Immanuel Kant is regarded as the father of modern day philosophy when writing in the 18th century. Kant was brought up within a strong religious family and this can be seen through some of his works when he uses God as a postulate (which is seen as a solution) to explain the concept of the ‘summum bonum’, which is explained as a reward after living a moral life. Kant, contrary to Thomas Aquinas, does not attempt to explain the existence of God but uses God as a way to suggest that individuals should act as though there is a God as it brings about the most moral outcome. Kant also believed in uniting reason with experience and this is shown in the quote ‘to be a fulfilled human being is to be a free, rational human being’ and showing how to achieve this sense of fulfilment, one is needed to be rational and not be seduced by the presence of desire.
Kants moral argument begins by noting his idea of a postulate and this is where Kant enters his ideas regarding the existence of God as a postulate, referred to as something put forward as a way of solving a problem and is therefore accepted as true for the purpose of the argument itself. This is why Kant includes God, not as a traditional Christian God but one which guides us only through moral law and acting from reason alone. By doing so, Kant believes that morality requires the existence of God and describes God as ‘morally certain’ – he exists by making reference to the concept of using reason to know what is right and wrong and true or false. By following the moral law, one is following ones duty which is known to be an obligation and to which we follow certain categorical imperatives put forward as a way of using practical reason to decide the best way of deciding whether certain maxims should be followed.
If one is to look at the imperatives put forward, we see the use of universalisability which is deciding upon the universal rules to be used by everyone and to be followed and therefore this is the formula of the law of nature, so one should act as though a maxim is to be universalised (perhaps drawing similarities to Aquinas’ primary precepts and how certain things are necessary to find reason) Next we see how treating others as you would want to be treated. Kant says it can never be right to treat someone just as a means to and end through our own desires. This is followed by the concept of the kingdom of ends which is considered as an ideal society where Philosophers controlled and followed a suggested maxim that is both rational and moral.
One can see that Kants’ ethical theories are very similar to traditional Christian views with the idea of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ and therefore drawing a parallel to how Kant and Jesus both see the call on a right action towards other human beings rather than that based on emotion and love. This is emphasised by the relation of this to the ‘summum bonum’ which is very similar to Heaven when considering how it is an end goal, where we are rewarded for our morality and yet Kant doesn’t necessarily say that there is a parallel despite the clear connection. However, it remains to be seen although the evidence of religious ideas such as God, Jesus and Heaven is remarkable.
The ‘summum bonum’ is portrayed as an end goal for rational human beings to aim for and where one gains a sense of achievement for living a morally acceptable life. This then leads into what Kant states as that if we ought to do aim for something, which in this case is the ‘summum bonum’, then we can achieve it and so ‘ought implies can’. Multiple philosophers such as Jones criticise this assertion, for if we ought to do something it makes an implied suggestion of achieving ones duty and this can thus be shown to be following desire rather than duty. By saying how one can know the ‘summum bonum’ we could change ourselves to be virtuous purely for the benefit of a possible reward and therefore contradicts the idea itself.
Kant however sticks by the assertion that humans cannot guarantee happiness for even with ensuring virtues, it is outside our power to ensure happiness and therefore Kant refers back to the postulate of God by suggesting that if one can do something morally intentioned then it should be put forward to achieve this as long as the categorical imperatives are followed. This is then the reward those for living by the innate moral law as seen to be a proof of Gods existence for this is the only rational reason or otherwise where else would our morality come from? Furthermore, Kant explained that for morality to exist, we have to accept freedom, God and immortality. When referring to immortality, he believed that there must be an immortal soul because the reward of the highest happiness which is the ‘summum bonum’ could not possibly be obtained in a mortal life. This is why people who live by moral intentions aren’t necessarily rewarded within our life time alone and this is why the ‘summum bonum’ is there to allow those who followed the imperatives to be rewarded in the afterlife. Kant argues that it is clear that people do not gain the reward they deserve for those who are unpunished may live a more rewarding life in some aspects by doing what they believed was best.
Therefore, justice is served in the immortal afterlife where moral behaviour is rewarded by God directly in the afterlife. This makes sense when looking at our world for when we consider those who appear to live in expensive housing and who live by immoral actions may appear to live a healthy and fun life but in the afterlife, those who were instead trying to save the world by volunteering or giving to charity for the intention of helping others will be the ones rewarded by God. And so it makes sense for this to occur as those who have been moral and followed the innate morality will be reunited with God and those who have not will suffer for immoral decisions and thus it can be seen that Kant has clearly been influenced by religious views.
Overall, Kant’s moral argument can be concluded by our viewing it as a strong, maintained argument and by using the innate knowledge of reason to explain God for why else do we follow our gut feelings? We can be influenced by society and our cultural upbringing, but our innate guidance will always bring us to the most rational answer by guiding one towards ones duty.
Despite Kant criticising the Ontological Argument for making the assumption that God exists, Kant uses God in a way that seems to make sense in our world as there are many questions about God not helping with the problems of evil but maybe it is just possible that God is our innate morality and therefore we, ourselves are to blame for not following our duty. Therefore, Kant provides a justified argument and thus uses God as a postulate to solve the questions of being unrewarded. To put quite simply, those who are good in this life will be rewarded in another, those who don’t won’t. Is it time we started to follow the ‘oughts to cans’ and then ask ourselves about morality?