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RELEVANCE OF KANT’S CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE TO PROMOTION OF JUSTICE

Philosophy Project Topic: The Relevance of Kant’s Categorical Imperative to Promotion of Justice


CHAPTER ONE:    INTRODUCTION

1.1    BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Fundamental human rights and dignity are prerogatives of man as a human person. Thus Onebunne, J. declares:

Hence every human life no matter how tiny, feeble or unproductive must be defended in its integrity and tended and cared for to the extent humanly possible.[1]

Unfortunately, there are many tendencies, theories, ideologies and practices in the past and in our present age that militate against human freedom, play with man’s dignity and also neglect his rights. Many schools of thought and theories like destiny, determinism, communism, fatalism and materialism have contended against man’s freedom. Some tendencies and practices that are against man’s rights are; abortion, voluntary homicide, prostitution, fanaticism, hypertechnologies that are against life, and kidnapping. Included are also religious fundamentalism, racism, terrorism, ethnicism, and other actions that break natural laws of co-existence and the principle of live and let live. The trend of events today in our contemporary world shows a record of human right abuses, neglect and violations. Consequently, all facets of our life and polity, socio-religious and cultural, show that “might is power”. Our society has degenerated into the state of nature where according to Hobbes “man is a wolf unto man” and life has become brutish and nasty. It is now a society where morality has been thrown to the wind and moral standards eroded. This is the type of situation man finds himself today in this contemporary world.These human rights abuses can be traced to the lack of objective moral standard and the problem of justification of our moral actions. Morality has been as old as humanity. It has been with man right from the ancient period to the modern and contemporary period. Many great minds and philosophers have been agitated with the problem of moral justification of human actions in a bid to ground our actions on an unshakable foundation in order to avoid the tendencies of “everything goes” or “do whatever you like” mentality. Philosophers have attempted to range in commonly accepted universal principles from which an action could be judged to be morally good or bad. But the scandal of philosophy is that philosophers have never agreed on a common principle. Though there has been common remote basis for all the theories propounded so far, and that is the desire and longing for happiness. It was out of this necessity that Immanuel Kant who is the greatest German idealist and moralist came up with his ethical theory –The categorical imperative. He is convinced that this age long problem is subjective maxim of action. For him, if we are in the position to make our subjective principles of action serve as the universal law of nature there- by making it valid for all rational beings , if we are to live with the principle of doing to others what we shall like others to do us then the problem will be solved.

1.2    STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Clamours for democracy and the maintenance of human rights are on the increase today. The reason for this is not farfetched. Experience has taught us of the evils that bedeviled countries under dictatorship. Both our mass and electronic media today are replete with news of cases of abuse of fundamental human rights, torture, extra-judicial killings, kidnapping, illegal arrests and other numerous violations of human rights. Obviously, all these evils abound because we have sidelined morality. Some have adopted the situation ethics which maintain that situations and circumstances determine how man should act. In all, this boils down to what could be likened to Hobbesian state of nature where man is a wolf unto man. The veracity of the above assertion is brought to limelight when one takes a careful survey of what is happening in our world today; terrorism and kidnapping are on the increase. In Nigeria for instance, the Human Right Violation Investigation Commission (HRVIC) recently revealed to the world the amount of evil and havoc done to man and his rights. The question then arises: what can be done to save man from this destruction? Hence, arises the problematic of this thesis. How can we promote and respect the dignity of the human person and his fundamental rights? This has become the problem as well as the project of this research. Therefore, it is the appalling nature of human rights violations that provoked the curiosity for this work.

1.3        PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

With regard to the analysis of human acts in Kantian moral philosophy as a means of effecting a better appreciation and enhancement of the respect for human right, this paper has as its main purpose the promote of human rights using Kantian moral philosophy maximized in the categorical imperative. The work will also attempt to take a critical look at this categorical imperative with the lubricating oil of reason to find out what and what are implicated in the categorical imperative. The consequence of this categorical imperative as a paradigm of moral justification of human acts will be examined to ascertain if it will help to save mankind from human right abuses and violations which have brought disrepute … (indifference in which it is plunged as of now). Furthermore this report will proffer recommendations on the adoption of this paradigm so as to enhance and promote human rights once and for all.

1.4    SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

The significance of this work is in its attempts to eliminate unnecessary confusion and ideological distortions that have beclouded most works on the morality of man’s actions and their effects on human rights. This seeming helplessness and confusion had led some moral philosophers and analysts into propounding unworkable theories like hedonism, utilitarianism and even some irrational theories like Hume’s theory based on passion and sentiments as solution to man’s violation of human rights. This work will therefore attempt to overcome the failures of some of the existing literatures on the concept of moral justification and evaluation of man’s  actions through the relevance of categorical imperative of Kant’s impeccable moral paradigm and its findings will alert or rather correct the violation and abuse of human rights.

1.5    SCOPE OF STUDY

The history of Modern Philosophy without Immanuel Kant is incomplete. This is to confirm the great impact Kant made with his contribution to philosophy. He really revolutionized philosophy and featured virtually in all major branches of philosophy. However the concern of this work is limited to his moral theory otherwise known as “The categorical imperative” and how it can be of good relevance to the promotion of human rights. For proper systematization and articulation, this work has been divided into five chapters; one covers the introduction, two is the literature review, while chapter three takes care of the exposition of Kant’s moral philosophy, in chapter four, we will see the implications of Kant’s ethics and its relevance to the promotion of human rights. And finally, in chapter five we will make a critical evaluation and conclusion of the whole report while making a recommendation to enhance better appreciation and respect for the rights of man.

1.6                       DEFINITION OF TERMS

1.6.1      THE CONCEPT OF MORALITY

In a place where corruption and other immoral practices abound, fundamental human rights are rarely respected, the line between life and death are usually very thin. As such, the possibility for the life of the citizens to be in perpetual danger of death is high. Hence, such a country’s moral or rating would be very poor. The good life and how to live it has always been a perennial subject to human speculation.

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[1] Onebunne, J. and Ogu, H., Human Rights an African Experience, quoted in Enwisdomization Journal, June 2000 – Sept 2001, vol.1, No.3, p. 69

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