Kant’s Definition of Virtue

Essay 2


Institution Affiliation

Kant’s Definition of Virtue

In Kant’s defense, in whatever case, lying remains to be lying, which in the end is morally wrong. All humans are born with what Kant considers “intrinsic value” or like he puts it, human dignity (Formosa, 2014). The genesis of this dignity is people’s ability to rationally react as well as the capability to make decisions freely. So, because lying automatically corrupts the moral aptitude of a person, it does not change this effect when the lie is made for a purpose that is considered beneficial. By lying, the people affected by the lie are hindered from acting rationally and independently. In the story of the inquiring murderer, the lie is made to avoid harming the friend whose whereabouts was lied about (Timmermann, 2013). However, humanity in general suffers in the essence that the formal duty of man (telling the truth) is violated, making futile the foundation of law.

Sticking to the foundation of morality is the formal duty of man and not maximizing happiness or any form of outcome considered ideal by moralists. Morality is about holding up human dignity without ulterior motives, without anticipating consequences and only being confined by the pure respect for ethics. The objective of being moral should be necessary for itself without any affiliation to a further end. The motive to be moral should be for the sake of itself. It should not be inspired by an expected outcome or used to tailor a particular outcome because, in the end, the sincerity and the rationality that human beings possess to act morally is violated.

However, with Kant’s supreme principle of morality, the current society will not exist. Every individual should only act in a manner that conforms to the rules they wish should be adopted to govern the universe. Because it is our moral obligation to take care of the welfare of those around us, then it should be permissible to lie when this outcome is sought. Morality takes the second base to saving the life of an individual or avoiding to devastate a child that is not doing well in sports and still has the potential to do better despite the current form. The situations that require individuals to lie for the sake of a desirable outcome, such as saving a life does not come around often. When compared to the amount of time spent on telling the truth, then the effect becomes negligible.

In the current world, there is no other moral obligation that supersedes, increasing the pleasure and happiness for the people around us. As much as an individual would wish to reason with Kant and consider his theory, its applicable to the society makes it rather impossible. Only Kant can explain why a person should not lie to a murderer to save the life of even a stranger leave alone a close friend.

Distributive Justice

Distributive justice is an idea of how a society dispenses the ownership of resources among its members (Jasso, Törnblom, & Sabbagh, 2016). With distributive justice, fairness is highly assumed during the distribution of a society’s resources. For instance, an equal amount of work should mean every individual receives a fair amount of goods or the same ability to acquire these goods. That said, John Rawls ‘ theory of justice begins with what he calls the original position where every individual is motivated by personal gain. There is no better way to define distributive justice than to look at it from the perspective of John Rawls in that a law or a principle can only be considered just if every rational person finds it suitable for their individual needs.

Self-interested rational people will not find a law that puts them in a generation that is less privileged just and would demand the equal sharing of resources among all the generations. According to John Rawl, no ignorant self-interested person would like to be handicapped in a society where the disabled are treated in a manner that is not desirable (Buchanan, 2017). In the same way, no rational person with self-interest will be comfortable with being in a race, gender, or generation that is allocated an amount of resources that is below the average. That said, such an individual will only endorse a principle or a law that allows for every generation to have roughly an equal amount of resources.

Because distributive justice maximizes fairness in the distribution of resources in a society, John Rawl’s Principle of Equal Liberty is very applicable. Every individual should be allowed access to the extensive liberties harmonious with such freedoms afforded to everyone else. In case a society is not achieving distributive justice, then the difference principle can rectify the imbalance. John Rawl states that social and economic discrepancies should be organized in a way that they are more beneficial to those affected by inequality and committed to offices and positions dedicated to equality of opportunity (Follesdal, 2015).

Aristotle and the Idea of Telos

It is possible to define an item, an existing system, an institution, or a social practice for what it is using its characteristics or features without delving into what it does. However, doing so would distance it from the most important thing about it, which is it the reason for existing, what Aristotle calls telos (Bazac, 2016). Although a chair is pieces of wood put together with four pieces connected to a single more extensive piece to hold that piece in position then laced with wood varnish, it would be meaningless not to consider the purpose for constructing the chair which is sitting on it.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is a section of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that was created by President John W. Bush after the terrorist bombing on September 11, 2001, famously known as the 911. Typically, USCIS was created to better monitor immigration into the country on the primary basis of preventing acts of terrorism. It is an institution whose ultimate end is streamlining immigration by handling security risks promptly and ensuring immigrants use the right channels (telos). However, in the wake of Trump’s administration and its approach to the immigration issue involving Central Americans, the USCIS is not moving from an imperfect state to a perfect one, but rather it is going in the reverse direction. The essence of the formation of this institution, as initially defined by President Bush after 2001, is lost. According to Aristotle, the essence of something is found when it potential has been actualized in a manner that was desired (Harfeld, 2013). The violation of human rights, including the separation of families at the border and holding them in camps defined by misery, is clearly not the potential expected of USCIS.

To conclude, distributive justice is but an illusion that cannot be entirely fulfilled. It is a model of a perfect society but not a mirror image of what the current community is. Also, various forces cannot allow for the existence of distributive justice.


Bazac, A. (2016). The philosophy of the raison d’être: Aristotle’s telos and Kant’s categorical imperative. Biocosmology–neo-Aristotelism, 6(2).Buchanan, A. (2017). A critical introduction to Rawls’ theory of justice. In Distributive Justice (pp. 175-211). Routledge.Follesdal, A. (2015). John Rawls’ Theory of Justice as Fairness. In Philosophy of Justice (pp. 311-328). Springer, Dordrecht.Formosa, P. (2014). The role of vulnerability in Kantian ethics. Vulnerability: new essays in ethics and feminist philosophy. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 88-109.

Harfeld, J. L. (2013). Telos and the ethics of animal farming. Journal of agricultural and environmental ethics, 26(3), 691-709.Jasso, G., Törnblom, K. Y., & Sabbagh, C. (2016). Distributive justice. In Handbook of social justice theory and research (pp. 201-218). Springer, New York, NY.Timmermann, J. (2013). Kantian dilemmas? Moral conflict in Kant’s ethical theory.

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