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Different Philosophical Views on Morality and Moral Values

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Immanuel Kant has been one of the more famous and influential philosophers from the last few centuries. He has influenced the minds of other philosophers from the past or present with his ideas in philosophy. His major contributions in philosophy have been to the topics of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics to name just a few. He has been one of the most famous philosophers to debate and let his beliefs of morality be known. One of his main beliefs that he argued as a philosopher were his theories based on moral values and morality. Kant believed that morality must be based on reason and reason alone. He wanted to purify morality of all self-interest as that would make it impure, thus making the actions of that person, not virtuous. He also explained that morality was related to the topic of duty and deontology. Deontology is the belief that morality is a concept of duty. This means that an action can have moral worth only if one intended to do their duty without any other motives involved. Kant also believed that morality consisted solely of rational principles and that everyone had a decision of whether to follow those principles.

However, Hume, Aristotle and Rousseau, three other very famous philosophers believed that the meaning of morality and reason was different from what Kant said. Kant believed that reason had a practical side that would tell us what to and how to do it. Hume believed that reason was related to knowledge, truth, and falsity. Rousseau argued that morality was universal and common to everyone. Aristotle debated this by stating that morality must be taught within our societies and that our morals are influenced by our own individual opinions and beliefs. Kant went on further to argue that our actions should be performed by us as a sense of duty and with morality to ourselves and not as an inclination. By inclination, he meant that our personal feelings, desires, ambitions, emotions, etc., should not get in the way of performing what is either morally right or wrong. These four philosophers had varying opinions about the definition of morality and reason.

Another important belief in Kant’s morality theory is that the only thing in the world that is good has a good will. He explains how if a person has good intentions then that makes that person morally good depending on the decisions they made. He says how a good will has to do with rational principles and that those principles are moral laws, and our action determines whether we’re a good person. In addition, he also describes how that more than one factor contribute to the circumstances that someone is in and that their upbringing and heredity has more to do with their values. Some of these factors include whether they are wealthy or poor, whether they are smart or dumb, whether they are courageous or not, etc, . This belief of Kant relates to Aristotle’s one where he explains how that the good for man must be found in that man’s own nature and that everyone has different natures and morals.

Aristotle makes a distinction between a person that does their duty because they have to and a person that does that duty for their own personal interest. An example provided in our textbook is one where a grocer may refuse to cheat his customers of their money because he knows to not do it. This instance makes the grocer a good example of what it is like to be morally worthy. If he had decided to cheat his customers, then that would him a cheater along with him being an immoral person. Kant discusses how we have a duty to ourselves to be happy and that our happiness is necessary to fulfill our duties. He then makes a distinction between practical and pathological love. He describes practical love as a duty whereas he believes that pathological love is the emotion of love. Kant also describes how morality and duty are related to each other and how people should try to be as moral as possible in order to be considered a good person.

Kant’s central argument for the duty of everyone is known as the “universal conformity to law”. This argument includes a rule that everyone is familiar with, treat others the way you want to be treated. His words were “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. He goes on to describe two types of imperatives which are commands. The first one was categorical imperatives, these are universal, unconditional commands. These are the commands that either say do this or do not do this. The other one was hypothetical imperatives, these are particular, conditional commands. Hypothetical imperatives commands depend upon the certain circumstances that a person is in. For categorical, he says that there are universal laws that tell us what to do and what not to do. He describes how all of our decisions are either categorical or hypothetical, most likely categorical since that one is more commonly used today.

However, many people have criticized Kant’s theory about morality and beliefs saying that his beliefs could not work for every single situation that happens in our lives. Using the example given, if a poor man steals food from a wealthy man then the poor man should not be punished even if he made the wrong choice. There is no way that Kant’s beliefs in morality could be applied to everything that happens in our life. Some people debated saying that morality and duty has nothing to do with our personal choices, desires, ambitions, and feelings. That is why many philosophers came up with their own views of morality and duty. One such person was an ethical egoist, Ayn Rand, who came up with her own terms and definitions to use instead of Kant’s.

Another major rule that all philosophers believe is that only if actions are motivated by a concern for other people’s interest, then we can call those actions truly moral. However, most people do not think about the interests of other people and philosophers along with everyone else call those people selfish if they act this way. Two terms that were used by egoist philosophers like Ayn Rand are psychological egoism and ethical egoism. The word selfishness is used to describe a person with an egoist point of view. There could be several reasons as to why someone has a egoist view including that they either do not care about anyone else, they only care about themselves or maybe they genuinely are interested in the well being of others.

