DECONSTRUCTING KANTIAN CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE IN THE LIGHT OF FLETCHER'S SITUATION ETHICS
The term “Morality” has been the thematic base of ethics as well as its subject- matter which has been studied under the deontological and teleological schools of thought. However, though many scholars have delved into this subject – matter, they haven’t been able to proffer a general accepted theory or standard for the evaluation of moral actions. Thus, there is always a loophole making the absoluteness of any theory void. This study would involve the critical examination of Immanuel Kant who in his Categorical Imperative sees duty as the criterion or standard for affirming the rightness and wrongness of an action notwithstanding the situation or circumstance. Nevertheless, the problem lies where Kant’s ethical principle proffers a form of absoluteness in the sense that other realities (situations) have no bearing on what we ought to do. This research would employ the philosophical method of analysis not to justify Kant’s ethical principle but to prove how there are many realities to be taken into consideration during moral evaluation and this would be achieved through the use of Joseph Fletchers Situation Ethics to critique and make flexible the absoluteness of Kant’s Categorical Imperative. At the end of this research, the researcher reveals that there are certainly some situations and circumstances that could deconstruct moral absolutism of Immanuel Kant.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Title - - - I
Presentation - - - II
Approval - - - III
Certification - - - IV
Dedication - - - V
Acknowledgment - - - VI
Table of contents - - - VII
Abstract - - - X
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background of study - - - 1
1.2 Statement of problem - - - 3
13 Purpose of study - - - 3
1.4Significance of study - - - 4
1.5 Scope of study - - - 5
1.6 Methodology - - - 5
1.7 Definition of terms - - - 6
REFERENCES - - - 8
LITERATURE REVIEW - - - 9
REFERENCES - - - 22
CHAPTER THREE: ANALYSIS OF KANTS CATEGORICAL PRINCIPLE
3.1 Kant’s life - - - 25
3.2 Influences on Kant’s Categorical Imperative - - - 27
3.3 Categorical Imperative - - - 28
3.4 Formulations of the Categorical Imperative - - - 30
3.4.1 Formula of universal law or law of nature - - - 31
3.4.2 Formula of humanity - - - 33
3.4.3 Formula of autonomy - - - 34
REFERENCES - - - 35
CHAPTER FOUR: ANALYSIS OF FLETCHER’S SITUATION ETHICS
4.1 Exposition of Situation Ethics - - - 38
4.2 The three approaches in making moral decisions - - - 40
4.2.1 Legalism - - - 40
4.2.2 Antinomianism - - - 41
4.2.3 Situationism - - - 42
4.3 Situation Ethics: principles, not rules, not laws - - - 43
4.4 The four working principles - - - 44
4.4.1 Pragmatism - - - 45
4.4.2 Relativism - - - 45
4.4.3 Positivism - - - 46
4.4.4 Personalism - - - 47
REFERENCES - - - 48
CHAPTER FIVE: KANTIAN CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE VIS -A-VIS FLETCHER’S SITUATION ETHICS; THE CONTRAST
5.1 Absoluteness versus flexibility - - - 50
5.1.1 Universalism versus Relativism - - - 51
5.1.2 Reason, Law, Duty versus Love - - - 58
5.2 Critique of fletcher’s Situation Ethics - - - 68
REFERENCES - - - 71
CHAPTER SIX: EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION
6.1 Evaluation - - - 73
6.2 Conclusion - - - 76
REFERENCES - - - 77
BIBLIOGRAPHY - - - 78
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
The concept of morality, the difficulty in determining its boundaries, its subject matter, judgment or evaluation as well as its relativism, is one of the perennial problems in moral philosophy. According to G.J. Warnock "What morality has to do with is a kind of evaluation".1 So, over the years, many scholars and philosophers have been trying to give various kinds of methods and systems to morality which to some extent has led to the case of absoluteness.
Consequently, the problem lies where the focus of moral judgement or ethical decision making is always on fixed or stipulated law rather than on the application of certain abstract rules to specific unique individual scenarios. Thus, this research work would be centered on Immanuel Kant and Joseph Fletchers ethical principle of which Kant in his Categorical imperative believed in objective right and wrong based on duty and reason notwithstanding the Situations or circumstances, on the other for Fletcher in his Situation Ethics, the situations determine moral judgements. In the long run, we would find out that Kant’s Categorical imperative proffers a kind of absoluteness thereby making it a system which is not supposed to be so and that is why for Fletcher, his principle is an attempt to proffer a moral decision making method and not necessarily a system.
In the year 2015, I was opportuned to witness a robbery operation which occurred at a bank. This triggered my inquisitiveness on the issue of moral evaluation;
A very close friend of my Aunt who happens to be the bank manager fell victim to this case. According to my aunt, due to the abundance of sophisticated armory possessed by the criminals, they were able to break into the banks well as the bank saving room. Now it happened that my Aunts friend was faced with a moral dilemma when asked who the bank manager was. The moral dilemma entails telling the truth or lying. Now if she tells the truth, the criminals would request for the key to the bank saving room and if she lies, she defaults the moral principle of consistent honesty.
The consequences of both sides of the action involves if she says the truth, she is likely to lose her job, the bank may fold and she may end up in prison. On the other hand, if she lies, she would save the bank from the above negative consequences. Thus, as it stands, the situation requires that she tells a lie which she did. Hence one cannot really say that she fell short the moral law owing to the situation at hand (Situationism).
