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Is It Ever Ok to Lie, Steals or Break One's Promises - Essay Example

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To assess the intricacies surrounding this question, the paper follows the Kantian ethics as presented in Racheals & Rachaels (2011). In order evaluate the…
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Kantian Ethics of Affiliation The question that this paper discusses is whether it is ever permissible to lie, steal or break one’spromise. To assess the intricacies surrounding this question, the paper follows the Kantian ethics as presented in Racheals & Rachaels (2011). In order evaluate the permissibility of lying, stealing, or breaking a promise as proposed by Immanuel Kant it is imperative to under Kantian Ethics. Immanuel Kant believed that it is possible to have absolute morality which is to say that it is possible to label an action as either absolutely right or absolutely wrong regardless of the circumstance.
Kantian ethics is in concordance with the deontological moral theory. Deontological theories propose that whether an action is right or wrong is not determined by the consequences of the action, but rather on whether the action is a fulfillment of one’s duty. There are two questions that guide Kantian ethics one is whether one can propose that everyone acts as he or she has acted and whether one’s actions respect the goals of human beings apart from serving personal interests. Agreement with both questionsis interpreted as moral correctness according toKantian ethics (Rachaels & Rachaels, 2011).
According to Kant, the categorical imperative is the principle that determines the morality of an action. A categorical imperative refers to an unconditional command. The categorical imperative that one cannot lie, steal, or break a promise means that one cannot do any of these things if they serve personal interests. Kant uses categorical imperatives as the guiding principles because they are commands that one cannot opt out of or claim that they do not apply to them. Kant proposes that the first formula of universal law is that one should only act on that maxim of which he or she would will that it becomes a universal law(Rachaels & Rachaels, 2011).
According to Kant, it is not permissible to lie, steal, or break a promise because these acts fail to fulfill the first formula, of universal law since this would be self-defeating. Since these acts are only beneficial to the individual when they are made an exception to the individual,then they cannot be made universal laws (Rachaels & Rachaels, 2011). If breaking of promises were made a universal law, then no one would make promises anymore since it would be common knowledge that promises do not mean anything. Since one benefits from breaking promises which would no longer be made, then it means that breaking a promise is wrong.
Kantian ethics differs from utilitarianism in that utilitarianism proposes that the morality of an action is determined by its consequences. Utilitarianism proposes that the action that leads to the greatest utility is to be considered as the morally right act. For utilitarianism the motivation of one’s actions does not determine its morality, and this means that acts that lead to the greatest good are what should be considered right. It is possible to lie, steal or break a promise withoutviolating the maxim “do not lie, steal or break a promise” and this is the shortcoming of Kantian ethics. One may adhere to the maxim “it is permissible to lie in order to save life” in which case one has lied, but the maxim adheres to the conditions of the first formula of universal law. It is possible to make a universal law from the proposition that everyone should lie if it saves life.
Inconclusion, there are circumstances that make it permissible to lie, steal or break a promise. Kantian ethics does not give this provision because they propose that acts can be categorized as categorically right or wrong. Utilitarianism, however, propose that the utility of an act is what determines whether an act is right or wrong, then we can conclude that to lie, steal or break a promise can be permissible since some circumstances give these acts the highest utility.
Reference List
Rachels, S., & Rachels, J. (2011). The elements of moral philosophy. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Read More
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