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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 imperativesee KANT, HYPOTHETICAL 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).