If what I know about Kant is correct- watching the Harvard Justice series on Kant and some summaries of his work- then Kant believes in an absolute morality where everything is either right or wrong in every situation. The act of morality is not dependent on the consequence of the action, but rather the action itself. His mantra, I believe, is, "Act so that your action might be applied as a law of the world."
We have heard the question of, "What would Kant say to a murderer asking him about the whereabouts of the potential victims." to which the answer is usually, "Tell him.", "Close the door.", or "Twist the truth so that what you are saying is not a lie in itself and therefore respects the categorical imperative."
I stumbled upon a similar question for which I cannot find an answer that would lie within Kant's philosophy. I chose this question because the usual one with the murder is classified as exceptional. WW2 was a horrible period in our history and is, hopefully, never to be repeated. However, complications during childbirth are a lot more common and I can see how some people must face this situation. I hope that most of you will agree that this question is more properly grounded in realism than other examples.
Imagine being married and your wife is currently giving childbirth. Because of complications both the child and wife are in critical danger, and you must choose which individual to save.
My first instinct is that Kant would say, "No, I cannot make this decision for every person has inherent value and to choose one over the other would violate their right to life." Therefore, in the extreme, Kant would let both people die.
However, I question this, not only for my ignorance of Kant's true philosophy. The difference between these two questions is that you are the person that must either act or not act. A killer is the agent acting out the evil option. In this scenario, there is no evil agent, only unfortunate circumstances. I cannot help but feel that inaction is an action at the same time, therefore I come to the conclusion:
1) Sacrificing one individual for the other is not permitted.
2) Inaction is an action. Therefore, the action itself, not choosing an individual, is morally evil and contradicts the categorical imperative.
The two contradictions are horrible. I believe to have read on Wikipedia that Ayn Rand called Kant a "monster" because of conundrums like these. This makes me understand her objections more clearly, while at the same time believing that Kant's imperative is still the best possible action to be performed. However, we, as irrational human beings, would choose not to uphold Kant's philosophy.
Am I correct in assuming that Kant would refuse to act in this situation? More specifically, Kant would let the circumstances unfold and risk losing both his wife and child? I'm also very interested in the reasoning behind the decisions as I am quite possibly misinterpreting or misunderstanding the philosophy of the categorical imperative.