Human Nature and Morality According to Immanuel Kant

Human nature has been discussed by many philosophers, and various theories have been developed in regards to it. The fundamental differences revolve around the characteristics that are connected to the man and his or her thinking, feelings and the way they act. The issues regarding various characteristics, their meaning and the way they are developed form part of the most important questions in the field of philosophy. In the modern times, the debate between nature versus nurture is very common, and it arouses mixed reactions in the natural sciences field. Human nature, however, has been explained through different theories over the centuries and mainly refers to the way of life or the constraints of living a healthy life. The first of such theories is the teleological approach that was introduced by Aristotle in the late classical and medieval times. According to the theory, human nature is the fundamental foundation of what causes humans to be who they are. Therefore, it operates independently from individual people. The theory also shows a connectedness of both human nature and divinity. Through this approach, human nature is understood regarding ultimate causes. In the modern times, many theorists exist that argue against fixed human nature. One of them is Rousseau’s theory, which states that no one knows what nature permits anyone to be. Darwinism also changed the course of debate by presenting the facts that ancestors of modern people were different from present day humans. There are also theories that support neutral ground in the discussion, such as behaviorism and determinism theories.

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Compared to various theories that relate to human nature, there are also those that are concerned with the issue of morality. One of the definitions that are offered for moral behavior suggests that a person’s moral belief is mainly dictated by how people chose to live their lives, while taking into account how the decisions they make affect not only their lives but that of other individuals, as well. Essentially, individuals have moral values because they accept standards through which their actions are judged to be either right or wrong, good or evil. The judgment of the moral norms varies from one individual to another and from culture to culture, although some of the norms are universal. However, value judgments that concern people in regard to the issues of human nature are essential in all cultures. The universality of the passage elicits a fundamental question as to whether morality is a part of human nature. The philosophers who deal with the issue of morality formulate various theories that revolve around Meta-ethics, Normative ethics, and Practical ethics. Meta-ethics deal with justifications of why humans are supposed to do what they ought to do. Divine command, moral realism, utilitarianism, positivism, and libertarianism are several of the examples of Meta-ethics theories. Normative ethics, on the other hand, concern the laws that determine what is to be done. Finally, Practical ethics involves putting into action the moral norms in certain situations. From the many theorists, the one who offers an accurate view into how human nature and morality are combined into one is Immanuel Kant.

Immanuel Kant was considered as an important figure in the philosophical arena being highly ranked as a brilliant philosopher in the Western tradition. His philosophy was complicated because of his interests in reconciling the Christian faith with the science of Enlightenment. According to him, humans were democratically free to use reason in their examination of all things regardless of their nature, and that the only limit to it would exist when they discover the limitation of reason itself. His philosophy was fundamentally influenced by his explanation of how scientific knowledge was possible. He argued that humans are only able to perceive the external world by how both their cognitive and sensory organs process it, meaning that their cognitive intuitions may be responsible for distorting their perception of the existing things. Further, he argues that the reason goes beyond when people claim to have a higher metaphysical knowledge, such as that of the existence of God. Thus, he explains that humans only comprehend the universe as it appears to them, and not how it is. I support this view because humans are created and the creator designed us to act in certain ways. However, just as Kant points out, we are free beings who can make decisions based on our own desires but those desires are not supposed to make us into selfish beings. I believe that as rational beings our intentions should be to do good even if our desire demands other things, which is in support of Kant’s philosophy. Nevertheless, there are things that we, as people, cannot acquire, and I believe that one of those things is the belief of God. 

Kant’s conception of human nature is that people interact with the world based on their senses and their understand of it. Consequently, the reason plays a vital role because it is used as an integration tool for all knowledge. The reasoning of this philosophy is that individuals do things as they are meant to, but they sometimes give reasons for those actions. To explain why people do some things, he points out human desires labeling them as hypothetical imperatives. However, at times, he alludes to the fact that the reason for undertaking certain actions is independent of human desires and conforms to their moral obligations. Kant refers to the moral obligations as to categorical imperatives. According to him, reason recognizes that the categorical imperatives are the basis of human ethics. He gives insight that all beings have the ability to act in a morally responsible way, and that their internal moral compass is only able to function well if their reasoning operates on the basis that they are ends in themselves. 

However, while Kant has absolute faith in reason and when human beings act rationally, there are those who object to some of his notions. One of the objections emanates from the idea that as rational beings, people have to look externally for directions because they do not know how to act without them. Many individuals view this as a limiting, which diminishes personal power as it means that they can no longer use reason to respond to moral issues. Next, in his discussion of the realm of ends, Kant makes a connection between rational beings and laws. He seems to be suggesting a system of feedback loops where every person is an end to him/herself, and is deserving utmost dignity. Further, the laws that are created by the individuals who are united in purpose are also worthy the greatest dignity. Therefore they are expected to loop back to their initial creators who are considered rational beings. What Kant is trying to achieve by this is that he creates a system that strengthens itself continually. Still, it cannot be considered new as the ways societies are modeled is that they create external controls, which are used to maintain the current system. In his argument, an individual is responsible for creating a feedback loop, in which he or she survives by, thus making them creators of their own morality. However, this is only a desirable concept as people also live following the controls and regulations of the society. 

In conclusion, Kant suggests that reason demands that every human is moral in that it is their duty to act morally rather than incline to their selfish desires. His philosophy of human nature informs morality by suggesting that it has made people rational beings, and as such, individuals have to conform their wills to the moral law that aims at having the right intentions, which are not always connected to the results of people’s actions. Human nature is guided by standards of rationality and the categorical imperative is the objective that is rationally necessary and which must be followed despite the natural desires of individuals. Further, any immoral actions that are committed by people are attached to irrationality as they go against the categorical imperative. Finally, the key to morality is the intention, which should always abide by the moral law that is the good will. Intention, unlike consequences, is an internal agent and should be exercised for the only reason that it is the right thing to do.

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