God and Ethics
Individuals have their ethical standards that assist them in their operations. The study of ethics deals with human character, an aspect that dictates the acceptable standards in the society. The rationale of this study is to provide a persuasive discussion that will analyze various theories and views of Plato, Humes, and Kant, in a bid to analyze the role of God to justify ethics.
Plato’s View of Ethics
Plato is one of the philosophers who came up with the virtue of ethics. He progressed to several statements. First, he indicated that actions are usually considered acceptable regarding how a virtuous person makes them. Therefore, we should look at role models who are known to be idealistic in the society because their activities are considered to be honorable. In essence, Plato focused on who a good person is rather than the actions they perform. Secondly, he came up with the two precepts that regulate all the ethics. They include “Eudaimonia,” which means well-being and “arête” that indicates excellence. The art of well-being is the highest aim of moral thought that is required to make a virtuous man. Thirdly, he asserted that the human beings are divided into the body and soul, which are closely related to goodness and truth. One should constantly aim to be right. Thus, individuals must balance the desires of the soul and the body, a situation that ensure the total happiness. Fourthly, Plato believed that the soul was partitioned into three aspects that include reason, appetite, and honor. Therefore, when desires conflict with each other, then the situation makes one be unhappy. Moreover, he considered the virtue of the excellence of the soul, which includes brilliance in understanding, quality of passion, and helpful attributes such as courage and moderation. He also moved ahead to assert that goodness is the goal towards which all people aspire to achieve. That good will is represented by religious ethics that defines good actions because those activities lead to a conclusion. Furthermore, he proposed that happiness is attained at the end of engaging in good virtues. The happiest person does not have any evil in his soul. He avers that those who wish to be happy should strive for better livelihood. He also believes in the immortality of the soul.
Plato suggested that in the end, the body is usually separated from the soul, which is the identity of a person. Therefore, an individual must care for his soul through virtuous living and observing the right ethics. In addition, all people are brought up in a society, which has set standards and values that are seen not to be objects of our choices. In effect, it implies that people should strive to make right choices, which will enhance proper living.
Lastly, he stated that there is an end to human life. The period is usually attained way beyond the grave. The body and the soul are usually separated. The soul eventually goes back to the creator who rewards people based on their actions (Nehamas, 2008). In this aspect, an honorable individual is the one who is morally upright and consequently will live forever because of his/her virtuous life.
Hume’s Views on Ethics
Hume went ahead to make various assertions. Firstly, he indicated that our beliefs and actions are the products of our customs and determine our actions. Secondly, our judgments do not arise from reason, but from a moral sense. Verdicts arise from our passion nature, so there are no grounds to believe that our morals will be the same in all circumstances. Human beings have different opinions that either serve or harm them. It is evident that reason can never prevent any action because our activities are usually based on feelings. However, reason can help us in two main ways. First, they can inform us of the existence of something that makes us happy.
Secondly, it helps by showing us what we want. Moreover, he added that pleasure and pain commonly lead to moral judgment. An activity will be depicted as vicious or virtuous if it causes pleasure or peculiar pain. When one appreciates that by performing a particular activity there is a payment, he/she will be moved to tackle the particular job, but if there is no gain from the situation, he/she will avoid the task. Therefore, we praise a virtuous action because it raises in us a pleasant touch. We are also determined to avoid a vicious action because we predict that doing so will cause pain. Fourthly, he maintains that moral knowledge depends on our quality. A decent person is assumed to know the difference between right and wrong. The processes that go through our minds control our behavior. The strength of the mind is built over a period and provides an enjoyment just from the memory. One can only make moral distinctions when the person is calm and sober. Therefore, the actions are governed by thoughts and feelings of our consciousness.
He continues to assert that human beings are influenced by sympathy. The signs of suffering on people affect and compel us to help them. Sympathy entails the sharing of other peoples’ feelings. When a person perceives that the other person is feeling pain, one will be motivated to help. Lastly, he set up rules of behavior that were against self-interest. In a complex society, the long-term interest is to abide by the set rules (Mackie, 1980). In essence, any society needs ethics to perform various parts that are important to its continued existence.
Kant’s View of Ethics
He adds up from the traditional utilitarian school of thought, which assumes that virtue is required to motivate an honorable action. From his theory, he came up with the following principal stages. First, was the concept of duty. People in the society are motivated by the desire to fulfill their moral duties. It arises because failure to meet them would make a person go against the will. There are two types of duties, the perfect one that holds on to the truth, and the imperfect, which is usually flexible. In the society, perfect duties are more important than the imperfect duties. Secondly, there is the concept of the good will that the moral laws determine its decisions. The only virtue is that of a good will because no other can compete with it. Goodwill is important because it is always good and tries to maintain its ethical value even when it fails to achieve its intentions. A dutiful will is special because it gets visibility in adverse weather. He asserts that an action is only acceptable if one is willing to follow the regulations that allow it to be a common law through which one acts. Notably, he proposed that all moral requirements are grounded in the standard of reason, which is ordered by two primary principles. Firstly, we have the categorical imperative, which is a responsibility that binds people together despite their different desires. Secondly, there is the hypothetical imperative, which avers that we should obey duties to meet our desires. Thus, one should conform to the laws of the society. Any infringement of our obligations is usually regarded as immoral. In essence, people in the society have an obligation to work with the laws of the community. Finally, he spoke of the holy will, which is entirely free from the desires that might operate it (Princeton, 2008). Therefore, this “will” is not efficient because it is motivated by thoughts of duty and not moral law.
The Role of God in Ethics
All the theories revolve around the importance of human character. They agree that the human race possesses the ability to make choices that will influence their actions. Thus, a person’s activities have the ability to make him virtuous or vicious. According to Plato’s theory, even though man can control his/her actions, the soul is the one that makes him/her a virtuous being. After the destruction, the person usually goes back to the creator who rewards or punishes based on the past activities. The soul is believed to be eternal in all cases. It goes without saying that Plato thought that God played a really large character in ethics. It is evident that Plato believed in a supreme being, which was the maker of the souls. Hence, the people would be urged to live a life that was deeply religious, a situation that would make the creator have favor on their souls.
On the other hand, Humes believed that our feelings inspire every action. He believed that heavenly beings were not capable of engaging in evil acts. Hence, they could not use their feelings appropriately. According to him, God does not influence people’s ethics. Lastly, Kant proposed that the duty should bind people towards their society. When people possess a sense of duty, anything they serve is in the interest of the others. In essence, people should follow the rules of the society. He states that “holy will” is not safe because it sustains only a thought of duty and makes people have choices, which will touch on their moral philosophy. Kant wanted to paint a uniform society where the same laws will limit everybody. His theory is not favorable for all human beings because people in any society have freedoms. Therefore, subjecting the people to constant dogmatic practices will lead to complaints from the multitude.
As evident from the above discussion, God takes on a significant role in the ethics because people need to have faith in something or someone, which is a reference point of doing good and a source of consequences. Faith in a supreme being gives a sense of responsibility, love, and the aspect of caring of one another. Plato, Hume, and Kant had various positions on moral philosophy. Apparently, everybody has ethics that dictate their behavior in the society. This may include observing what the law commands, what religion requires, and even what a person thinks is correct. Hence, combining these issues will ensure that a person is capable of combining what he/she understands best and what the law requires. Therefore, when God is implied in the ethics, a balance of issues will be established.