God and Morality

God and Morality

 

The human nature and behavior are guided by some principles that refer to the conscience in identifying the right and wrong actions as well as intentions. These morals are the building blocks of morality, and our daily experiences usually develop them. Since we regularly interact with each other, there are things we cannot always agree upon because they have no universal acceptability. Nevertheless, there is a need to establish a basis for morality to avoid the notion that morality is purely situational as opposed to a fixed set of standards. In the pursuit to find the ideal origin of morality, various philosophers have developed theories and concept to explain the existence, or otherwise non-existence, of God (Evans 2004). Among the most prominent scholars who argued that morality has a basis in God was Immanuel Kant. This paper, therefore, will delve into the explanations of Kant regarding morality and the existence of God. Additionally, it will explore the views and reproach of Kant’s philosophy of morality by modern philosophers.

The book Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant brings out the various aspects of morality as perceived by different people (1785). According to the author, morality is best understood through the fact that there are many experiences that human beings go through. To begin with, he postulates that an action can only be considered if and only if the intention is morality, that is, useful in promoting the principles of life. Secondly, he asserts that the consequences of an action are not the rational basis for judging morality. Rather, the motive behind an action is the primary aspect that should be used.  Thirdly, Kant claims that actions can only be considered as moral if they are consistent with the moral laws rather than the satisfaction of need or desire. As such, there is a need to believe that the morals are not a result of experience, but of reason.

Additionally, Kant’s belief in morality is that perfection is not attainable. However, his argument is based on the fact that morality is morality is rational, that is, based on logic. Every human exploit should be grounded on a set of reasons rather than engaging in actions blindly. Secondly, he believes that the rationality of moral behavior is dependent on whether justice will be done or not. He argues that there are rewards for every action that we do despite having reasons to indulge in a particular behavior. As such, doing evil may be seen as lucrative and having more benefits compared to righteousness, the effects of evil actions are often destructive. Therefore, if people are to be on the safe side of justice, they need to engage in the moral activities. More so, Kant believes that truth can only be existent if there is God. While there are many bad things that happen to the people in the world, it is evident that that these things will not go unpunished, either in this life or the afterlife as Christians claim.

There have been a lot of certainties in philosophy regarding the real existence of God. Some of the arguments are based on the fact that the things found in the world must have been designed by some power and that they have a particular purpose even if we do not know exactly which ones. Other arguments, such as those proposed by evolutionists, are based on the belief that nature is responsible for selecting and placing things in the right place. As such, these people believe that there is no God. Nevertheless, apart from these arguments based on material things, the question of morality has in itself been proven that it must have a cause.  For instance, as human beings, we believe that there are good behaviors and bad behaviors (Carson 2000). Additionally, we believe that there are desirable virtues such as honesty and goodness. Kant affirms that these values are only existent because they have a source, that is, God.

Modern philosophers such as Swinburne believe in the explanation of morals through first showing the importance of God as the originator of morality (Swinburne 2004). According to him, it is important for people to know that they have to be aware of morality so that they can build the necessary knowledge about it. By doing so, they will be able to identify that there is a source of universal morality. For instance, Swinburne argues that it was wrong as a matter of principle to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. However, the morality of this argument is that the nuclear bomb will kill innocent people. Therefore, this universal belief that killing innocent people is wrong must have an origin. He furthers the argument by postulating that altruistic behavior is not in itself sufficient to show morality.  As such, there must be a God, who created the human beings and had given them the power to decide on good and evil. The reasonability in human beings is the one that brings about morality in our encounters. This argument concurs with Kant’s proposition that our experiences as human beings are not the source of morality, but the reasoning power as given by a supreme being. Therefore, there is sufficient proof that our experiences of moral values are backed up by God.

According to Tuggy (2005), doing the right things in life is directed and commanded by God. As such, it is the will of God that things are done in the right way that follows the rules of morality. On the other hand, Tuggy believes that if someone does the wrong things, they are forbidden by God, and there are dire consequences for such actions. Because God is the creator of the universe, he must also have designed the moral acts as well as good will. Additionally, he argues that the aspect of an act being right or wrong depends on whether there are any laws regarding that particular act. Therefore, there is no need to worry about God’s authority when judging morality.  However, Tuggy’s last assumption is a contractor because the laws are different in various parts of the world. What may be considered a crime in one country may not be criminalized in another country? Moreover, while an act may not be a criminal offense in a country, that does not make it a moral act. Therefore, morality is a universal concept and with only one source of truth.  As such, there must be, to some extent, the influence of God in matters of morality.