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Psychological egoism is the belief that people act for their own self-interest, even when it seems like they are doing it for the benefit of another person. This form of egoism affirms that our individual psychology has to do with how we act and how we don’t act. The actions taken by someone could either be influenced by an ulterior motive or that person’s selfishness. Selfishness is acting in one owns interest without the concern for anyone else that might be involved. In the textbook, Tara Smith explains Ayn Rand’s idea of egoism, and she describes egoism as being related to more than just morals and morality. She also explains how human beings survive only if they think about themselves and no one else. Furthermore, she explains how egoism could be confusing to some people and that most people mix up the two.

Ethical egoism is somewhat related to the principles of psychological egoism with some of its own unique rules. Ethical egoism is the view that even though we are concerned for others and sometimes act in their interests, we must always act in our own interest. Compared to psychological egoism, this view asserts that we should always do what is in our best interests before thinking about others. She also describes how ethical egoism is when a person acts, his actions are used to benefit his own self-interest. Smith also says how morality involves egoism in all of its principles. She also describes how egoism and altruism are two separate topics and that they have been compared against each other. Altruism and egoism do have some similarities however they also have some differences in their principles.

Altruism is the view that someone should act for the sake of the interest of anyone else involved. However, there are several levels within the view of altruism. One such level is when someone feels morally obligated to do something or to help someone without thinking about what the consequences will be for them. Another one could be where someone puts their family or friend’s interests over theirs. In this view, someone puts another person’s interests over their own, proving that person could be a morally worthy person. In the other views, the person involved does not care or think about a second person and whether that decision will affect them, either negatively or positively.

Furthermore, psychological and ethical altruism are two other types of altruism that may be present in human beings. Psychological altruism is when people’s natural act for thinking about each other. Ethical altruism is acting with the thought of other’s interests in mind. However, philosophers and other scholars have debated whether psychological altruism is actually present in human beings. There is no way to prove if psychological altruism is present in someone’s mind and that is why it is so hugely debated between philosophers. Ethical altruism might be in use every day as people sometimes think of others and how their decisions will affect everyone involved.

Two famous ancient famous Chinese philosophers, Mencius and Xunzi, debated on whether human beings are naturally selfish or evil. Mencius and Xunzi had a difference in opinion about the debate and whether humans are born selfish. Mencius argued that humans are born and have a sense of compassion for each other without any influences. Xunzi disagreed and said that human beings are born naturally selfish He also said that certain actions and practices must be taken in order to fix that selfishness within everyone. Mencius argues by saying that everyone has some sort of compassion within in them and that not everyone was as selfish as Xunzi was implying. He provides several examples where a person with compassion could be in a situation where they help someone else if they needed their help. Mencius goes on to state that the reason that humans are so willing to learn new things is because our nature is actually good. He says that a community where compassion and benevolence are morally good and that everyone has a chance to achieve this if they wish to. In addition, Mencius’ view is completely innocent as he believes that everyone has compassion in them and that not everyone is selfish.

Xunzi disagreed and debated Mencius’ view as he believed that people are naturally born selfish and that selfishness stays with all of us throughout our lives. He states that the nature of all people are evil and that they gain their goodness with the actions they take in their lifetime. He believed in replacing the selfishness in a person with virtue instead. Everything Mencius believed, Xunzi believed the exact opposite, in their debate about nature. He believed that being biased and evil is in the nature of humans. He also describes how a person could be considered good and not evil through the actions they perform and the decisions they make. Xunzi states that if a person’s original nature is good then that means that person cannot be considered selfish unless they do something that is very evil. He argues saying that the nature of a person is very difficult to change and that it would take a considerate amount of time for them to change their nature.

Through all of these philosophers, it is easy to see how their opinions on morality and moral values differed. In addition, many of these philosophers seemed to believe that human beings only act in the interest of themselves without thinking about anyone else involved. Some philosophers such as Kant, Hume, Aristotle and Rousseau all had unique views on what morality meant to them and what principles were included in their definition for morality. Each philosopher had their own beliefs that they fought for to be recognized by other scholars. Through these philosophers, we were able to see what their beliefs and views were for morality, duty, deontology, categorical imperatives, hypothetical imperatives, psychological egoism, ethical egoism and selfishness. No matter how influential the philosopher was, the views of every philosopher differed on at least one topic and when they did, they had their own terms that they would use.

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