Why Not Kant?
Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative has always been an ethical perspective that perplexes me. It seems to be the hardest one for me to employ in my own life and I’ve had trouble finding situations where using this would be beneficial. There are some cases where the Categorical Imperative suggests taking the same action as one of the other ethical perspectives, but sometimes takes some work to decide that that is the right decision to make.
It’s hard for me to employ because it seems to be an extreme action. Saying that one decision is the right one for all people is extreme. Everyone is in different situations and has a different moral compass. Kant suggests that telling the truth is a maxim every human being should follow. But to quote Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (Levy, 2009), “Sometimes it is more noble to tell a small lie than a painful truth.” There are situations we face everyday where telling a small lie might be better for us in the long run than telling the truth, yet the Categorical Imperative would say this is never the right action.
The Categorical Imperative has been a challenge for me because it fails to take into account any extenuating circumstances. No matter the situation, the same action should always be taken by every person on the planet. When making decisions in my life, I always look at the pros and cons of my actions, yet the Categorical Imperative makes the pros and cons seem worthless. The lack of conditions makes it hard for me to use the Categorical Imperative because every situation is slightly different. There is always some detail that changes so using a universal law in every situation doesn’t make sense to me. The fact that the Categorical Imperative sacrifices social standards makes it hard to use as well. There is a reason society has standards. They are generally easy to follow and society does not like when they are broken. If we must sacrifice these standards in order to follow a universal law, why have them in the first place?
Levy, S. (Director). (2009). Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian [Motion picture on DVD]. United State of America: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.