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Abortion and euthanasia are issues that each person has an opinion on and is widely discussed in religious and philosophical circles. New views and arguments are forever arising and put forward especially with new medical technology and research constantly extending the boundary of life and distancing death. In this essay I will discuss Kantian ethics in regard to abortion and euthanasia. I will in addition compare his ideals and principals with religious views and social norms within our modern society.
As with many ethical theories there are principals that individuals and societies agree with and of course disagree with. Kant raises many questions for debate one of which is his definition of a person and what aspects of a person should be used in making a moral decision. Kant regards our most important faculties as our reason or rationality and our autonomous nature in which he fundamentally supports. He continues by stating that these attributes alone are required to make a moral choice or maxim (a subjective rule that a person has in mind when performing an action) in his ethical case.
Consequently he disregards all other influences e.g. social norms because he believes that it is impossible to conceive anything else in the world which can be taken as good without qualification. Meaning there is nothing in this world that we can categorise as total good or intrinsically good. Therefore we cannot really on instincts in a moral dilemma as he views instincts as he views this as irrational desires by associating instincts to lowly animals. Instincts also cannot qualify as good, as instincts can be used without reason. Now we have established his fundamentals of his theory let use create hypothetical scenario and apply Kant’s theory.
A 17-year-old girl is walking back from school and she is attacked and raped. She later realizes she is pregnant. Should she keep the baby? Or have an abortion on grounds she is not mentally equipped due to the attack to care for the baby?
Many today would use a human instinct and use their emotions as a drive to make a decision. Kant will condemn this, as emotion is not intrinsically good as emotion can cause bad intentions followed by bad actions. Therefore he insists that a logical maxim be created with the guidance of the three postulates of practical reason resulting in an action with good intention.
This process results in many disagreements with religious groups let start with the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church would argue that Kant’s ethical theory is inadequate firstly because of how he defines a person. They believe first and foremost that our most important aspect of humanity is our relatedness to god or furthering one relationship with god.
Likeness to God is in a catholic view is a human ends or telos, because God, according to Catechism of the Catholic Church created everything for man, therefore he is of highest authority. This therefore means he has a higher intellect and understanding, therefore would it not be wise to stand before a higher divine being when in a crisis to gain an insight into what is the best course of action. A Kantian would reply by indicating that we cannot with certainty declare that
God is intrinsically good.
Another issue, which a catholic would argue against, is the dismissal of aspects that form us such as our emotions and experiences in addressing a moral issue. Catholics argue that all these are instilled in every human are part of god will therefore are good. They also question the fact that we as humans are able to act without emotions all the time, as we are fallible and emotions form the very basis of interaction with society. For example the birth of a new baby will often have an emotional response that unifies society together. This therefore presents Kantian ethics as not practical within society because it denies us of what we are as human beings. Let us explore other communities with regard to Kantian ethics.
Protestant groups do vary in response to Kant but there are issues that are raised which they feel cause Kant to fail within society.
Firstly it his dispassionate view to a situation that is a main issue to many denominations. If a girl is raped and feels she cannot cope with a baby that would constantly taunt her about the rape a Kantian would dismiss this as not relevant. Protestant groups often would agree with situation ethics more than Kant because it reflects more how Jesus conducted himself. For example incident of the adulterous woman, where he dismissed the absolute law of stoning for the crime of adultery because he understood her situation. Consequently they believe that if Jesus showed compassion so should society.
Protestants and Catholics both contest Kant view of autonomy in which he believes that we answer to no one but to our self. In opposition Protestants and Catholics believe that we are answerable to God because he created us and secondly if we were answerable to no one, society would fall into immoral behaviours.
In social respects should consequences be judged or is intention of more importance? Kant believes intentions are of the most important in assessing moral actions. However it is not that clear within society and religious respects. In a court of law both are taken into account but consequences are what ids brought to the court for judgement. Religious groups also believe that both should be examined and a decision taken form there, as we cannot control every factor possible, again we are fallible and not omnipotent. These are the main points stated within the essay that many agree prevents Kant’s theory from working.
In conclusion I feel that again his theory is too vague for such an important decisions in life that not only affect our self but go on to affect the whole of society. His choice to dismiss all form of our humanity apart form reason leaves personally a robot without holistic natures such as spirituality and emotionally which gives us a purpose in life.
The problem of God being dismissed within his theory, I believe is rather hypocritical as he tries to prevent bad maxims being made through the use of the three postulates of practical reason. However what is a postulate God? It will be different to different people unless his version of God is a Judaeo-Christian deity from his pietist background. If this is the case he is contradicting himself because one will be influenced through a God which according to Kant we have no proof if he is intrinsically good. We will also be influenced through Judaeo-Christian culture and social norm, which is implanted in the bible, which we must read to be, influenced God him when making a maxim.
If this is not the God then he refers to then bad maxims could still be made because one can adopt an immoral God or create a personal one. This causes major problems in his ethical theory. I do however do appreciate his consistent nature of his theory as it would allows society to accept more this as truths then is today.