In your class discussions, we learned the basic aspects of Kantian and Machiavellian Ethical standards. I found that it is fairly easy to establish a basic attitude on the subject, depending on how a specific person handles the situations in their life. I chose my preferred ethical standard rather quickly. I did, however, decide to further research the subject and see if I was missing any information. It didn’t take very much research to find a great deal of writing on the subject. In a short time, I found that the intricacies of these two ethical classifications are quite well examined by many people, and can be quite open to interpretation. After looking deeper into these philosophies, my beliefs only grew stronger. I believe that Kantian ethical values are the superior form of ethics.
For most people, Kantian-type values are given to us beginning at a very young age. We are taught to treat others as we would like to be treated. This is referred to as “The Golden Rule.” It is a basic overtone in Kant’s writings, although not specifically stated. It does, however, seem to apply to the moral standards of this belief. “A maxim or rule governing an action which cannot be universalized is unacceptable” (An Ethic of Duty). The Golden Rule seems a perfect fit. When we are young, treating people well is always emphasized.
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This is especially true in early grade school where anti-social behaviour is punished quickly. “Act by treating people, you own personal and others, always as an end in itself, never merely a means to an end” (O’Neil). Obviously, at that age, we are far too young to understand what that means. But we can still grasp the concept of treating people fairly and not hurting their feelings or hurting them physically.
Machiavellian ethics can be fairly easily summarized. “To be called a ’Machiavellian is to be equated with power-seeking, political cunning, and controllable hypocrisy” (Jarvis). I use the word opportunism to describe it. The goal of life is what you get out of it, and it doesn’t matter how this is accomplished. My personal view of Machiavellian ethics is a straightforward one. I do not like to support the attitude that some people have that are in life for what they could get out of it and will do whatever they can to get what they want.
This is my impression of the basic Machiavellian ethical system. I have never believed that “The ends justify the means” (Singer). Even though a Machiavellian might be under the impression that his actions are benefiting himself, in the end, these standards are self-defeating. Of course, no one is perfect. Everyone is human and wants to get ahead of their fellow man. Contrary to this, I believe that people should try their best to avoid this behaviour. What you put into life is what you get out of it. My experience with life is that it often seems unfair, but in the end, is just.
Ethics are very closely related to religion in many ways. Both are occupied with the treatment of others and how everyday situations should be handled. There are, however, some disputes between the two. One of the most difficult distinctions involves “Dogma.” The article Introduction to Objectivism by Katz states that “rational ethics cannot be based on an epistemology of revelation and eternal ignorance or a metaphysics of illusion. Religion promulgates rules. It does not evaluate their validity upon any basis other than god’s supposed will.
The word for this is dogma and it is quite accurate.” Basically what this means is that the reasoning displayed by many religious groups that action is “God’s will” or something similar is not viable because it is not objective or practical. Both views revolve around the concept of “goodwill.” Under strict Kantian standards, “if an action is not motivated by goodwill, it is wrong” (Grolier). I believe that this is something everyone should decide on their own.
In conclusion, I want to state that there are many situations where these standards can be argued. If your girlfriend or wife asks you if she is getting fat, is it okay to tell a lie? Situations like this make these standards difficult to assess. There may not be a right or wrong. It is also clear that even the best Kantian cannot follow ethics perfectly. This is not the point of the standards; they are there to provide guidelines. The closer we get the better we are doing. I believe that if everyone considered basic Kantian values in their daily interactions and attempted to follow them, the world would be a better place.
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