Categorical imperative definition/Different Kantian Imperatives

The categorical imperative is a philosophy concept developed by the philosopher Immanuel Kant , who defends that every human being must act in accordance with moral principles. Categorical imperative definition

For Kant, an imperative is any plan that indicates that a certain action must be carried out, that is submitted to an analysis.

The concept of imperative analyzes the motivation that leads human beings to act in different situations in life.

Different Kantian Imperatives

Immanuel Kant divided the concept of imperative into two strands: categorical imperative and hypothetical imperative .

categorical imperative

The categorical imperative has at its core the sense of morality and duty as a principle. Kant sought to create a kind of formula (like those in physics) that could guide all actions. Categorical imperative definition

Thus, an action would be moral only if it passes the scrutiny of the categorical imperative. Each and every action must be evaluated in itself, regardless of the previous history or the context in which the action would be carried out. Nor would it make sense to project the effects of the action, whether they would be beneficial or not.

For Kant, it is important that the conduct of those carrying out the action has an intrinsic moral concern, independent of punishment or advantage, or any type of loss or profit.

The categorical imperative holds that individuals should act in accordance with what they would like to see as universal law, that is, they should only act in the way they would like everyone (without exception) to act. Because of this concept of law, the categorical imperative was also called the universal imperative .

Kant proposed three formulations for the categorical imperative:

  1. Act as if the maxim of your action should be transformed into the universal law of Nature.
  2. Act in such a way that you treat humanity, both in yourself and in the other person, always as an end and never as a means.
  3. Act as if the maxim of your action should serve as a universal law for all rational beings

In this way, Kant believes in a way to base morality on the human capacity to think and judge, without needing anything beyond action, such as its utility or even a religion. Categorical imperative definition

Example of using the categorical imperative

For Kant, the answer to this thinking is based on another question: “Do I want everyone who is late to drive at high speed?” or rather, “Should high-speed driving become a universal law for those who are late?”

Following the categorical imperative, it is easy to see that action (driving at high speed) should not be taken. No rational being would understand that driving at high speed should be the rule. Respecting speed limits is a way of not risking your own life or the lives of others.

It is noteworthy that there is no concern with the punishment that may be applied if this duty is not fulfilled.

Regardless of punishment, the motivation for action is duty, it is moral concern and not fear of a possible fine.

Importance of the categorical imperative

The concept of categorical imperative is of great importance in the ideal of a harmonious life in society, as it advocates that all people behave ethically and morally and act without harming or taking advantage of others.

The novelty brought by Kant is that morals are based on a sense of duty, not religion or fear of sanction or punishment. Categorical imperative definition

Respect for the categorical imperative could educate the will to only want what should be done. This would make crimes impossible to commit, laws unnecessary, and lead humanity to perpetual peace.

hypothetical imperative

The hypothetical imperative is a completely opposite concept to the categorical imperative.

The central idea of ​​the categorical imperative is to follow an idea as a way to reach a certain purpose. There is a direct relationship between action and purpose, that is, for x to be achieved, y must be done.

This imperative is called hypothetical because the action needed to reach the end may or may not be put into practice, depending on the will and inclinations of those who will eventually exercise it.

It is not important, however, whether this purpose follows the principles of morals and ethics. The focus is on having a goal and acting to achieve it, regardless of circumstances and everything else. Categorical imperative definition

Hypothetical imperative example

If you don’t want to pay a fine, don’t drive at high speed.

Note that in the sentence above, the individual’s main concern is non-payment of the fine.

The moral concern with the own integrity of the person in charge or with the physical integrity of the neighbor does not exist. What makes him “careful” is the chance of being arrested and not the sense of responsibility.

Learn more about imperative .

the Kantian principles

According to Kant, the human being’s morality does not depend or is related to the experience lived by him, that is, it is a capacity that is already born with the human being; it is innate and a priori.

The Kantian ethics is totally based on the categorical imperative.

The Kantian moral does not tolerate attitudes and actions motivated by interests, because it is based simply on duty and action for action. Categorical imperative definition

Curiosities about Immanuel Kant

Kant’s father was known to be a man who preached the truth above all things.

It is possible to see through his ethical and moral principles that Kant was directly influenced by his father’s ethical austerity.

The philosopher himself even went so far as to express through his writing that, in his father’s house, there was never room for anything that opposed decency and veracity. Categorical imperative definition

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