I believe that Immanuel Kant would see carter druses action of shooting his father as moral. Kant was an ethicist that believed that morality was based on duty, that ethics is absolute, not conditional, and is based on reason, not feelings. That is exactly the dilemma that Ambrose Bierce writes carter druse into in the short story a horseman in the sky. I feel there are several parts of the story that flip back and forth between being moral and not being moral or maybe the better words would be that it is ironic on many levels.
In keeping with Kantian thinking and philosophy, I think it is the perfect example of putting aside emotions and basing a decision solely on reason and duty. Its ironic that the thing that rouses him from his state of crime is the horse that his father is on.
Kant’s deontology is perfectly illustrated in this story as the sentry is torn between emotion and duty. Carter Druse knows what his duty is: he feels a responsibility, an obligation, to join in with the Federal regiment when it passed near his home. He may well have known his father’s view, but his decision was made firmly and without regards to the consequents. His father’s response further confirmed Kant, for the father realized his son was following duty, and only encouraged him to not falter from it. The heavier adherence to duty illustrated was the firing upon the Confederate soldier – knowing it was his father, but yet an enemy with significantly damning knowledge on the field of battle. This struggle is admirable in Kant’s view. The sentry is not just doing what he desires to do, and it happening to also be his duty, but rather takes a good long look at what his duty is and puts aside all emotion and other baggage to fulfill his charge. Many of our duties come from job descriptions and the like, but just as the decision to join with the Union, this decision is motivated from a deeper place – perhaps the boy’s soul – and demonstrates Kant’s deontology as Kant intended.
Duty implies so much more than just what is in a job description. Sure those are referred to as duties, and in some occupations fulfilling the ‘duties’ of a job description can be challenging. What Kant was referring to I believe was more of the duties of life. Living an ethical life, being a good parent, mentoring children and being a role model, whether it is at an after school program, or as the leader of an entire nation, these are jobs that do not come with an instruction manual. Kant puts forward his deontology as an outline of what such a manual might look like. Not concerning oneself with pleasurable consequences but rather doing what one knows as duty should be what we all strive for. The intent, the motivation, is never for reward; not the most good for the most people, not to secure a place in Heaven, not for any reason other than the intrinsic value of having done one’s duty faithfully. If everyone was to act on duty alone, the world would be a better place. His categorical and practical imperatives were maxims to truly live by. What if government officials never used people as a means but only ever as an end? What if Carter Druse decided he could not kill his father though duty told his so – and thus made it an edict for all fighting the Civil War? This story may be shocking, and it may not be one many enjoy reading, but I believe no one would say the sentry was wrong; that seems to shows some credence to what Kant was talking about