Is there knowledge that is a priori, in that it was present before information processing began from the senses? Is there a sense of duty or morality inherently present ever guiding the senses to what is perceived and attended to? The things in which we achieve through some means of perseverance or while withstanding hardship are either things we do by moral principles or by the nature of duty. In an attempt to truly understand what is meant by moral principles, one must neglect empirical impressions from individual experiences. It is from pure rational thinking can the understanding of moral benevolence be ignited like a flame in a distant darkness.
A proposition is to be a priori if it can be known independent of experience. Duty is a moral or legal obligation, in that it makes one feel it is required to be done. In many variations of living experiences, we falsely bestow the reason of actions to duty when the true purpose came from moral principles. There are of course circumstances when the reason deriving from the moral principle or duty can alleviate pressure of actions performed, if it be duty, or rejoice in one’s own nature if it be moral principles.
On one end, there is an individual sworn to duty for country, and in some cases necessitating murder, needing the approval from self that actions committed were not the nature of the self but from the obligation taken upon by duty. On the other end of the same individual sworn to duty for country, there are instances where some will falsely bestow reason to duty to shadow the truth of malicious moral principles of the self, derived from experience. In an instance not as dramatic, think of the individual that reaches esteemed academic heights and makes a discovery saving humanity from a terrible disease. Now, did this individual do so by the nature of their moral principle guiding them to solve such a terrible illness, or was it duty to family to continue in academia and then happen to come across a discovery. To note, this is not an argument for determinism or free will, as one could argue that it was free will that guided the individual by remaining loyal to duty while one could also argue that the individual was determined to stay loyal to duty and reach the accomplishment. Nevertheless, it must be understood that there is indeed an identifiable difference between what is meant by duty and what is meant by moral principles.
We are now confronted by the question of if moral principles can be bad from experience, can they be so a priori. This is the reasoning for the necessity of pure rational thinking. Immanuel Kant on moral principles, states that we must first define ethics as metaphysics and once it is so and firmly established can we then bring about the learning of it from the masses so that everyone, the educated and not, can help reach societal prosperity. Although it is simple to get lost in the description and discussion of metaphysics, we must remember to be brief to enable public understanding and that practical rules must be applied in rational thinking, in that when we speak of morality we speak of mankind and mankind is within a world which physics must ever be acknowledged.
The notion by Immanuel Kant is the reasoning behind explaining the fundamental nature of being, in that if the fundamentals of a being can be identified then there can be little controversy from all variations of the being regardless of the differences in experiences. It would be impossible for us to derive universal moral laws from specific events and experiences, thus none of our experiences can be a source of moral principles that could be applied to all cases and circumstances. For instance, the simple notion of God, the perfect being, is itself an a priori idea of moral perfection in that it has not been experienced, arguably, but can be attributed to every and any individual. If we can identify the moral principles that are indeed a priori then we can reinforce it in humanity to guide us from the distractions and our own, sometimes opposite, motivations.
To not create confusion with further explanation, a notion to be delivered to all humanity for its own benefit and to attain pure moral principle should follow a particular proposition. One should act only in such a way that you could want the maxim, or motivating principle, of your action to become universal law. A wonderful example of this proposition by Immanuel Kant states that people have a duty not to commit suicide, because if it was a universal law everyone followed, then everyone would kill themselves and existence would not be observable and in essence cease to exist. The proposition is equivalent to the popular notion of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This notion is both human duty and of pure morality.