categorical imperative

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Acronyms, Wikipedia.
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
..... Click the link for more information.

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 ?
If we assume that my baking a good souffle is not an objectively valuable state of affairs, then there is no categorical imperative stating a reason to have as an end my baking a good souffle.
9 It is in light of this sadistic dimension of the categorical imperative that inhabits the formal economy of social law that Freud draws a parallel between the categorical imperative and his conception of the super-ego.
He also tells us that compliance with D is a categorical imperative on the grounds that it (1) passes a universalization test, and (2) permits action and the survival of mankind.
According to the second formulation of Kant's Categorical Imperative, it is morally right only to treat people as ends in themselves, not merely as a means to some other end.
Kant's categorical imperative had the advantage over older moral theories that obeying rules ostensibly of our own making is more flattering to some human egos (because requiring less humility) than obeying similarly abstract rules conceived as reflecting the will of a power infinitely higher than ourselves.
This clears the way for a rehabilitation of the Kantian claim that reasons for action can take the form of categorical imperatives.
All imperatives command actions in the service of achieving some purpose or end' (94); and 'Like all imperatives, the categorical imperative expresses a command "for the determination of action that is necessary in accordance with the principle of a will which is good in some way.
First, I will explain why actions forbidden by antitrust do not involve any violation of rights or duties, as dictated by Kant's formalization of the moral law, the categorical imperative.
She closes by raising, without solution, familiar worries about the Categorical Imperative.
If the reader detects shades of Kant's categorical imperative here, it is no accident.
This motive amounts to respect for the categorical imperative, which says "Never act in such a way that you cannot at the same time will your maxim to be a universal law".
a) Categorical imperative o (b) Technological imperative o (c) Territorial imperative o