Every single day, mankind commits disastrous crimes against each other. These actions, such as genocide, war, etc., are universally immoral. However, there are also smaller inconspicuous crimes constantly being committed against each other. These crimes can include bullying, discriminating, or even stealing an object of your desire from the local grocery store. I am personally a huge Star Wars fan. If I was at Target, with limited money, and I saw a super intricate BB8, I would consider stealing it. In the moment, I would come up with many reasons why I should or should not do it. Immanuel Kant came up with categorical imperatives to create a moral law and help us to understand what we should do. Version 1 of his categorical imperative states “Act only according to those principles of action that you could will to be a universal law of nature.” Kant explains that we should only do things that we wouldn’t mind everyone doing.
Immanuel Kant used philosophic vocabulary to define human motivation, morals, and ethics. First, he defined the word imperative as the general proposition behind an action. In the case of stealing the last BB8 replica, an imperative would be that it is the last one on the shelf. An imperative is what makes the action necessary to commit. Behind that proposition is a maxim or motivation. We can also look at a maxim as a rationalization to an action. A maxim to stealing the BB8 would be thinking, “Target would not have a negative impact from one BB8 missing,” or “I need this BB8 because I am the biggest fan.” Although both the imperative and maxim lead me to steal the toy, it still would not be moral.
The scientist and philosopher, Immanuel Kant, simplifies his categorical imperative by connecting it to a universal law of nature. The universal law of nature is a sort of idealization. It creates a general rule for the inhabitants of the earth. Version 1 of the categorical imperative states that an act should not be committed if it cannot be a universal law. In terms of the BB8 situation, the act should not be committed. What if everyone stole the BB8 because they did not have enough money to buy it? The company would not be able to produce anymore because they would not gain any profit. If everyone stole the BB8, it would have a disastrous effect on Target as well.
This categorical imperative was originally created as a basis for moral law. In his time, there were a bunch of hypothetical imperatives. The two are very different although they both apply to morals. A hypothetical imperative is a subjective law. Immanuel Kant believed that the basis of our morals cannot rely on conditional logic. This is why he came up with a categorical imperative. This moral law is not subjective. It applies to everyone unconditionally. No matter what the situation, the law is still upheld. In the BB8 situation, it does not matter that I am the biggest Star Wars fan or that it is the last one on the shelf. Version 1 of the categorical imperative still states that you should not do it because it cannot be applied universally. Immanuel Kant was one of the greatest thinkers in mankind. Although some people feel this law is obvious, it is credited to him. The universability test can guide us in making moral decisions. However, there are inconsistencies. If everyone did something, it probably would not be wrong anymore. For example, if everyone cheated on their significant other, people probably wouldn’t think it was a big deal anymore. Does that make cheating moral? This is an inconsistency with the theory.
In conclusion, stealing the BB8 would be immoral. Many people can come up with many different maxims. There are many ways to rationalize stealing this toy from a large corporation like Target. However, if everyone stole the BB8, there would be drastic effects on the company that brought you this desirous toy in the first place. Immanuel Kant’s version one of the categorical imperative helps us to overcome our devilish rationalizations and be a better member in society.
Humans are instinctively pack animals. We derived from ancestors that worked together in groups. So with that being said, we must find a way to function in a society of other people. Immanuel Kant came up with a categorical imperative for humans to hold as a basis for moral law. Version two of his categorical imperative states, “Treat other people as ends in themselves and never merely as means to your own ends.” Kant is saying that we should not look at other members of society as a way to achieve your own personal agenda. He means that we should go outside of ourselves to recognize other people as humans, not things. While in Target, looking at the shiny BB8 that is last on the shelf, it would be hard to not steal. However, if we took into account version two of the categorical imperative, we might think otherwise.
Many people have heard the term “a means to an end.” Although it is a coined phrase, it still can be thrown around without knowing the full definition. In Kant’s categorical imperative he defines means as a way to achieve an aim. The word end can be referred to as the aim or goal in the situation. Therefore, a means to an end would be the purpose in achieving a goal. So if we used people as a means to an end, we would be using them to achieve a goal. Kant is saying that we should look at people as an end in itself. We shouldn’t look at them selfishly, figuring out ways to achieve our own purposes. We should look at them as another human who has their own purposes to achieve. This can carry over to companies such as Target as well. We should look outside of ourself at this company. They have aspirations to make a profit and they believed that selling the BB8 would help them do this. I, however, was looking at the company as merely just a way to achieve my goal instead of working together so we can both achieve what we want.
Mankind can be very selfish even though we all live interdependently. Many people use each other only as means to an end. In relationships, a boyfriend/girlfriend can use the other for resources or company. In this situation, that boyfriend/girlfriend is only worrying about themselves. They don’t care that the other person is sacrificing their time and effort, they only care about receiving what they need. This happens all the time, all around the world. Every minute, theft is occurring around the world. Theft is a classic example of using people as merely a means to an end.
Some people might question that we constantly are using people as means, it is inevitable. This is true. We do need to use other people as means. However, notice that Immanuel Kant uses the world “merely” in his categorical imperative. If we use people merely as means to an end we are not having respect for their needs. We are only looking for what we can gain and not establishing a symbiotic relationship. On the other hand, we can use people as means. For example, at a restaurant, we are using the server to receive the food we want. The server is using us to receive her daily income. This is a symbiotic relationship because both of our goals are successfully being achieved. If we were to dine and dash, this would then be violating the categorical imperative. We would be using the server as merely an ends to the means and not having any consideration for her as a person.
In conclusion, stealing the BB8 from Target would be violating the categorical imperative. By violating the categorical imperative, the act is immoral. In this case, I would be using Target as merely a means to my end. I would not be having any consideration for them and their needs.
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