Kant’s moral Theory and the problem of divorce by Adrian Navarro Kant’s moral theory says a lot about us people in general. That we should act as if our actions are a “universal law” Every action must have logic and reason, and must think about the greater picture, meaning you must take into consideration what would happen if everyone did the same thing you did. His strong viewpoints about doing what’s right and logical cause great stir in topics such as divorce.
Kahn’s categorical imperative, his principle of universal law, and principle of humanity as ends in themselves are all ideas that he believes we must think about when talking about things such as divorce. He believed that our actions were divided into two types of duty: perfect duty and imperfect duty, things that we must do and then things that we are not obligated to, but should do. Kahn’s disagreement with divorce is due to the commitment we take when we marry, the reason we marry, and what it means to end the marriage. The categorical imperative as stated by Kant is something that we must do, and is true all times and in all situations.
It is imperative to an ethical person that they make choices based on the categorical imperative. in other words an ethical person follows a “universal law” regardless of their situation. When talking about this Kant uses the “thirsty man” and the “dying man” as an analogy to explain this. He thought that the morality of a choice is why we make a choice and not what happens after. This is true for the analogy of the dying man where he dies after choking on water the thirsty man gave him. Despite the death of the dying man the thirsty man did the right thing because the dying man needed the water more than him.
Now when talked about in the context of divorce. Divorce to Kant is essentially breaking a promise. When you decide to marry someone you make the rational and logical decision and promise to be with that person forever out of love. That to Kant is a categorical imperative because since we are taking an oath and promising something, it is our duty to carry out that promise. Thus there should be no exception as to why we want a divorce, because at the time we knew what the promise would mean and we must always act rationally when making these promises.
Kant said people should have know the “maxim” when making these decisions, which is what we want to do and why we want to do it. He also thought that we should treat other persons as persons and not as tools who can help us some way. He said we should do this based on the ethical duty that all persons have to each other. In other words, we shouldn’t use marriage to treat the other person as some sort of tool that we use, we must treat them as if we were them because we all need each other.
Rather instead of treating people as ends,we should not treat them as mere means. He also stated that we should Behave in such a way that a reasonable generalization of our action to a universal rule will lead to a benefit to a generic person under this universal rule. These are the two forms of categorical imperative. In If all of our actions are to be logical enough that they can be considered universal law then we must look at what divorce represents if it were universal law. If a person were to get a divorce, what would happen if everyone got a divorce?
Kant stated that we should “Act as though the maxim of your action were to become, through your will, a universal law of nature. ” When put into the subject of divorce, Kant believes that our actions should provide the same benefit for others as it provides a benefit for us. However divorce isn’t a benefit for anyone naturally, meaning that it can’t be a universal law and if Kant states that our actions should be like a universal law for all then theoretically Divorce is wrong, according to Kant.
We should use a marriage as always an end and never merely as a means. This is the principle of humanity as ends in themselves. We must treat each other as equal humans and we must respect reason as a motive in all beings, including other people. A person is not a thing, so he/she isn’t something to be used merely as a means, and must always be regarded in all his actions as an end in himself. Therefore divorce can’t be something that is done out of the pleasure of someone because that means you a treating the person as means and not as an end.
Thus another reason why Kant disagrees with divorce. The three categories of duties known as perfect duties to others, imperfect duties to self, and imperfect duties to others show the actions that we must do and what we have a choice on. When looking at the issue of divorce, it conflicts with the perfect duty to others which is basically to not do anything to others that they would not accept (kill, hurt, enslave, deceive, etc. ) Divorce most of the time hurts one if not both of the people involved so it can’t possibly follow the perfect duty to others.
In a way divorce is like deceiving the other, when a person commits to marriage they commit to being with the other person forever in sickness and health, but when you ask for a divorce you have accentially deceived your partner and are essentially backing out of the commitments you made. Like hobbes would say, you cannot break a social contract (Marriage) and Kant seems to agree with this. After all Kant states that human beings are rational, but the goal of reason is not happiness the point of being rational is to have a will that does what is right.
So when committing to something like marriage the only rational thing to do is complete it. This also relates to the imperfect duty to oneself, because as a person the imperfect duty is to develop your self and develop your talents. In order to develop yourself you must think about the maxim when thinking of acting a certain way. This also relates to the imperfect duty to others because when you ask for a divorce you are not aiding the lives of others, instead you can be harming the other individual which is something Kant has always said should not happen.
Although there are cases where divorce can be mutual and/or something could happen in the relationship that makes the divorce a more logical way to create happiness for each other, it is hard for Kant to be able to say sometimes Divorce is morally ok. Because of the fact that you are breaking a commitment and a perfect duty to another. Kant has also stated that actions should not be based on happiness and instead on what’s logically right and wrong. However in some bad marriages the other individual can deplete your chances of developing yourself, and at times conflict with your perfect duty to preserve yourself meaning no suicide.
Horrible marriages can lead people to think about things such as suicide, or self harm as a coping mechanism for such a terrible marriage, and in these cases Kant may see why some cases of div be morally ok. Although it is important to maintain promises it is also equally important to preserve thyself and maintain your imperfect and perfect duties to yourself. Throughout Kant ideologies you can see that overall he disagrees with the idea of divorce. I for one agree with his viewpoints due to the fact that, you are taking a commitment when marrying, and you can’t break a commitment that serious.
Marriage is a sacred thing and when two people get together they should only get married when they are emotionally ready and know exactly what they are committing to. I believe divorce is wrong because a person must always think rationally before making a life changing decision. Divorce can affect your children, it can affect you mentally, and it can affect others around you. I agree with Kant and I believe that people at times don’t realize what you commit to when you marry.
At the moment it may seem right, but you must know your partner completely, and with that you must decide if you want to be with that person forever. People who get married after less than a year of knowing each other doesn’t make much sense considering you may not have seen the negatives of a person especially in moments of difficulty. It is the person’s duty to act rationally and act as though your actions are a universal law. People must only commit when they know everything is perfect for that occasion.
Marriage takes two people however, and if the other person does not act morally correct then that is when divorce may sometimes be ok. Things such as cheating or abuse show the other person failing his perfect duty to others and thus it would then become morally right for the other person who is thinking rationally to want divorce. Overall Kant’s ideologies of categorical imperative, the principle of universal law, and the principle of humanity as ends in themselves are all ways of showing people who to act and how to make the smartest and most rational decisions.
Divorce to Kant isn’t right because of the commitment we take when we marry, the reason we marry, and what it means to end the marriage. It conflicts with your perfect duties to others, your imperfect duties to self and to others. Although some extreme cases of divorce may be ok, that is only because the other person isn’t thinking rationally. By following the categorial imperative, and the universal laws kant believed that we could become better people and we would further help each other because after all us humans cannot survive without the help of others.