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Kantian Moral Theory And Virtue Ethics Criticism

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Discuss about the Kantian moral theory and Virtue ethics Criticism.



Kantian theory:

Kantian theory has been propounded by Immanuel Kant and he had followed the principles of deontological ethics. According to him, a good will should be intrinsically good and the moral law should be comprised of categorical imperatives (Kant, 2017). A person should think about the moral action before performing any specific act and he should decide the rightness of the command put towards him. He believed that the action of a person reflects his morality (Arias, 2014). It is the duty of a person to determine the imperatives with highest priority.

Criticism to the theory:

The Kantian theory is playing an important role in the study of morality and ethics. However, this theory has certain criticisms too. The concept of duty and morality is quite metaphysical and impressionistic in nature. Duty is depends on the moral act of a person and the base of duty could not be defined as a responsibility towards other. Further, the concept of rational worth is absolute in nature. Professor Kant had failed to define the concept of perception (Brittan, 2015). He had failed to make distinguish in between the concrete, perceptual knowledge and abstract, conceptual knowledge. Kant has explained the theory of perception as a mere impression. According to Schopenhauer, every thought is not based on perception and perception can be occurred without any conceptual thought that makes the theory of Kant weak to this effect. Further, Kant thought that no inner or outer experience is present in case of metaphysics which is not right. He had misinterpreted the definitions of subjects, existence, illusion, judgment, perception and concept (Arjoon, 2017). He failed to determine the object of experience and did not differentiate the perpetual and abstract concept (Bird, 2016).


Strength and weakness of the theory:

The positive side of this theory is that the concept of morality is quite straight forward and reasonable in nature. All the moral laws implemented by Professor Kant have been applied universally and unlike Utilitarianism, this theory does not think that bad work has also certain good effect. The theory of Kant is very easy. According to the theory, if certain act is detrimental to you, then you should not do the same thing with others. Human dignity is the central pivot of Kant’s theory. According to him, every individual should be treated equally and therefore, the modern concept of equality has been generated from him. In the case of Jack Kevorkian, learned Court had held that in case of killing someone, the will of the deceased does not matter; the ethical approach of the act matters.

However, there are certain weak points too. According to Kant, every act should be rational in nature and irrational things should not be maintained at any case. This concept demotivated others. Further, Kant said that every act should be based on moral fact. Therefore, in case where a person had stole food for feeding his child is a crime as per his theory. In the words of Kant, duty should be absolute in nature. However, breaking a promise becomes necessary to certain point. Kant has failed to describe these points.

Virtue ethics:

The nature and definition of virtue has been prescribed by this theory. The theory has been originated from ancient Greek philosophy. According to the supporters of this theory, virtue is a character trait that makes an individual a good human being. In the words of Hursthouse, virtue is a disposition that is entrenched in the occupier that drives a person to do ethical things. According to Aristotle, happiness is the ultimate motto of human life. Virtues can be divided in moral virtue and intellectual virtue (Demuijnck, 2015).

Criticism to the theory:

Many scholars like Aristotle, Plato and Socrates have supported the views of virtue theory but there are many critics made against the theory. The nature of virtue has not been established in a clarified way and difficulties arose in case of acquiring different notions on constitution of virtue. Further, the theory is not concentrating on the sorts of actions and qualities. The ethical consideration of virtue is quite self-centred as it focuses on the character of an individual (Han, 2015). Further criticism has been made regarding the attainment of moral maturity.

Strength and weakness of the theory:

The main strength of this theory is that necessary observation has been made on the character of moral agents. It has been observed that many ethical theories have not concentrated on the emotional attachments where theory of virtue has concentrated on the human emotions. A great co-ordination of moral agents and moral well beings has been observed in this theory. It motivates the individual so that they can work on morality.

However, there are certain negative sides too. The term virtue has not defined specifically as the nature of virtue is changeable (Demuijnck, 2015). The problem on moral dilemma has not been resolved. According to Robert Louden, virtues ethics have failed identify the solution for ethical crisis. The notion on character trait is remarked as an illusion by Gilbert Harman.



Arias, M. (2014). On Two Different Lines of Argumentation in Kant's Theory of Schematism of Empirical and Mathematical Concepts.

Arjoon, S. (2017). Virtues, Compliance, and Integrity: A Corporate Governance Perspective. In Handbook of Virtue Ethics in Business and Management (pp. 995-1002). Springer Netherlands.

Bird, G. (2016). Kant's Theory of Knowledge: An Outline of One Central Argument in the'Critique of Pure Reason' (Vol. 1). Routledge.

Brittan Jr, G. G. (2015). Kant's theory of science. Princeton University Press.

Demuijnck, G. (2015). Universal values and virtues in management versus cross-cultural moral relativism: An educational strategy to clear the ground for business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 128(4), 817-835.

Demuijnck, G. (2015). Universal values and virtues in management versus cross-cultural moral relativism: An educational strategy to clear the ground for business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 128(4), 817-835.

Han, H. (2015). Virtue ethics, positive psychology, and a new model of science and engineering ethics education. Science and engineering ethics, 21(2), 441-460.

Kant, I. (2017). Kant: The metaphysics of morals. Cambridge University Press.

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