In order to elucidate this statement, Kant adopts the example of promise-breaking.
If the law of promise-breaking becomes universal, or in other words if everyone starts violating promises, then promise would no longer retain any meaning. In the same way, a person hi an extreme state of depression can contemplate suicide but this is wrong, not being a universal law and incapable of becoming one. If everyone starts committing suicide soon no one will be left to carry on the law
Kant’s first moral maxim can be criticized in the following ways:
1. Definite moral laws cannot be derived from it:
Kant wanted to give moral law a concrete form with this principle but it failed to perform this task the morality of an act depends upon its circumstances but the circumstances of every individual differ, making it inconceivable that every person does, in a situation, what I have done.
This law does not grant license for any exceptions and therefore becomes rigorous. As Jacobi had said, “The law is made for the sake of man and not man for the sake of law.”
3. Sometimes exceptions are rules:
It seems to have evaded Kant that sometimes the exceptions are the best rules. If all the citizens of a nation become martyrs, then where will the nation be? The superiority of martyrdom lies in the fact that everyone cannot be a martyr.
The specialty of this maxim is that it stresses the social aspect of Ethics but being formal, it becomes impractical.
Second Moral Maxim:
Kant’s second maxim is – “So act as to treat humanity whether in the own
person or in that of any other, always as an end, and never as a means.” This law does not allow one the privilege or right of committing suicide.
Suicide is Wrong because the person who commits it does not give due respect to this intrinsic humanity and treats himself merely as a means to enjoyment of pleasure. In the same way
It would be incorrect for a student to terminate his studies at the command of his parents because, in doing so, he makes himself the means to the satisfaction of the desire of his parents.
Again, no man has the right to allow others to exploit him. Deception is wrong because the deceiver misleads others and exploits them as a means to his own ends. We should respect our own personality and the personality of others.
Thus, from the above law, Kant derives a corollary, — “Try always to perfect thy self, and try to conduce to the happiness of others, by bringing about Favorable circumstances, as you cannot make others perfect.
For the attainment of perfection, will power and control are needed and no one can control another. Consequently he cannot make them perfect. He can only create or increase such circumstances as will enhance their happiness and perfection.
Kant’s second moral maxim is important because it preaches respect for our own and others’ personalities. Everyone will agree with the fact that it is immoral to reduce any one’s personality to the level of a means to one’s own end but not withstanding this, some exceptions will have to be admitted.
Some people sacrifice even their lives for the propagation of knowledge, defense of the country and the search of truth and consequently use themselves as means to the increase of others’ knowledge and preservation of their lives.
But who would call these people immoral in the same way, it sometimes becomes necessary to employ conifer as means to the benefit of others. For example, in cases of contagious diseases it becomes necessary to segregate the diseased. They are used as a means to the benefit of others, hi this way. But no one would brand it as immoral.
Actually the only thing implied in the denial of man’s use as a means is that everyone should be directed towards self-improvement and that none should be hindered in his endeavor.
But sometimes it is self-sacrifice who h is of assistance in this self-advancement Thus, it cannot be made a law that it is always immoral to use one self or others as means.
The corollary to this law does support perfectionism but it is difficult to understand how man can be perfect in the absence of sensibility. In the same way, another puzzling thing is the way in which the happiness of people can be augmented when sensibility is undesirable.
Third Moral Maxim:
Kant’s third moral maxim is “Act as a member of a kingdom of ends.” It means — “So act as to behave hi understanding that you and everyone else are of intrinsic value: behave as befits member of society in which everyone looks upon the good of another as having a value equal to his own, and everyone behaves unto him as he does unto them, in which there are every means and ends in which is very one attains his own good and increases the good of others.”
In this way Kant imagines a “Kingdom of Ends” which is an ideal state in which all members obey the moral law. Each member of that state is autonomously controlled and applies upon himself, which law is his internal rational law. Rational law is universal.
Thus, people who follow it are hi a state of complete mutual harmony. A moral kingdom is a perfect kingdom. In it all the members look upon themselves and others as individuals in all personal and social relations.
In this kingdom man obeys rational laws quite normally. Moral laws are neither external laws nor supernatural orders. They are self imposed and obedience to them does not depend upon external pressure. In this way, in a perfect society, everyone will be free, rational and happy.
In this way, Kant treats the adjustment of virtues and happiness as essential. If it is not intended to make morality an object of mere faith and if it also has some intrinsic value then the existence of a kingdom, in which virtue and happiness are in harmony will have to be imagined. Only then can moral laws be true inspirers of actions.
Man should hope and believe that his future life will be one of happiness and harmony this state of harmony is a state of perfect morality. The aim of moral good is the ultimate good.
The good is just doing duty for the sake of duty. There is a need for complete indifference in it, there being no place for pleasure in it. But the ultimate good includes both virtue and happiness.
Although Kant believes that it is not possible in this on? life, it is ultimately a fact that moral good does attain the ultimate good. This belief is the basis of morality.
Kant’s third moral maxim is open to criticism hi the following points:
1. Psychological dualism in reason and sensibility:
Kant’s moral principle is based on a psychological dualism in reason and sensibility. He treats the two as mutually contradictory, forgetting, meanwhile, their inseparable nature as parts of the soul.
Sensibility is the subject matter of moral life. It needs the form of intellect It is not essential that it contradicts reason. Without it, as a matter of fact, no activity can be carried out Thus sensibility is essential for a moral life. Dualistic psychology is fallacious.
(2) Mere form:
Thus, lacking sensibility Kant’s moral dictums are mere forms. Even the third moral maxim is merely a form. To say, that we too, like a citizens of a kingdom of ends, should make use of everyone as an end, never as the means does not lead to any real directive in practical life. What is the good of, others? How should we endeavor for its attainment? Nothing can be found to this end in this maxim.
(3) Happiness is impossible in the absence of sensibility:
Kant has included pleasure in happiness, but if happiness includes pleasure then how is it possible after a repression of desire and how does God grant happiness to moral person and how can it be imagined that ultimate good includes happiness as well as virtue?
(4) Partial moral theory:
Kant’s pure anomalism is partial. It terms the moral value as a perfect state. But to fulfill one’s duty completely oblivious of the result may be not only asceticism but even incorrect.
If by our deviation from the truth an innocent life can be saved, how far is it moral to tell the truth and play with a life? An action cannot itself be moral. In it, both intention and consequence are important.