Introduction to Philosophy
The categorical imperative, according to a German philosopher, Kant, is a formal procedure to evaluate any action performed as to whether it could be morally upright. According to Kant, the categorical imperative follows the rule that one should only justify an action to be ethical if that act could be generalized as a universal law. Thus, the categorical imperative is an objective, necessary rational principle that must always be followed despite any desire to do the contrary. The strengths of the categorical imperative include the universal acceptability of legal action. All human beings are seen as rational beings who would act in the same way because it is deemed the right thing to do so. Also, the CI is impartial since the actions categorized as moral are not guided by freewill but by general respect to the dignity of fellow humans. More so, the imperatives are based on reason and logic, which determines human behavior and choice. However, the CI has some weaknesses, such as lack of motivation, in realizing that something is irrational. There is also a conflicting duty in choosing the right way to follow based on the general acceptance of an issue (Lecture: Predominate Ethical Theories).
Utilitarianism is the ethical doctrine that suggests that actions are right if they are beneficial to the majority. It places the definition of right and wrong basically on the consequences of the work. For instance, killing a thief who would have made a large group of people to suffer is justifiable since the majority of the people will not suffer after his death. Among the strengths of this ethical approach is that it emphasizes on happiness, which is the aim of life for most people. Also, it is pragmatic in that it focuses on the consequences of an action. Besides, it is easy to follow since the consideration is whether the move will lead to happiness or suffering among the majority of people. However, utilitarianism may not be able to predict the consequence of an action before the action occurs. For example, would killing that thief lead to grief in his family? Or, would his death cause hatred among the killer and the thief’s society? Also, happiness is not easily defined as what makes one person happy may not make another happy as well. Therefore, I think the Kantian theory is better than utilitarianism because it focuses on the universality of an issue.
The pro-choice issue on abortion includes those people that buy the idea that abortion should be legalized. The pro-choice individuals believe that each woman has a right to decide what goes on in their body (lecture notes, abortion). According to Judith Jarvis Thomson, abortion is allowed in some instances and not in others. On one side, she argues that life starts at conception, and thus abortion is bringing an end to it. However, she also describes the right to life as not be unjustly killed, which in this case, abortion is no injustice to the unborn. She came up with some analogies like the case where a famous violist is hooked to another person for survival without the latter’s consent. If the person decides to detach the violist from his body, he will die to lack of support. However, it is morally right to determine what goes on with your body. And thus, detaching the violin would not be ethically correct. According to Beverly Harrison, the right to abortion helps in preventing class dominance. That is, if made illegal, rich women would still be able to pay, unlike the poor ones.
On the other hand, John T. Noonan claims that personhood begins at conception, and changes follow after that. Therefore it would be wrong to commit abortion as it is seen as bringing an end to that development. He claims that the fetus holds the same life as a grown-up individual, and thus abortion is considered murder. Other pro-life activists support his argument and dictates that the government should have a say when it comes to abortion. The third approach to abortion is where a person can be both a pro-choice and pro-life. For instance, one may believe that abortion is terrible but refrain from warning people against it. A woman would be against abortion on a religious basis but allow another one to perform it on medical grounds.
The phrase that ‘existence precedes essence’ is a central claim of existentialism, which means that personality is not built on a precise purpose, but rather, it is the choice of humans to engage in the use. According to existentialists, humans create their values by determining the meaning of their lives. Thus, it is the nature or essence of humans that lead to their existence. The idea that presence comes before essence is well explained by the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. However, the phrase, ‘essence precedes existence,’ is the traditional view that shows the selfishness of humans and that they are rational beings.
Sartre believes in the first phase of existence precedes essence. He believes that people are defined by what they surround themselves with, and thus, a difficult situation is only intolerable because the people allow it to be so. The feeling is evident through his claim that the world is a reflection of our freedom, where he meant that the world triggers people to react. To criticize the other phrase, Sartre claims that man first exists, establishes himself, fits in the world, and then defines his life afterward. Therefore, there is no way that the essence of a man would come before his existence. I agree with Sartre’s claim that ‘existence precedence essence.’ The reason for my choice is that for you to realize your nature and importance in life, you must first be in that life. Humans learn of different life aspects as they grow and interact with each other, thus increasing their value. Also, people are only defined (essence) according to their actions, for which they are responsible. Therefore, it is like humans to choose what to do and what not to do. For instance, for a person to be described as having an essence of being cruel, they must have shown cruelty in their behavior (Existentialism lecture). I believe that a person can choose not to be evil, and thus, it is not in their nature to be good or bad.
Thomas Hobbes, in his Leviathan theory, suggests that human beings are motivated by the need to preserve themselves. He claims that naturally, people would do anything to maintain their life, which is short, poor, and nasty. Also, he claims that humans are motivated by the desire to gain, and that is why they are competitive and violent. Due to these perceptions, humans need a central government to control their desires by placing no space for the unjust. Similar to Socrates, Hobbes believes that political sensitivity is has been overtaken by liberalism. He also states that men will always strive for peace when they are treated as equals since they want to outdo each other. Nature treats all men equally, and therefore the government has a role of ensuring peace between men as they strive to be better than each other.
On the other hand, Jean-Jacques Rousseau described human beings as compassionate beings who are moral naturally. However, they adapt to changes in the pre-existing urban chaos and lose their natural compassion when subjected to the urge for money. Humans are prone to corruption to satisfy their greed for wealth and power. Therefore, the state is a collection of individuals who aspire to instill the morals in its people. The general will of the country is to determine the right from wrong and is established through laws. The public will of the state is created through the majority will of the people. Therefore, people rely on the government for peaceful co-existence and to prevent greed from overtaking their natural goodwill.
Dr. John Tamilio III, Lecture Notes: Abortion.
Existentialism lecture, A Brief Introduction to Existentialism Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HhGRfxH81M&t=2s.
Prof. John Tamilio III, Ph.D., Lecture: Predominate Ethical Theories