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Postulates of Morality

Postulates of Morality

The postulates of morality are the fundamental metaphysical assumptions which, according to Kant, are required in order to develop a consistent moral system.

  1. Freedom of the will: According to Kant, freedom of the will is necessary for voluntary action and moral responsibility. He says, ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, that is, morality implies freedom of the will. If the will is not free, morality becomes impossible. Thus, freedom is presupposed by moral obligation.                                Postulates of Morality
  2. Immortality of the soul: Morality consists in overcoming the conflict of desire with duty, but desire cannot be eliminated in a finite life. One needs to be persistent through an infinite life in order to become virtuous. Further, there must be an afterlife where there will be a perfect harmony of virtue with happiness and vice with pain.
  3. Existence of God: According to Kant, morality necessitates that virtue should be rewarded with happiness and vice be punished with pain. Virtue is the moral good and virtue and happiness constitute the complete good (highest good) or Summum Bonum. Thus, Kant states that there must be a God, who will harmonise virtue with happiness in future life.

Critical points:

  1. Kant’s ethics is formalistic. He does not recognise the significance of sensibility in moral life. He maintains that reason and sensibility are completely opposite to each other. However, there are many thinkers who have acknowledged the role of positive emotions, such as love and compassion, in ethics. Perhaps Kant is not absolutely justified in maintaining that sensibility is necessarily irrational.                                  Postulates of Morality
  2. Kant makes his ethics too rigorous by excluding all exceptions to moral laws. However, some actions are right simply because they are exceptions, e.g., 36 martyrdom and celibacy are moral because they are exceptions. Also, in some cases, it can be ethically permissible to lie in order to save lives.                                Postulates of Morality
  3. According to some, we cannot act in blind obedience to the law, after all the law is, made for the sake of people and not people for the sake of the law.
  4. According to some, Kant’s conception of the Complete Good as the harmony of virtue with happiness implies his recognition of moral ends. In other words, Kant’s formalism ethics also contains elements of teleological ethics.                                          Postulates of Morality
  5. According to critics, Kant’s second formula states that people should never use other human beings as a mere means to their own ends. But it does not say anything about animals and the environment. Does that mean people can use these as means for their ends? Perhaps Kant’s position needs to be understood in a broader perspective to ward off such wrong implications.



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