Responsibility for moral behavior and ethics

Ethics and the responsibility for moral behavior are hotly debated because people choose to make decisions based on their own perceptions or the jurisdiction of the case. A broad scoop on ethics has drawn attention to different theories that attempt to explain or uphold ethical judgments in some cases. In that regard, a person will want to be held morally responsible for their beliefs and justifications for their acts. However, due to various people’s perspectives and theoretical conceptions of ethics and moral responsibility, the universality of such statements must be questioned. In that case, therefore, this paper seeks to develop a discussion on various theories of normative ethics and propose for several reasons the most satisfying approach on account of morality. The paper is structured to give a brief view of the various theory of ethics upon which one is selected as the most satisfying theory.

Social Contract Theory

Social contract theory originates from the two agreements that men settled on in their quench for a stable and responsible society. The agreements comprised of on the Pactum unionis which sought to protect the lives and property by requiring the community to show mutual respect to each other’s lives, peace and harmony (Elahi 2005, p.1). The second part of the agreement is the Pactum Subjectionis which gave rise to the authority that would guarantee the protection of life and property (Elahi 2005, p.1). This theory has been analysed in a diverse perspective by Hobbes concerning significant human phenomenon such as the civil war. According to Hobbes, human nature is subject to resonate since individuals have desires on the same thing which creates conflict or making them be enemies (Jos 2006, p.141).

In the lens of the social contract theory’s ideas of agreements, moral agreement perception is drawn. Moral agreements bring a notion that individual makes choices on their actions. However, the agreement fails to agree with the ethical principles since it cannot be voluntary (Gauthier 1987, p.9 ). These contracts can only be real and non-hypothetical only when the parties agree to constrain on their choices and restrain their pursuit of own interest (Gauthier 1987, p.9 ).

Kant’s Theory

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) played an essential role in the improving individual views on moral perspectives. His theory asserts that morality is centred on the standard rationality which he referred as a Categorical imperative (Johnson 2016 ). In that case, therefore, moral and ethical codes are best practised under some sought of commands since most of the actions following this proposal are oriented or directed by imperatives.

Kant notion forms foundations for the opposing of some superior systems of ethics such as the utilitarian theory of ethics. Utilitarian ideas have been discredited due to the beliefs that may seem unfair in the view of moral ethics. For instance, the Act-utilitarianism views the moral actions as the entirely dependent on the on total goodness or badness of their outcomes (Smart and Williams 1973, p.4). In that respect, morality would be upheld upon the realisation of its impact on the sentient being involved. Following the above beliefs on the three notions of morality, this paper settles on the idea that Kant reasoning brings a more compressive insight of the practice of ethics.

Morality in the Lens of Kant’s Theory

Moral judgement is well explained by a critical view of the deontological judgment. Incorporating this view with initial Kant’s idea it is recognised that men have limits to things they do no matter the circumstances (Singer 2013, p.17). For instance, in this lens lying or committing murder are considered wrong, and therefore one is restricted not to do them no matter the situations. In the lens of other systems such as the utilitarianism, lying would be acceptable is it brings good for all. However, it has been argued that people’s actions are in the moral perspectives are guided by the self-conscious acceptance of constraints (Singer 2013, p.17). In that case, some rules may come into play due to the aspect of own interest and the pursuit of the general good of the actions. On the lens of the Kantian theory, the compelling aspect of the two self-conscious pursuits would be described as the drivers of morality and ethics.

Kant’s idea seems to orient on the deontological views of the actions which require individuals to do things regardless of the consequential outcomes. For deontologists, it would be okay to refrain from evil acts even when the refusal seems to bring more significant harm in future (Singer 2013). Ideally, this is in contrary to the utilitarianism which would develop an argument on the consequences of the act rather than the initial view of goodness or badness of the action. Deontology plays a significant role in support of the Kant’s idea since it is based on the adherence to the actions of the rules duty and obligations (Epps n.d, p.18). This also draws ideas from the divine command theory which asserts that the rightness of any action depends upon that act being done since it is a duty and not because the action arises from the right consequences (Epps n.d, p.20).

