Q1: Kant believes in universal rule, (a maxim) so if you act a certain way, you’re action show that you therefore believe everyone should act in a certain way. Let’s say someone who’s homeless and starving steals fruit everyday from a rich persons backyard. What would Kant say the maxim is? And can it be universalized?
Kant explains this idea of maxim in Early Modern Texts, page 3 section four. He gives an example of this by writing about a man who wishes for death but stays alive because he believes his actions should be based in duty. Kant explains that for this man his maxim is to preserve oneself. I asked a question in my discussion section about a poor man who steals from the rich. We discussed if this man is just a thief and some people thought his maxim was just stealing. Some people believe it’s fine that he stole because his maxim is actually stealing out of desperation not stealing period, we discussed the difference between the two, some people believing Kant would think this would be okay while others wildly opposed. I personally thought Kant wouldn’t agree because you cannot universalize this maxim therefore making it unfair.
Q2: This idea of a universal law means that all people should act the same way (ethically good) but do you think that social factors, economic factors, religious factors, etc play into people ethics, and if so is that okay? Do you think it’s okay to a person who grew up without parents or leaders to help guide their ethics to be less “morally good” then someone who did, or do you think all people should strive to be at the same level of morality?
This was a difficult one for us, as we believed that our opinions differ from what Kant might think. We talked about how Kant believes in having a universal good, and doesn’t come from a religious basis with his philosophy so we assume he wouldn’t believe in looking at morality through a religious lens. This made us feel conflicted because without religion and just generally people’s circumstances in life being different we lose what’s special about the world individuality, but on the other hand we really like Kant’s idea of a universal good. Kant says “…I ought never to act in such a way that I couldn’t also will that the maxim on which I act should be a universal law.” (Early Modern Texts, Kant, 4) which is ideally a nice idea to most of us talking about it but just seemed to us to be unrealistic way to live and act.