Ethics Analysis

This paper strongly argues the sharp differences between a categorical imperative and a hypothetical imperative. It will demonstrate how the two moral imperatives are predicated in their usage. In point of fact, a categorical imperative is absolute and not conditioned to any factor while a hypothetical imperative is conditional. It takes the form of if this then that. Deontologism grounds its moral judgments in the objective order while utilitarianism aims to maximize the good hence the maxim the end justifies the means. Virtue Ethics considers the being of the acting agent and not the actions it executes. A prima facie duty is a duty an individual has if all factors connected to it remain constant. This is because such duties are never absolute but fluctuating. On the contrary, a non-prima facie duty compels an individual to act in a manner that is absolute. Lastly, according to Aristotle the good life is the conformity of the soul and all its operations to virtue.

This paper seeks to give the distinction between hypothetical imperatives and categorical imperatives as grounded with respect to the Kantian moral principles. In this regard, clear examples will be illustrated especially the allegory of a car and its moral implications. In a bid to understand the theory of utilitarianism and deontologism, the consideration of the trolley example and the fat man will be considered. To shed more light on this, the elements of the principle of double effect will also be considered. Virtue ethics and the good life of Aristotle will also be covered. And lastly, the theory of Ross on prima facie will also be covered accordingly.

Categorical Imperatives versus Hypothetical Imperatives
A categorical imperative is an unconditional and generally acceptable moral duty (Lara, et al. 2007). According to Kant one ought to act in a manner which can be adopted in the universal order. In this regard ones choice of actions in a given situation should point to what can be universally acceptable and applicable. This maxim can have different interpretations but the most core thing is that the action undertaken be universally permissible. In Christianity, it can relate to the dictum that do to others what one would like them do to him. Therefore, all rational beings and with a Good Will acts in accordance with the categorical imperative and further to that evaluate their actions to ensure that they are universally fitting.

It is important to note that a categorical imperative is different from a hypothetical imperative. It is important to note that a categorical imperative is distinct from a hypothetical imperative. The difference is as follows  an imperative implies a command while on the other hand a hypothetical imperative is a preconditioned command. For example, one can argue that if one wants to be happy then she must be a virtuous person. In a hypothetical imperative one is not absolutely obliged such that it only depends on this or that. Kant categorically asserts that moral imperatives are not conditioned to anything as they serve as ends in themselves. Consider the following example it is good to speak the truth always no matter what the case or it is good to help the poor in all ways and by all means. In these examples it can be argued that one is obliged to speak the truth always and that it is a duty to help the poor regardless whether it is a personal interest or wish or desire. Ones duty is ones duty and one must do it whether she wants or not. Indeed, this is the nature of morality. On the contrary, in the case of a hypothetical imperative, one would argue that it is good to speak the truth if this or if that. For example, one would say that it is good to speak the truth if asked to or it is good to help the poor if one is wealthy and has enough to give.

Hypothetical imperatives are not collective or absolute or universal because they are as such conditioned on some objective or aspiration. However, there are criticisms in respect to the categorical imperative in that not all acts can be universally acceptable. This is true considering the era of ethical relativism where people have different opinions and suggestions. Once again, consider the following examples Mr. X is convinced that he can steal a car when he wants to. This is not tenable in the Kantian sense. This course of action lacks universal desirability as stealing in itself is not something that can be desired in the universal order. Still, one would not still a car simply because there are many cars around or because the act will not cause inconveniences in the movements of others. One should not justify the act simply because it lacks grave consequences but as such, because stealing is morally unjustified and it is a duty to keep away from such act.

Moral Theories  Double-Effect
Deontological moral theory is a Non-Consequentialist moral theory. While consequentialists believe that the end always justify the means, deontologists assert that the rightness of an action is not simply dependent on maximizing the good, if that action goes against what is considered moral. It is the inherent nature of the act alone that determines its ethical standing.

Deontologism is a moral theory whose tenets are of a non-consequentialist nature. It never believes that the end justifies the means. Contrary to what utilinitarianism believe that one should always exploit the good in hisher actions in the deontological sense, it is not the pursuit of the good but what one should consider is the moral element in the act. It is the act in itself that counts for a deontologist and not the end of it. This is what justifies it as moral or immoral. The following is the principle of double effect.
The act must never be intrinsically evil. It must symbolize ones deep commitment and identification with God and neighbor including the person himself the undesired effects should never be directly intended. The agent must avoid the undesired effects as much as possible the beneficial effects must not be as a result of the evil act. Or better still the desired results should never derive from the bad course of action the desired results must be proportionate to the harmful effects and finally the desired effects must follow from the harmful effects immediately and simultaneously (Ashley, B.  ORourke, K. 1997, PP.191-195).