This argument is backed by Anscombe, who believes that the law is limited in defining the extent to which a moral act differs from a legal act (1958). Additionally, this confinement of morality within the legal institutions has failed to be active in promoting the need to engage in actions that are moral and respectful of other people. She argues that most theories of morality underestimate the power of God as a supreme being. She believes that there should only be one religious definition of morality. Furthermore, she says that everyone should have the obligation to follow the religious morality rules despite the experiences they have gone through. Again, while she seems to attack Kant’s theory of morality for looking like the normal legal systems, she agrees that experience alone cannot be a source of morality and that religion is the sure way of making sure that people are bound by some rules regarding their actions.

Kant’s philosophy of morality can be viewed as universally binding, but is important to note that the success of the morality belief depends on our ability to accept the moral laws and behave according to them. Another link by his philosophy to the existence of God is through the concept of good will and duty. When the goodness of one thing is dependent on another, it is possible that there is another thing on which the second one depends upon. This series of dependent goodness must end at some point where there is an item that is in itself good unconditionally (Timmerman 2007). For instance, when we have money, it can be used for many reasons including immoral reasons. As such, the goodness of money depends on the intention for its purpose. Therefore, the only unconditionally good thing in the life of a human being is good will, that is, the intention to undertake a rational and reasonable action that respects the rights of other people as well as the principles of moral laws.

Apparently, it can be seen that the reason Kant wrote the book was to offer an alternative to the theories that existed at the time, and they failed to give sufficient evidence to believe in them as universally correct. Additionally, it is important to note that his approach to the theory is one that does not depend on previous work of others, but based on the reasons that everyone can associate with quickly. He also says that the moral duty of every human being ought to be able to respond to situations in a way that the absolute intention is not to satisfy the personal ego but to offer assistance and sympathy without expecting any rewards (Crisp 2004). Notably, he refers to this aspect as a categorical imperative. This is a situation where we all are expected to be reasonable and treat every other person who is rational equally. More so, the duty of people is categorized into two that is, absolute duty and imperfect duty. Under perfect duty, an individual is prohibited strictly from indulging in illogical and unreasonable actions such as stealing. The actions under perfect duty should be acceptable universally. Imperfect duties, on the other hand, are those actions that are done for a pure reason but have the allowance of the fulfillment of desire. As such, all actions that are considered moral are based on reasons, and although they may not be acceptable everywhere in the world, they cut across a majority of people.

In conclusion, morality is the habit or custom of living a good life filled with actions that are reasonable and respectful to other people. To achieve morality in the society, one has to agree that the cause of having virtues such as honesty and goodness is God, who is filled with all the virtues and is unconditionally good. I agree that God exists and is behind the moral values we experience on a daily basis. However, I disagree with Kant on the fact that experience cannot form a basis for morality. This is because at the time he was making the claims the community was much more homogenous compared to today’s world where people hold different opinions even on matters that were universally not accepted in the enlightenment age. As such, morality cannot have a strict meaning.

 

 

Bibliography

Anscombe, E 1958, Modern moral philosophy, Philosophy, vol. 33, no. 124, pp. 1–19.

Carson, TL 2000, Value and the good life, Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame.

Crisp, R 2004, Does modern moral philosophy rest on a mistake? Modern Moral Philosophy (Royal Institute of Philosophy, Supplement 54), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Evans, CS 2004, Kierkegaard’s ethics of love: Divine command and moral obligations, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Kant, I 1785, Gregor, MJ (ed.) 1996, Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals: Practical Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Swinburne, R 2004, The existence of God (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Timmerman, J 2007, Kant’s groundwork for the metaphysics of morals: A commentary, Cambridge University Press, New York.

Tuggy, D 2005, Necessity, control, and the divine command theory, Sophia, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 53-75.

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