categorical imperative

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Related to categorical imperative: hypothetical imperative, utilitarianism

categorical imperative:

see Kant, ImmanuelKant, Immanuel
, 1724–1804, German metaphysician, one of the greatest figures in philosophy, b. Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia). Early Life and Works
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categorical imperative


Categorical Imperative


a term introduced by the German philosopher I. Kant to designate the basic law, or rule, of his ethics. It has two formulations: “So act that you can will the maxim of your conduct to be a universal law” (Sock, vol. 4, part 1, Moscow, 1965, p. 260) and “So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in another, always as an end and never only as a means” (ibid, p. 270). The first of these expresses the formal conception of ethics that is characteristic of Kant, and the second places limitations on this formalism. According to Kant, the categorical imperative is a universal principle obligatory for all men, which must guide everyone, regardless of origin or social position. The abstract and formal nature of the categorical imperative was criticized by Hegel.

In discussing the postulates of Kant’s ethics, K. Marx and F. Engels wrote that Kant “made the materially motivated determinations of will of the French bourgeois into pure self-determinations of the ‘free will’, of the will in and for itself, of the human will, and so converted it into purely ideological conceptual determinations and moral postulates” (Sock, 2nd ed., vol. 3, p. 184).


Williams, T. C. The Concept of the Categorical Imperative. Oxford, 1968.
References in periodicals archive ?
We are left with a continuum of ownership scenarios with elements that (1) are introducible as categorical imperatives, (2) are consistent with the survival of mankind, and (3) can be argued for without entailing a performative contradiction.
A deontological analysis reveals that such assignments are unethical because they cannot be reconciled either with Kant's categorical imperative or (more importantly for our purposes) with the ALA "Code of Ethics.
In the course of these alterations, Husserl's formulation of the categorical imperative also changes: "Sei ein wahrer Mensch; fuhre ein Leben, das du durchgangig einsichtig rechtfertigen kannst, ein Leben aus praktischer Vernunft.
Kant's second formulation of the Categorical Imperative.
15) See Philippa Foot, "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives," in her Virtues and Vices (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), wherein she challenges the Kantian notion that categorical imperatives are absolutely binding.
This is supported by Kant's categorical imperative that government cannot treat citizens as a means to an end.
3) This heavy obligation is asymmetrical in that our duty to the other is boundless, and we are commanded to act without expectation of symmetrical treatment that is implicit in Kant's categorical imperative.
This obedience before understanding is against Kantian logic, for this biblical ethic cannot be reduced to a categorical imperative in which a universality is suddenly able to direct a will.
The universality of rules or the categorical imperative, versus the "if, then" situation of hypothetical imperative is discussed and adds Kant's "practical imperative" and "kingdom of ends" as an ideal state of affairs, where one treats oneself and others as an end and not merely as a means.
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Richman defines a person as a rational being capable of acting in accordance with Kant's Categorical Imperative, which is "Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.