The drama of morality and human existence

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Let’s suppose that we meet a person who is successful in everything: he has a power, wealth, respect, strong health, good frame of mind, he is satisfied with his life, his actions and he think that he is happy. We ask ourselves, is it possible to say about this man that he is happy? Actually, we can. And if we ask, is this happy person moral, then we can say that not for sure. A man who feels himself happy is well noticeable. And if some other man has a good soul, he, as a rule, is glad to see happy people. But being happy from the happiness of other people, we, mostly, correlate the state, behavior, life of this happy person with the totality of qualities without which this happy successful person stays morally unattractive for us. It means that in ordinary everyday life we more or less consciously seek for those moral foundations and principles in person at the basis of which we would like to fund the qualities, actions, opportunities which ingenuously promote happiness.

Kant realistically thinks that there is such widespread contradiction when some states and qualities of the happy person do not match the moral basis. He says that the good will is a notion without which the necessary person’s qualities are unacceptable, such as common sense, wit, the ability to judge, courage, resolution and purposefulness. Good will is something without which successful and satisfied person doesn’t arouse our favor. And it seems that good will is indispensable condition to be happy.

The drama of morality and human existence is that the person cannot but long to happiness.

Let’s imagine a person who is longing to soul pleasures, he is kind, honest and makes actions which respond to duty and morality. Is it possible by observing the behavior of this person to select his basis as the prototype of true moral action? Is it possible at the basis of the pleasure (even if this pleasure is really refined) to found the moral laws? No. Because a human being by committing something moral according to his today good inclination, he can betray this inclination tomorrow. So, the Kantian approach allows stressing the dramatic contradiction between inclinations, aspirations for pleasures, for happiness and for pure moral duties. And the moral actions are those which are performed exceptionally from the obedience to pure duty.

The practical rules are divided into subjective rules or maxims, objective practical laws which have the force for the will of every reasonable creature, and they are presented as imperatives – the rules which express the necessity, objective compulsion to action. Imperatives in their turn are divided into hypothetical imperatives, categorical imperatives – laws which must have objective and universal significance.

There is therefore only a single categorical imperative and it is this: “Act only in that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”.” (White, p. 50).

Freedom for Kant is such will which is oriented not at the subjectivity of maxim (maxim which is always changing) but at its pure legislative form. Therefore when we see and understand that with all subjectivity of maxims they conclude in themselves the general form of the moral orientation, we then begin to act as the plenipotentiary representatives of free will.

But here there is a question. At what notion can we, people, be based by thinking and declaring ourselves as free creatures? Kant says, that it is impossible to begin from the freedom. He is inclined to thinking that the indicator and the first proof of the free will is the moral law as itself. He thinks that the brightest display and proof of freedom is human ability to voluntary, consciously and reasonably obey to the compulsion of the moral law and this means the independent compliance with duty. The sphere of “moral-proper” is the sphere of human freedom.

As for the categorical imperative, the solution is in the formulation of categorical imperative, the moral law, and in its justification.

The morality must be not relative, chained by private interests, but absolute, universal. In other words, the enemy of the genuine morality is relativity, relativity of principles and adaptation to the situation.

A certain person cannot live and act in a different way than by orienting to the circumstances, by building his exactly subjective maxims of behavior. Maybe, this person doesn’t need to be oriented at the universal morality? Maybe the universal morality law, categorical imperative, becomes just an ideal? And here categorical imperative defends its rights and pretensions. But this is done in unique way, everyday human action and behavior are called to be ally. A person is proposed to look closely at himself and make sure what strong opportunities of the movement towards the universal morality law are put into him.

The moral law in me

The movement towards the universal morality law is realized through the conscious, reasonable and genuinely human formation of maxims. People are called to find our soul high moral force, our clear conscience. When we have done something not decent, doubtful, we are calming down our conscience by saying it that we are not guilty, that we had to act so.

Categorical imperative according to Kant, this is the formulation of how the human being should act, a human being who is aiming to join the morality. According to Kant words, we must pay a huge attention to the maxims of our behavior, to the subjective rules of the practical mind.

Let’s see such example. We imagine ordinary and concrete person who performs a certain action. This person must clearly and unambiguously formulate the rule, the maxim, at the basis of which the action must be performed. He must not shirk, must not lie to himself when he determines his maxim. And after clear and objective determination of the rule, he must ask himself a question: what would happen if at the basis of my maxim the other people were performing actions in the same cases? Do I want other people perform the same action at the basis of my maxim with respect to me?

In other words, if you humiliate other person, think, do you want him/her to humiliate you? By performing the action and by formulating the moral rule, we are virtually putting ourselves at the place of that person.

I doubt whether all people are following the Kantian recommendations. But Kant supposes that if we don’t want to follow the highest law of morality, we are not only moving away from genuinely human morality, but also we make harm to it. But if we you have a duty in front of the humankind in your law of actions, and duty in front of certain person and humankind in general, only then you act morally.

And there is one more explanation for the categorical imperative – it is necessary to avoid making a person or the whole mankind only as means for reaching our own goals. Unfortunately, people are acting in different way. The actually genuine action is such in which person or humankind are absolute goals.

Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end…” (White, p. 52)

According to Kant’s logic, it is forbidden to lie and it is always and in all cases of life necessary to be honest. Truthfulness is our duty and moral commandment doesn’t know any exceptions.

For Kant, duty is the most solid support for morality, the single genuine source of categorical imperative. Only duty (not some other motive or inclination) gives the action a moral character.

Human dignity is one of the key notions for Kant. It is necessary to know what does this mean and to be able to keep it.

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