Categorical imperative (introduced by Kant) suggests that in itself there is nothing good except a goodwill, and only when an individual acted from duty does the individual’s actions have moral worth. Kant supposes that every rational person has inherent worth; consequently, a rational individual will always act to treat himself and other persons as ends in himself. The first categorical imperative states that: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” (Kant cited Paton 32). This maxim is one of the main issues of modern ethics and moral behavior which stipulates norms of communication and behavior patterns. Second formulation states that: “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end” (Kant cited Paton 76). In this case, free will is the core of rational behavior and decision-making. The categorical imperative is based on a humanistic dimension to making rational; decisions and implies the moral obligation to perform from a respect for rights and a recognition of responsibility.
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Categorical Imperative 1
The case under analysis suggests that a high school teacher, Jenny, gives false information to her students in order to scare them away from drugs and prevent drug addiction among students. In terms of the first categorical imperative, she behaves morally right as takes into account consequences of her actions. Thus, it is important to note that intentionally mislead others would always be wrong because a rational individual would never intentionally mislead himself. The categorical imperative does not show any clear way in which to resolve conflicts of duties, and presents any overwhelming reason why the prohibition against certain behavior patterns should hold without exception.
The first categorical imperative suggests that false information given to students is possible as Jenny position has universality and is based on moral maxim. The main question is ethics and honesty really as bad as some researchers indicate? The example of Jenny suggests that there are many honest, moral, highly ethical teachers and educators; however, when stories come out about illegal and undesirable behavior of students. Educational institutions universities and others must be watchful of the kinds of teacher ethics being taught to them and their students. When they educate teacher and experts to come into the school to help them with their ethics problems, they might question issues about where all the ethics experts came from all at. Even though most teachers feel that false information to students is not a truly ethical practice when it is undertaken strictly to make a large problem, there are those people that support it on the basis that if the false information had been successful, the students would also have reaped huge benefits.
Categorical Imperative 2
The second formulation of categorical imperative suggests that autonomous will is the main source of moral action. In this case, autonomous will of Jenny and desire to prevent drug abuse among students is the main source of moral actions. The teacher must determine the best medium for disclosing the information to the students. The disclosure medium, whether a specific fact or a separate case, must be devoted to social responsibility activities in order to show in a consequential and effective manner the relations of causes and consequences of drug addiction. A well-presented factual base will reinforce the social conscience and demonstrate the balance between the educational objective and the teacher’s obligation to society and students.
The second formulation of the categorical imperative suggests that many of social problems can be minimized, but not eliminated, by increased teacher involvement and cooperation with one another in helping increase awareness and sharing the fruits between education and society. This is not, and has not, been strictly a socially-generated difficulty but is one shared by all fields of the modern education. However, schools must do much of the leading in this area. Rather than acting like the utilitarians and maintaining the greatest happiness for the greatest number, the categorical imperative advocates acting in a manner that produces the greatest amount of compassion. Jenny follows the main rule of categorical imperative: “Treat humans as ends in themselves” (Kant cited Paton 77). On the positive side, categorical imperative humanizes Jenny’s decisions and forces students to accept moral responsibility. In the area of weaknesses, her decision and false information overemphasize the concept of “love your fellow man, no matter what,” without clearly explaining on what basis this behavior should be founded (Kotler and Lee 87).
Following Kant, Jenny is free to make rational choices, and the decision to give false information about drugs is her rational choice. The categorical imperative is referred to as the ethical theory. It is expressed in the form that asserts that individuals should always act so as to produce the greatest ratio of good to evil for others. This has great appeal in the area of education and does not differ radically from the philosophies and beliefs of other ethical theories. As with Kant, the teacher believes that when choosing between two actions, the one that leads to the greatest happiness should be the one chosen. There are also some stated weaknesses in categorical imperative. It ignores actions that appear to be incorrect in themselves; it espouses the idea that the end justifies the means; the principles may come into conflict with that of impartiality), and it is very difficult to formulate and establish acceptable rules of application (Paton 41).
In sum, categorical imperative explains that Jenny’s actions are permissible and desirable as they prevent students from drug addiction (moral evil). False information about drugs is used as a means to an end. It can be said that ethical behavior is desirable behavior plus some other element, then it is significant that this additional element be identified. At first blush, many teachers will probably agree that this false information is the collection of moral principles and values of what is right and what is wrong and what is good and what is bad, as determined by categorical imperative. It appears that Jenny’s behavior is ethical if it is legal and in accordance with social principles. False information is justified if the majority (students) benefit from it. For proper social conduct, these ethical principles and values must be shared by not only teachers but by the total community and society as a whole. In terms of the first and second formulation of categorical imperative, Jenny’s behavior and teacher’s conduct is permissible and justified as it leads to the majority benefit.
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Paton, H. J. The Categorical Imperative: A Study in Kant’s Moral Philosophy. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.
Kotler, Ph., Lee, N. Corporate Social Responsibility: Doing the Most Good for Your Company and Your Cause. Wiley, 2002.