What are pro and con points of Immanuel Kant’s theories?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With regards to Kant's moral philosophy, the most enduring critique is that it is formal, rather than substantive. In other words, Kant is very effective in defining what constitutes a moral act in theoretical terms rather than specifying precisely what we would need to do in certain circumstances. What matters for Kant, more than anything else, is the logical structure of moral acts rather than their actual content. For critics, this offers a very thin concept of morality, one that does not provide much practical guidance in our everyday lives.

A further criticism of Kantian moral theory is that it concentrates on the act itself to the exclusion of other considerations such as the moral character of the individual or the consequences of a specific action. The first of these criticisms would come from so-called virtue theorists. Following in the footsteps of Aristotle they would argue that substantive moral theories can only be based upon the examination of character. Focusing on a specific moral action, as Kant would have us do, doesn't give us a full picture of what's really happening. All sorts of factors can distort our evaluation of how people behave in certain situations. People can act out of fear, under duress, or under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Actions committed under such negative conditions may be completely out of character for the individual concerned. Yet the Kantian approach leaves the individual moral actor out of the picture, ignoring her character, and separating her from the act she's carried out.

For virtue theorists a far better way of constructing moral theory would be the examination of an individual's character, and how it develops over the course of their lives. This gives us a much deeper and more realistic understanding of what constitutes moral behavior. It re-establishes an intimate link between the moral actor and the individual act, allowing them to be evaluated together. It also recognizes that for moral theory to be substantive it must have a social context and not simply be related to isolated moral acts, as Kantian theory is.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the pro points about Immanuel Kant's theory of the moral imperative is that with individual's acting from a sense of universal rightness, according the Formula of Universal Law, moral standards of society at large would be likely to increase and vengeance vendettas would be likely to decrease. A con point to this same issue is that there may be mitigating circumstances that could in future change projected outcomes. For example, using his promise to repay a loan illustration, perhaps between the time of the promise to pay and the payment the person could secure a new employment situation and gains means to repay or an unsupportive relative could have a change of mind and extend financial aid (the reverse situation is illustrated in The Merchant of Venice, in which expectations of repayment fall short due to unexpected circumstances).

plato1234 | Student

Kant's view is split in two. The world we can know (the world as it seems to us) and the world as it is (the numena, the existence as it is in itself(the unknowable.) Faith binds the two and one's has to take faith to live in a moral world. The pro of Kant's view is that we can live in two worlds: one ruled by Newtonian determinism and one ruled by freedom from determinism. The con of kant's view is that the world built on faith may exist only in reason's mind, the imagination, true only to one reliance on one's own postulates. This could be solism and one can never know. One is left alone without support.