Kant’s idea is well presented when the distinction is drawn between duties and the rules so that its moral call does not seem to be oriented in the logistics perspectives. In an open domain, the Kant’s have been viewed as the basis for the formulation of the Universal Law, but a clear view to the Kantian ethics gives deeper and richer elements of the moral status as it would be argued by Van Staveren (White 2009, p.302). For instance, the viewing of the Kantian ethics as entirely based on rules may be disregarded by the view of some aspects of “rules”. Firstly “rules” can be described as an impersonal term which lacks true autonomy (White 2009, p.302). Additionally, Kant talked more of duties rather than the rules, and that individual’s duties belong to him and are imposed on himself (White 2009, p.302). In comparison to rules, it can be viewed that rules are not like duties since rules are imposed by outside authorities. In the aspect of morality, one would uphold ethics to obey the outside authority and not impress himself or respect self-conscious. On the aspect of duties, moral ethics would be seen as a personal responsibility which has nothing to do with the external forces or the surrounding environment under which the action is performed.

Another aspect of duties and the Kantian ethics is that is the characterisation of behaviours. Under then Kantian duties behaviours are guided, without constraints and restrictive acts as it would be the case with the aspect of rules (White 2009, p.303). In fact, the view of duties separates Kantians ethics from other proposals made by deontologists since deontology characterises behaviours by duties and limitations (White 2009, p.303).

In promotion of moral responsibility Kantian theory tries to draw a distinction between the divine forces and the human will which at times may play as influencers of moral ethics. For instance, according to Kant, the divine will would require human to do things that are morally right following the “holy” inclination which implies that the actions would be oriented to the goodness of an act as perceived by the performer (Stern 2015, p.16). However, the moral aspect of the Kantian ethics would require human to do other things other than what is right. Appraising moral codes on the aspect of the holy will is principled on the aspect of good and bad of the action which would be primarily centred to the law that Kantian ethics try to deviate from in many aspects (Stern 2015, p.17). However, on the theological aspect “holy will” can be used as a subset of the Kantian ethics to uphold moral obligation (Stern 2012, p.16).


Justification of moral ethics have been interpreted differently and jurisdiction given in accordance with the interpretation of the underpinning theories of moral ethics. Several theories have given justification on the motives behind ethical behaviours. Some of the significant aspect raised from this paper is that ethics originated as results of the human quest for sanity in the society. However, these ethics have been seen to be obligated to rules and consequences as outlined in the case of deontology and utilitarianism. The Kantian ethics have been used to single out the overreliance on the aspect of rules, consequences, divine will and other motives that seem to be externally in appraising morality. Kantian has presented a superior aspect that associate moral actions on the aspect of duties rather than rules. In that case, therefore, morality has been seen as a duty to be performed by the human in appraising ethics in their endeavours. The significance of the Kantian ethics is that it isolates the notions of duties and rules which imply that moral motivations are better served as a result of duties rather than rules. This is because rules are imposed and not self-generated and which might cause selectivity in performance and appraising of ethics.


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Epps, H., n.d. Ethics Vol II.

Gauthier, D., 1987. Morals by agreement. Oxford: Oxford university press.

Hill, T., 1989. Kant’s theory of practical reason. Oxford journals, 72(3), pp. 363-383.

Johnson, R., 2016. Kant’s Moral Philosophy. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 2 January 2018].

Jos, P., 2006. Social contract theory. The American review of public administration, 36(2), pp. 139-155.

Singer, P., 2013. A companion to ethics. New York: John Wiley and sons.

Smart, J. & Williams, B., 1973. Utilitarian- for and against. London: Cambridge Univesity Press.

Stern, R., 2012. Understanding moral obligation. Cambridge: Cambridge university press.

Stern, R., 2015. Kantian ethics: value, agency, and obligation. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford university press.

White, M., 2009. In Defense of Deontology and Kant: A Reply to van Staveren. Review of Political Economy, 21(2), pp. 299-307.

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