universe do. So if everyone becomes lazy, there will be nothing to be enjoyed by anyone and the whole world will be in poverty. Therefore there is immorality in laziness. Kant’s stance on laziness makes sense for various reasons. Assuming the individual who is lazy has all that is needed to provide for himself or herself but still has made the decision to be provided for by others, this unnecessarily burdens the others providing for the person. But most importantly, if such behavior were to become the universal law, there would be absolutely nothing on which the world would rely in terms of food and other necessities. For the continued existence of the world, people have to work hard.
(iv). The categorical imperative is derived as follows: The only thing that is unconditionally good is the good will and the good will results from duty and not desire or inclination. And since only the categorical imperative springs from duty, the only unconditionally good thing is the categorical imperative.
The categorical imperative prohibits lying to escape embarrassment but this happens with a degree of inconsistency. Lying is a bad thing that one would not want to see become a universal maxim. But escaping embarrassment is something everyone would want every other person to do. So as much as on may want to see people escape embarrassment, they would not want t to see them lie. Therefore lying to escape embarrassment fails to qualify as a categorical imperative. For example if a son lies to the father that he delivered an item so as to avoid appearing as lazy in the presence of his friends, the father may lose a contract by assuming that the item was indeed delivered. The son may want every other person to avoid appearing lazy before his friends but yet he would to want to see everyone else lose their deals as a result of lies such as his.
(v). The United States was justified in dropping bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Under the just war theory, a nation must have exploited all options before going to war, and it can only go to war for self defense, the defense of an ally, or humanitarian grounds (Calhoun 41-43). By the time atomic bombs were being dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan had already attacked Pearl Harbor and war was ongoing. Also, the attack was decisive enough to end the war and reduce the overall number of Americans killed as a result of the war. Therefore chances of success were relatively high with the use of the nuclear weapons against Japan.
(vi). Terrorism is not permissible because it is carried out without discrimination thus killing or hurting innocent people. It is also usually disproportionate in terms of force and it is often not a war of necessity. Even groups that have legitimate issues still end up killing innocent people thus making terrorism morally wrong.
(vii). Torture is morally satisfied in cases where it is the only method that can be used in cases where it has been proven beyond doubt that there is something somewhere that is threatening the lives of people and the person identified for torture has the information that can be obtained from this person by the use of no other means other than torture. Otherwise it would be immoral to spare an individual whose act of withholding useful information eventually claims lives of tens, hundreds, or thousand of other people.
(viii). Our intuitive response presents a problem with utilitarianism based on Robert Nozick’s experience machine. This is because Nozick effectively challenges the issue of pleasure maximization as the chief target of utilitarianism (Nozick 42–45). This poses issues with all consequentialist ideas or theories because regardless of the differences in the nature of consequences, a machine with the ability to avail the needed consequences will be supported by premises as what humans should go for; but it so happens that humans may not want those consequences in the manner availed by the machine after all.
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