Moral Reasoning According to Aquinas, Kant and Hume

Moral Reasoning


The hypothetical question set before us raises the issues touching on various ethical and moral philosophies of different scholars. In particular, the question invokes the mind of a person to think about our daily experiences, and how we choose either to act morally or immorally upon them. In this case, an authoritarian regime, which is geared towards racism and genocide, is an immoral government itself, incapable of evoking the morality of human beings. For example, when genocide happened in Rwanda, a man by the name Paul Rusesabagina belonged neither to the Hutu nor to the Tutsi communities that were the target of elimination by the rebel groups. Many people knocked at his door for assistance because his household was a safe haven. He, therefore, housed both the Hutus and the Tutsis who were under the threat of murder. He even did bribe the armed forces just to let the refugees in his house be safe. The question that arises is whether such decision was moral. In our modern imagination Paul is perceived as having taken a moral decision. Our hypotheses is somehow similar. The paper will therefore show the moral action I would take in a genocidal and totalitarian regime for the protection of the ethnic communitiees under attack according to Aquinas’, Hume’s and Kant’s moral principles.

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The Moral Decision to be Taken According to Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas’ moral philosophy is based on the thinking of the choice of what man ought to do in the given circumstances as opposed to what not to do, putting into consideration whether such life is an opportunity or a misuse. It entails man exercising intelligence in arriving at a decision for the sake of his own good and the good of the neighbors (Marino 124). In this regard, Thomas Aquinas appeals to the application of virtues in life circumstances as a means of achieving the common good which is happiness at a common end (Marino 124). According to the philosopher, “the contemplation of divine essence brings happiness” (Marino 126). So Aquinas states that moral philosophy is an action that ought to be evaluated from an angle of the whole life of an individual, bearing in mind the essence of God. This means that doing good and maintaining good character is based on the exercise of a person’s will to choose virtues over vice (Marino 128). His argument is, therefore, more of a combination of the teleological and deontic concepts. In the case set before us, Aquinas would have expected that apart from holding my viruses, which are good deeds such as caring about my neighbors who are the young children, I also have a duty of ensuring that it is practical. Aqunas would have supported my idea of keeping the children safe within my house to avoid the pain infliction by the army officers on them, since their parents had already been killed. Allowing the children out would amount to giving them to the enemy for killing. Further, since Aquinas is against the idea of lying to the enemy, which in this case are the armed officers, I would also have had a duty to say the truth. However, the totalitarian regime is immoral by itself exercising racism, discrimination and killing of innocent people which amount to vices. In such circumstances, since Aquinas says that I should love my neighbor the way I love myself, I would choose to tell the police the truth but bribe them to let the children stay in the house for their security as Paul did in the Rwandan case. Such act is an intelligent and practical solution of saving both my life and the lives of the children. If I don’t take such a move, the army officers would check, and in the case they find the children in my house , I would lose the lives of the members of my household and the children’s as well. The best choice for me in the given circumstances is to tell the  truth to the officers, but appeal to their pity, including bribing them to keep the children and my household safe.

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The Moral Decision in Circumstances According to Emmanuel Kant

Unlike Thomas Aquinas and Hume, Emmanuel Kant, a German philosopher, uses the ontological perspective of the morality. He argues that human beings must act in accordance with the well established morals of the society which have gained universality. He, therefore, concludes that  man has a duty to follow virtue in all circumstances of decision making. He says “Moral actions are ones which practical reason would yield universal law” (Marino 196). However, unlike Thomas Aquinas who argues for the idea of doing good to achieve happiness as a common end, Kant believes that the choice to exercise virtue in a given circumstance is not by any way motivated by happiness. What motivates the human being is the need to do what is universally accepted as being of virtue. Applying the reasoning to our present hypothetical case, I would choose to lie to the police officers about the presence of the children in my house. The reason is, while I have a duty to exercise virtue towards the police and army officers by saying the truth, the army officers do not have good intentions towards the children. Likewise, the law which was consented by the people is no longer under application of virtue because of the existence of a dictatorial regime whose agents are the military officers. I, therefore, only have a universal duty of fighting for the lives of the two childern who are within my custody. The reason is, it is an established universal moral duty to preserve life and to treat all human beings in an equal manner no matter what the circumstances are. By caring about the children I will be assisting in saving my country from vice of a genocidal rule, because that is not what the people want. The people want a peaceful government. So it is my universal duty to assist my country gain a peaceful government that respects all people by standing for the lives of the children by all cost.

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Moral Decision According to Hume

Unlike, Thomas Aquinas and Kant, who rely on reasoning for their moral arguments, Hume relies on emotions, experience and belief in what he terms “a moral sense”. Hume says “Moral distinctions are not derived from reason” (Marino 154). The moral sense is acquired through what is called moral sentiments. According to him, the exercising virtue is provoked by a feeling of pain and pleasure in the society. In this regard, it is our feelings that will determine the exercise of virtue. He believes that it is a feeling of benevolence, justice and utility that motivate usto act in a certain moral manner. Hume, therefore, focused on morality as an inclination towards the naturality of human beings in an external world. In this case, I would choose to lie to the army officers about the presence of the children in my house as that is what is expected of me in the natural circumstances, rather than supporting the dictatorial regime on rationality basis to save my life, and see genocide unfolding in my eyes.


In conclusion, Aquinas and Kant seem to rely more on reasoning for their moral philosophies as opposed to Hume, who relies on the natural inclination. While in the application of the 3 scholars’ moral philosophy, I would still reach to the decision of allowing the children stay in my house and lying to the police officers. In such a way I would fight for the good government that values human life of all ethnic communities, and save the lives of the children as well.


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