Oklahoma police departments are currently on a hunt for Michael Vance Jr., who is responsible for shooting two police officers along with other bystanders on Sunday evening. Vance, along with Tony Heavner, opened fire at two police officers after they responded to a disturbance call. While being questioned, the two men shot the two police officers, while also being shot, and fled the scene in a patrol car. After leaving the scene, Vance went live on Facebook during his get away, where he made threats and went on about how ‘interesting’ and ‘intense’ things were about to get.
According to Immanuel Kant, every action has a reason why it is being done. Kant believes that before every action is completed, a test is run to determine if the action is a duty or if an action is rational. This is called the categorical imperative. Kant calls these actions ‘maxims’, which he defines as a simple rule for action, or a reason to act. In the case of Vance, I don’t believe that he ran the test to determine if his maxim, or action, was rational. I believe Vance acted on impulse, which resulted in irrational decisions and will result in heavy consequences.
Kant says that there are different formulations of the test that a maxim is run through. One of them is the Universal Law formulation. Kant says we must test an action to determine if it is rational, universalizable and consistent. We must ask ourselves, “What would happen if everyone were to do this?” Vance’s decision to act on impulse made it impossible to run this test. If everyone were to engage in shooting rampages with police officers and innocent bystanders, what would be the outcome? Most likely, there would be lots of murders, and essentially everyone could die in the end,which would make the action impossible to continue. Therefore making the maxim irrational and not of duty.
That same question could be posed for Vance’s decision to flee the scene in a police car. What would happen if everyone were to steal a police car during any interaction with the police? There would more arrests and less free people on the street. Therefore, again, that maxim is irrational.
Vance’s series of irrational decisions will result in harsh punishment. This also poses the question of how accurate Kant’s claim is. Does every individual evaluate their actions before they perform them?