Immanuel Kant is a boss. Like, the boss of bosses.
As far as philosophers go, he’s like the RZA of this here ethics game. He’s the one that really summed it up nicely, and gave everyone the central cornerstone of modern ethics: The Categorical Imperative!
Put simply: Act so that the maxim of your actions should be made universal and necessary.
Ok, put even simpler: In whatever you do, act in such a way that you’re advocating that all people, everywhere, should always act in the same way, in that same situation.
So, if you shoplift, you’re saying by your actions that it’s in the best interest of all people everywhere to do the same. If you disagree, and think all people shouldn’t shoplift, neither should you – so don’t do it. Duh.
If you hold the door for people walking 10 steps behind you and let them in first, you’re saying everyone else should do the same. Also a good idea.
Or, philosophized? Whatever.
Kant’s other central points were:
- People are an ends in and of themselves, not a means to an end – so treat them that way. Don’t intentionally harm them.
- A good act is a good thing in and of itself, regardless of the outcome. Even if you failed, a good act is its own reward.
Taken altogether, if practiced, you have the lion’s share of what it takes to be a good leader – or at least not a giant-garbage-person.
My take away?
- Love people. At the very least, respect their humanity. Every one of them. Treat them decently, even if you don’t like them.
- Do a good thing because it’s a good thing to do. That means being honest, keeping promises, give your best effort, learn from mistakes. Even if you fail, you did the right thing and that’s all it needs to be. Success received for doing the wrong thing isn’t any success at all.
- Be a model for what you think is right – make sure you agree with what your actions say you believe in.
I wish I had another Kant pun to throw in here to close this thing out with, but I Kant think of one.
Waitaminute… I see what I did there. I just Kant get enough of these puns.