Kant’s view uses a categorical imperative, in which ethics is based upon an absolute, objective, deontologcial theory, in which intentions are more important than consequences. Kant believed that an ethics should be based around something entirely good. He decided that the only thing entirely good in the whole universe is ‘good will’. Everybody must decide ethical decisions in a way in which they put themselves last, fulfill their duty, and commit only selfless acts. This may be psychologically impossible, as many believe there is always a selfish reason for any good deed, however Kant only proposed a theory, and
A moral relativist would believe that there is no definite set of rules that apply universally. Instead they believe that all decisions should be made upon circumstances at the time and more importantly why the action was made. This is called cultural relativism. The theory of relativist morality was first established by Protagoras who asked questions such as, “what is good for you?” He did not believe that our knowledge was all fixed or that it extended depending on our experiences, as Plato did being a moral absolutist. He stated, “Man is the measure of all things”.
He also believed that the most important characteristic of our personalities is created by how we treat others. While Chuang Tzu preached that things are categorized as good or evil. Everything is everything, and we make our own opinions on the level of goodness or the amount of evil. Chuang Tzu is also a complete anarchist. He believed that the world “does not need governing; in fact it should not be governed.” He also proclaimed that good order results spontaneously when things are let alone.
Kant devised two different types of imperatives which allow us to make our decisions, hypothetical imperatives are the rules that we follow to attain a personal outcome or a selfish wish whereas categorical imperatives are intrinsically right. His first categorical imperative was meant to establish that humans should only act according to a law that can be universalised. ‘’Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law’’ – (Kant the moral order). The second of the imperatives is that we as humans should never use another human as a means to an end, treat them all with value. ‘’Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end’’.
He points out that there are many physiological traits that separate humans, these traits can be used to justify human discrimination. Since as a society we consider these physical differences a mute point for equality amongst each other, Singer infers that physiological differences cannot be used as a property of any kind of discrimination, that equality is a moral idea; therefore animals should be given the same rights as humans. The situation Singer finds himself in is that speciesism is the cultural norm existent in modern society and in his opinion, contemporary philosophers are failing to make the connection that speciesism justifies human discrimination. He even goes as far to compare the discourse of speciesism to that of former slave owners. Utilitarianism is the main idea that he uses to oppose the idea of specism.
In the quote below Rand explains why she rejects religion outright, and she believes man himself deserves the attention: Just as religion has preempted the field of ethics, turning morality against man, so it has usurped the highest moral concepts of our language, placing them outside this earth and beyond man’s reach. “Exaltation” is usually taken to mean an emotional state evoked by contemplating the supernatural. “Worship” means the emotional experience of loyalty and dedication to something higher than man… But such concepts do name actual emotions, even though no supernatural dimension exists; and these emotions are experienced as uplifting or ennobling, without the self-abasement required by religious definitions.
Virtue ethics is agent-centred ethics rather than act-centred; it asks ‘What sort of person ought I to be?’ rather than ‘How ought I to act?’ The Aristotelian approach shows to give an account of the structure of morality and explained that the point of enrolling in ethics is to become good: ‘For we are enquiring not in order to know what virtue is but in order to become good since otherwise our enquiry would be of no use.’ (Nichomachean Ethics, Book 1, ch. 2) Quite importantly, Aristotle’s distinguishes between things which are good as means (for the sake of something else) and things which are good as ends (for their own sake only), Aristotle seeks for one final and overriding end of human action, one final good – eudaimonia (or final happiness). Philosophers of the 20th century brought about a revival of virtue ethics as many were concerned with the act-centered ethical theories. Virtue ethics is able to do something very different to other ethical theories – rather than focus on the act of a person, virtue ethics will focus on the person itself. The modern development of virtue ethics is often linked back to a paper by G. E. M. Anscombe entitled ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’.
Another idea related to this is the idea of predestination which was the view of the philosopher- John Calvin. Predestination is the idea that our lives are set/planned out previous to the start of our lives. Calvin said that man is “inherently evil and is not capable of good as his free will chooses to reject God”. Therefore, this suggests that God has predestined our lives as to those who will be saved and who will not. This further reinforces that we have no choice or influence on our lives and the events that happen, so therefore God will know the ethical decisions we will make as he has already predestined them in our lives.
Oddly enough, with this theory, it is prohibited to tell lies or commit suicide because that is morally wrong within itself and does not support the universal good of a rational decision, but if people acted in line with their duty to the universal law of their society, the results were of no consequence (Butts & Rich, 2008, Chapter 1). Kant stated that a person should act without emotion and with a complete sense of duty to serve the morally universal law of society and that the intention is of more importance than the result – consequences of the actions do not matter (Jasper, 1962). The theory of deontology follows this thought by setting demands that humans act at all times as though their actions would be universally accepted into an overall rule for society. He believed that duty and law are always one unit and cannot be separated and that with this duty to law, we shape our world. My criticism of this theory is that thought processes without emotions make our decisions too concrete.
His ethical theories were presented in two works. The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) was Kant's "search for and establishment of the supreme principle of morality." In The Critique of Practical Reason (1787) Kant attempted to unify his account of practical reason. Kant was the major proponent in history of what is called deontological ethics. Deontology is the study of duty.