The above moral principles can be used to analyze the case of the standard trolley example, and the fat man trolley example as follows The case of the trolley problem states that a trolley is moving down a truck without braking. A trolley is moving towards five people. A person is on a bridge that the truck will pass and can stop it by blocking a heavy weight before it. There is a fat man where the person instead uses him to stop the truck to save the five but leaving him dead (Jarvis, J. 1985).

Looking at the above example and from a deontologicalutilitarianism point of view there will be different interpretations. The overall tone in utilitarianism is that the end justifies the means. The case where the fat man is used to stop the track can be justified from an utilinitarianist point of view since saving the five is the perceived good. In other words, the end is to save the five and not the fat man. In light of the principle of double effect the act of using the fat man to stop the track is not evil. The person should not intend to kill the fat man but instead should occur as an unintended consequence. Finally, the desired effects should not be as a result of the bad course of actions.

Virtue Ethics
Virtue Ethics is not much concerned with rules, consequences and specific acts but is puts more emphasis on the subject of the actions. In other words, it is interested with the person who is responsible for acting. It holds that acting in accordance with given rules or analyzing the good outcome of the actions is not what should count. The most primary thing is whether the subject of the actions, in this case the individual, exhibits elements of good character or moral virtues or not (Garret, 2005).

Unlike utilitarianism which is concerned with the maximization of the perceived good in performing a given act in virtue ethics instead, what is important is the moral quality exhibited by the agent of the actions. Therefore, the dictum that the end justifies the means has no place in virtue ethics. On the other hand, deontologism is somehow a normative approach to ethics which typically evaluates the actions of an individual in relation to moral standards in the objective order. In general, the two theories focus on the actions of the agent contrary to virtue ethics which is a complete turn to the subject who is acting.

According to Aristotle the good life is the conformity of the soul and all its operations to virtue. Virtue is classified into intellectual virtue and moral virtue, where in the former theoretical wisdom practical wisdom and understanding are emphasized. In the latter case, what is emphasized is practical wisdom as pertains to development of habit (Haslip, S. 2003).

Aristotle states that the knowledge of virtue is not sought for its own sake like in Mathematics or Geometry, but is sought so that one can inform his way of acting. In other words, moral knowledge is strictly meant to be put into practice, period. What makes an individual virtuous and good is not hisher knowledge about good or virtue, but it is the practice of the good or virtue (Alex, J. 2001). An individual can best acquire moral knowledge from hisher concrete experience.

A prima facie duty is a duty an individual has if all factors connected to it remain constant. This is because such duties are never absolute but fluctuating. On the contrary, a non-prima facie duty compels an individual to act in a manner that is not absolute. Consider the following example a thief comes running and seeks refuge in the priests house.  The angry mobs come looking for him because they want to kill him. The priest has a prima facie duty in telling the truth but on the other hand, he has a prima facie duty in protecting a life.

An action is a prima facie duty only if it holds moral quality features and the actions executed must prove to have been the only action possible at that time (Ross, W. C.1930). He further asserts that there are no absolute standards or universal principles in morality. He further asserts that there are duties that are clear to ones intuition. These duties are keeping promises, correction of a wrong doing, expressing gratitude, acts of justice, benevolent inclinations, personal growth and development and keeping off the possibility of harming others.

However, this theory has some defects in that it is hard to connect the different prima facie duties available to the agent it is unpredictable and with minimal determination it presents an arbitrary framework in moral judgments hence relativism in major ethical issues like abortion, euthanasia or manslaughter just to mention a few. The problem of intuition occurs because it is hard to fathom how moral principles can be self-evident (Ross, W. c.1930).

As we can see from the study a lot has been mentioned. The differences between a hypothetical imperative and a categorical imperative has been presented where in the former, a person is obliged to act but on certain conditions while in the latter case, one is obliged to act in a certain way no matter the circumstances. We have also seen how utilitarianism and the expositions of double effect apply to the case of the fat man and the trolley. I strongly concur with the elements of virtue ethics. I believe the agent is of fundamental importance in the realm of morality since the actions she executes are or proceed from his being as such. One cannot perform peaceful acts if she is not peaceful first and in hisher personality. In Latin it is expressed that nemo dat non quod habet which means you cannot give what you do not have. We have reflected on the good life of Aristotle and the ways in which we can acquire moral knowledge. Indeed, experience is the better teacher. Finally, the reflection of prima facie duty is impressive but I concur that it has so many flaws as the agent of actions will have exceedingly many choices to consider hence creating a multifarious circumstances in making moral judgments. However, I believe there are obvious moral acts that as human beings we do not need to think much. I guess this is what led Ross to look at intuition as a source of moral judgments.


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