The most noticeable feature of Kantian ethics is rigorism, which takes two forms. First, Kant does not want to accord a place to emotion in moral life and second, Kant does not allow any exceptions in moral laws.
In Kant’s opinion, action inspired by emotion is incorrect. A person is undoubtedly immoral if he cries or is pained by another’s pain or sorrow because in the process he increases the weight of sorrow in the world.
It is for him to decrease the distress of others and not to be sorrowful at their pain. According to Kant, every act should be done by the motive purely of duty. Besides this, activity carried out with some feeling be it as high or lofty as it may, is rather immoral.
Kant did not intend to convey that it is bad for some emotion to accompany the practical reaction, his meaning being that the motivation of action should come from reason not from emotion.
Thus this opinion is not irrational asceticism but rational rigorism. In real life, a person sorrowful due to others sorrow cannot be declared bad. Emotion is man’s weakness but man is man due to that as he would otherwise have been either God or animal, and until man becomes either of the two, the value of emotion in moral life must be realized because the moral stage is a human state and not an animal, devilish or divine state.
The second form of Kant’s rigorism is the denial of any exceptions to rules. It would be better to mention an incident in explanation of this once a parcel of fruit for Kant was being brought in a ship.
On the way the ship was caught in some trouble and the passengers were starving. In view of the emergency, the parcel was opened. When Kant came in possession of the opened parcel, he condemned the opening of the parcel as completely immoral, as the authority to do so was vested in one but him.
From the theoretical viewpoint if is correct to say that no man has the right to use property without prior consent of the owner but, in practice, no one would declare it incorrect if the parcel is opened hi order to avoid starvation. Sometimes exceptions surpass the rules and, then ultimately rules are made for man.
(3) Psychological dualism:
Actually, the main thing responsible for rigorism in Kant’s view was his defective psychology. Kant’s psychological conception is based upon a dualism of emotion and reason and any Ethics based on such a psychological dualism will either be rigorism or hedonism.
But these two theories are as fallacious as this psychological dualism. Modern psychology no longer credits dualism between emotion and reason. Both are important in human nature, and man’s perfection necessitates the satisfaction of both.
As has been said before, rationalism becomes individualism because the bases of man’s sociability are his emotions.
(5) Paradox of rigorism:
As has been mentioned before, Kant certainly does recognize the conflict of reason and emotion in moral acts, which makes it evident that it looks as if it is necessary to maintain this struggle in order to keep the acts moral.
This thing contradicts the psychology of habit. Once one gets into the habit of performing good acts, the mental conflict definitely decreases and can even end but as a consequence, good works done by force of habit cannot be declared immoral.
(6) How is happiness possible in the absence of sentience?
Kant has decreed that happiness is also important in ultimate good, besides virtue. Even in practical Ethics, it is Kant’s preaching that an individual should attempt to encourage situations which may enhance the happiness of others.
The result of virtue should be happiness, something for which Kant treats God’s existence as indispensable, but how is happiness possible in the absence of emotion? Actually, including happiness in the ultimate good, Kant brings his ultimate end in the vicinity of perfectionism but this theory of his is not very consistent in his own Ethics.
(7) The conception of ultimate good is narrow:
According to Right, “Kant makes the complete good too narrow, in restricting it to virtue and happiness. The complete good of man includes intellectual, aesthetic and religious values. It need hardly be said that Wright is right. Actually, beauty and knowledge are also essential, in complete good, besides virtue and happiness.