Under the Kantian position for these circumstances, it becomes clear that even if this is the last dollar that the individual needs to purchase their drugs and it is what would bring them to an overdose, it becomes clear that if the intentions of the individual are not stated up front, which they most likely would not be in this situation, the categorical imperative would state that an individual has the moral obligation of giving them a dollar. However, the consequentialist position is different in that it has to do with understanding the outside circumstances of what is occurring and the various factors that come into play, which Kant’s categorical imperative does not do. For example, investigating the situation under constitutive moral luck, which states that “states of character that influence choice but are certainly not exhausted by dispositions to act deliberately in certain ways” are the main motivators behind certain choices (Nagel 299). An individual who is innately selfish is not going to give this person a dollar, which is ultimately something that could save their life, but they are not doing it with the intention of saving their life; rather, they are doing it with the intention of keeping the dollar for themselves, which is something that puts them under the situation of constitutive moral luck that they saved the person’s life. A circumstantial luck situation might have to do with the person being in the rain causing them more pity to give them a dollar or not, with the not being in the rain or in a more morally-pitiful situation not giving them this dollar to buy these drugs bringing about this kind of luck. In addition to this, a resultant moral luck situation might have to do with one person not having a dollar but the person behind them having one in cash, giving it to them and inadvertedly causing this death while the other person holds no direct responsibility for it. Finally, causal moral luck could result in a person having no other choice but to give the individual their dollar because they have one in cash and have not been told the intentions of the person that they are going to buy drugs, meaning that their free will is limited to this moral choice.
Kant’s viewpoint is an example of a deontological moral theory. It is conferring to concepts, the rightness or wrongness of behaviors. It does not depend on their outcomes but on whether they justify our commitment or duty. Kantian’s position would be that I might be giving money to a homeless person with the intent of helping them. If the maxim that represents my action is “I will give money to the homeless to help them,” then I think the act is not immoral. If they take the money to buy drugs and OD, assuming there was no way for me to anticipate the outcome reasonably, my good actions were well-meant. The results are outside my control and do not diminish the moral worth of the act. Consequentialism says, I would not give the homeless man money, and lying would be okay. This action would prevent him from buying drugs and a possible OD. Therefore, creating a greater good for his family and friends.
Considering the four kinds of luck that Nagel describes and how they might apply to the proposed solution has a varies of outcomes. Nagel has four types of luck, which are resultant, circumstantial, constitutive, and causal. Resultant luck is luck in the way things turn out, and Circumstantial luck is luck in the circumstances in which one finds oneself. (Nelkin)An example of both would be, I don’t give the homeless man the money because I forgot my wallets. In turn, the homeless man does not buy drugs and does not OD. Constitutive luck is luck in who one is, or in the traits and dispositions that one has (Nelkin). Since how we act is partly a meaning of who we are, the subsistence of constitutive luck involves that what activities we enact rest on chance. The homeless man’s constitutive luck will result in no money given to him. Causal luck, or luck in “how one is determined by antecedent circumstances” (Nelkin)
In conclusion, I believe that no matter what we decide to do, the outcome of the decisions that we make is neither right or wrong. It’s Fate.
Kant stated, “I believe that the problem has no solution because something in the idea of agency is incompatible with actions being events, or people being things. But as the external determinants of what someone has done are gradually exposed, in their effect on consequences, character, and choice itself, it becomes gradually clear that actions are events and people things. Eventually, nothing remains which can be ascribed to the responsible self, and we are left with nothing but a portion of the larger sequence of events, which can be deplored or celebrated, but not blamed or praised. “(Nagel)
In Kantian Theory of Morality,the “rightness or wrongness” of actions does not depend on their consequences but on whether they fulfill our duty. According to Kant, taking actions to fulfill one’s duty equals respecting the law which he called it the Categorical Imperative. For Kant the Categorical Imperative is vital in determining what our moral duties are. However, the whole Kantian moral theory is challenged by Thomas Nagel. Nagel argues that Kant’s view of morality is “too simple and doesn’t take into account the way external factors impinge” (Nagel, 294). According to Nagel the external factors introduce the notion of moral luck, which he defines it,” where significant aspect of what someone does depends on factors beyond his control, yet we continue to treat him in that respect as an object of moral judgment” (Nagel, 294-295).
When we come to the case of a homeless person asking for money; and what the Kantian and consequentialist position might be for this set of circumstances? In Kant’s morality theory, since the center of the moral enterprise is the good will, I believe that Kant’s position would be giving money for the homeless person without considering its effects. Because he argues that no consequence can have important moral worth; the only that is purely good thing in the world is the good will. In “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals” selection reading Kant also said that “a good will is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes, because of its fitness to attain some proposed end, or because of its volition-it is good in itself and regarded for itself…” (Kant, 348). The moral luck type for this is I believe constitutive luck, because Kant sees the good will as individual’s duty.
For consequentialists the ultimate bases for any action to be considered morally right or wrong depends on its consequences. Therefore, from consequentialist point of view to decide whether to give or not to give money for the homeless, I believe we have to look the circumstances of that homeless person. We need to ask our self how likely is he/she to use the money for good cause? Finally, we have to weigh the likely consequences be it pleasure or pain and then make our decision. In this case I think both consequential and circumstantial types of moral lucks might apply.