Listening: Journal of Religion and Culture
When I write about and teach Immanuel Kant, I am always impressed and seduced by the beauty and neatness of his work. After all, Kant makes morality a science; answers are clear and distinct, black and white. Individuals make ethical decisions by using reason according to universally accessible principles. People should do the right thing, not because it is easy, not because it makes them feel good, and not because they have been raised to do so. People should do the right thing because it is their duty, and they determine their duty by asking, "Can I universalize my action?"
If yes, then the act is ethical and one's duty. If no, then the act is unethical and not doing so is one's duty. This philosophy is deeply seductive because it affirms the possibility of doing the right thing even when doing the wrong thing is easier, safer, and tempting. The simplicity of this approach appeals to those of us with a commitment to nonviolence in a highly militaristic society. People can ask themselves, "Can I will that everyone kill other people?" If not, then military force is wrong regardless of how often it has been used and how entrenched it is in U.S. society. The moral person will reject violence even if she or he must stand alone.
Copyright © 2009, Listening Inc.
Poe, Danielle, "Peace is Not Perpetual, Autonomous, or Rational" (2009). Philosophy Faculty Publications. 9.