Sophia: An African Journal of Philosophy

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The role of reason in Kant's moral philosophy

Victor Chidi Wolemonwu, Chistian Pius Ekpoudom


One of the fundamental preoccupations of philosophers of diverse proclivities has been the quest to define the standard upon which morality could be judged. Whereas some philosophers, like the utilitarians, take a consequentialist stance in defining moral standard, where they believe that morality is based on the greatest number of consequence an action gives to the greatest number of persons, others tend to assess the standard of morality from a deontological perspective. Being one of the major proponents of deontologism, Kant argues that what defines morality is reason. This paper, thus, assesses the role reason plays in Kant‘s moral philosophy. Kant argues that reason directs human wills to operate within the standard of moral law. By conforming to moral law, one is invariably acting in accordance to the categorical imperative, in which an agent performs an action because it ought to be performed, rather than hypothetical imperative, which is prompted by sensual and selfish desires. Despite the fact that critics seem to view Kant‘s foundation of morality on reason as basically rigid, it is pertinent to assert that the directive role reason plays in the attainment of morality accentuates individuals to perform actions, which could be used as a universal maxim, and also enthrones respect for human dignity, which by and large, encourages egalitarianism and mutual co-existence in inter-human social relationship among members of a community. This paper employs the hermeneutic method in articulating its subject matter.

Key Words: Kant; Reason; Moral; Philosophy; Imperative; Duty; Goodwill

Mary Julius Egbai

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