From the above, we can concur with situation Ethics which holds that "there is no moral norm or law that is absolute in the sense that it is always applicable in all situations. Rather it asserts that “a moral law may be applicable in one situation but not in another".2 Thus, what situation Ethics is suggesting is that in moral evaluation, we must look at the total reality, including circumstances, intentions and consequences in order to judge whether there is sufficient reasons for choosing what one ought to do in a given situation.3
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
The challenge in moral decision making or evaluation has been how to bridge the lacuna between "is" and "ought to" or the "real" and the "ideal". Hence, the problem to be treated is about moral decision making or moral evaluation. Life presents us with situations where decisions are not so clear-cut because saying yes to one perceived good often means saying no to another. Hence, B.O Eboh observes that, “It is often difficult to take a moral decision in a given situation because of the many realities to be taken into consideration in moral decision making”.4
At this point, one may be faced with these dilemmas; what moral decision am I to take in a moral situation? Should our moral guide be anchored on the consequences or from a sense of duty? Is there any situation that can make one deviate from the indubitable law of nature? Is there any absolute standard or measurement for the evaluation of moral actions? These are a few of the complexities that stares us in the face in considering moral actions.
1.3 PURPOSE OF STUDY
Henry Sidgwick in his "The Methods of Ethics" 1874 held that "In offering to the public a new book upon a subject so trite as Ethics, it seems desirable to indicate clearly at the outset its plan and purpose".5
Following this, there are many facets to morality of which many scholars have delved into. Nevertheless, the lacuna to fill up is still undisputed. In order to understand these question "Whether the morality of an action depends on the situation" and the study of the story of Mrs. Bergmeier’s family during the second world war as an example presented by Fletcher in his book- situation Ethics published in 1960 led me to venture into this topic. Hence, this research work has is purpose aimed at proving that; there’s no general or universal standard or criterion for evaluating moral actions and character, there is no absolute moral standard and that moral principles are not static or rigid but dynamic with specific reference to situations or circumstances.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
The issue of morality has been a long age phenomenon that began from the cradle of human race. There is always a moral dilemma on how to decide which human actions are right and which ones are wrong.
This research work would be relevant to the society by way of demonstrating that there are no certain ethical principles in the sense that there are some circumstances that militate against absolutism. You simply cannot take a stiff, unbendable, unbreakable set of rules and make them apply to every set of circumstances.
Thus, Fletchers Situation Ethics would be employed to enable man understand that situations does have a bearing on what we ought to do as regards moral evaluation or judgement.
Finally, it would be of great importance or relevance to both students of philosophy and any other discipline that may wish to embark on the subject of this study.
1.5 SCOPE OF STUDY
In fulfilling this research work, it would be within the scope of Ethics and limited to the problem of moral evaluation (rightness and wrongness of an action), which would be traced to a broader branch of moral philosophy.
This research work therefore, critically analyses the absoluteness of Kant’s Categorical Imperative which proffers the impossibility to understand morality without considering the situation. This is done within the framework of Joseph Fletcher’s Situation Ethics. It is worthy of note, that I have no intention of going beyond this scope of study.
This research work adopts the philosophical method of analysis as it seeks to juxtapose Kant’s categorical imperative and Fletcher’s Situation Ethics. The material collections were made essentially through the extensive use of the library, journals and articles, textbooks and internet sources. More so, this study is divided into six chapters.
The chapter one is couched as the general introduction to the work including the various concepts involved and their scope. Chapter two bears the review of relevant literatures. Chapter three embodies the work expressed in subheadings and dubbed as the analysis on Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Chapter four deals with the study of Fletcher’s Situation Ethics. Chapter five is on the contrast between Kant’s Categorical Imperative and Fletcher’s Situation Ethics. Chapter six involves the evaluation and conclusion of the study.
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS
For a better comprehension of this work, it is pertinent to lay bare the terms to be used in the work.
Deconstruct - According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, “This is to take apart or examine something in order to reveal the basis or composition often with the intention of exposing biases, flaws or inconsistencies”.6 It is also to reduce something to its constituent parts in order to reinterpret it. Thus, in relation to this research, the researcher intends to analyze Kant’s Categorical Imperative in the light of Fletcher’s Situation Ethics by way of exposing some flaws and prejudices that are found in Kantian Categorical Imperative. Therefore, within the context of this work, to deconstruct simply implies bringing to limelight the fact that there are certain situations or circumstances that could override absolute moral laws which Kant postulates.
Ethics - Ethics for the Oxford Dictionary of philosophy is "The study of the concepts involved in practical reasoning; good, right, duty, obligation, virtue, freedom, rationality, choices".7 It is more precisely the normative science, which studies the rightness or wrongness of human action.
Situation - For the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, Situation refers to "all the circumstances and things that are happening at a particular time and in a particular place".8
Moral Evaluation - By this term the researcher means the process of assessing or measuring actions, behaviors to determine its rightness or wrongness. It can as well be seen as placement of moral values on the practical reasoning.
Categorical Imperative - This is made up of two words ‘Categorical’ and ‘Imperative’. ‘Categorical’ meaning absolute and having no exception, ‘Imperative’ meaning essential, necessary and very important. Hence, when put together, the researcher conveys this as a principle which commands certain conducts immediately without having any other purpose. It is universal and necessary to all humans.
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