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

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The essence of autonomy lies in a human being following the categorical imperative, without being affected by external influences or necessities.
Kantian categorical imperatives should not be confused with undeniable ought statements.
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." (Hua XXVII: 36).
Categorical Imperative, because the Golden Rule can only provide moral
This is supported by Kant's categorical imperative that government cannot treat citizens as a means to an end.
(5) A categorical imperative, on the other hand, "wurde der sein, welcher eine Handlung als fur sich selbst, ohne Beziehung auf einen andern Zweck, als objektiv-notwendig vorstellte" (would be one which represented an action as objectively necessary in itself, without reference to another end [25]).
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."
power," concluding that "From Somalia to Rwanda, Cambodia to Haiti, and Congo to Bosnia, the bad news is that the failure rate of these interventions spawned by the categorical imperative of human rights and humanitarianism in altering the situation on the ground in any enduring way approaches 100 percent.
Nazism, he wrote, "imposed a new categorical imperative: to think and to act in such a way that it shall not be repeated, in such a way that nothing like it shall ever happen again." His categorical imperative had a resolutely universalist dimension: may it never be repeated, even under new guises and with new victims.
In particular, they have been profoundly influenced by Kant's distinction between "persons" and "things" in the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals and Kant's command to treat persons as ends, never merely as means for profit, pleasure, or exploitation (Kant's famous second formulation of the categorical imperative).
Kant (1750/1993a, 1753/1993b) reasoned that all imperatives of duty could be deduced from one categorical imperative: Act as if the maxim of your action by your will would become universal law.