♠Immanuel Kant: “The Categorical Imperative”:
For Kant the basis for a Theory of the Good lies in the intention or the will. Those acts are morally praiseworthy that are done out of a sense of duty rather than for the consequences that are expected, particularly the consequences to self.
Kant’s moral theory is, therefore, deontological: actions are morally right in virtue of their motives, which must derive more from duty than from inclination. The word deontological comes from the Greek word deon, which means “duty”. Duty-based ethics are usually what people are talking about when they refer to “the principle of the thing”. Duty-based ethics teaches that some acts are right or wrong because of the sorts of things they are, and people have a duty to act accordingly, regardless of the good or bad consequences that may be produced.
The clearest examples of morally right action are precisely those in which an individual agent’s determination to act in accordance with duty overcomes her evident self-interest and obvious desire to do otherwise. But in such a case, Kant argues, the moral value of the action can only reside in a formal principle or “maxim,” the general commitment to act in this way because it is one’s duty. So he concludes that “Duty is the necessity to act out of reverence for the law.”
According to Kant, then, the ultimate principle of morality must be a moral law conceived so abstractly that it is capable of guiding us to the right action in application to every possible set of circumstances. This general law is called categorical imperative.
Kant´s categorical imperative states that you should act in such a way that you can will that your act should be a universal law”
In the ethical system of Immanuel Kant, categorical imperative is an unconditional moral law that applies to all rational beings and is independent of any personal motive or desire. A maxim is an absolute moral statement; Kant stated that these had to be universalisable. When it For example “do not murder” and in general the Ten Commandments. Universalisability is the ability to use a maxim everywhere, and by everyone so that the maxim is never broken.
Just for the record, the Golden Rule is not the same than the Categorical Imperative. The Golden Rule’s focus only on the self. It is all about how one person would want other people to act towards that person. As to Kant’s Categorical Imperative, it focuses on all mankind. It is all about how all people would wish for all people to act towards everyone.
An example in the individual scope (Golden Rule) could be: “If I believe that homosexuality is inmoral and I condemn it, then I must accept the fact that if I engage in an homosexual act, I am inmoral as well, or I must abandon my previous belief”.
A categorical imperative demands performance of an action for its own sake. It has the form: “Do something”. An absolute moral demand of this sort gives rise to familiar difficulties: since it expresses moral obligation with the perfect necessity that would directly bind any will uncluttered by subjective inclinations, the categorical imperative must be known a priori; yet it cannot be an analytic judgment. The supreme principle of morality must be a synthetic a priori proposition.
Constrained only by the principle of universalizability, the practical reason of any rational being understands the categorical imperative to be:
“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”
That is, each individual agent regards itself as determining, by its decision to act in a certain way, that everyone (including itself) will always act according to the same general rule in the future
Kant argues that there can be four formulations of this principle:
The Formula of the Law of Nature: “Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature.”
The Formula of the End Itself: “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.”
The Formula of Autonomy: “So act that your will can regard itself at the same time as making universal law through its maxims.”
The Formula of the Kingdom of Ends: “So act as if you were through your maxims a law-making member of a kingdom of ends.”
So it is in ethics as it is in law. The Categorical Imperative is devised by Kant to provide a formulation by which we can apply our human reason to determine the right, the rational thing to do, meaning our duty.
In Kant´s “Critique of Practical Reason”, he employs the concept of the summum bonum (the supreme or highest good) to establish, or prove, the immortality of the soul, on the one hand, and the existence of God, as Creator, on the other.
The SummumBonum is the highest good that everyone (according to Kant) should strive towards.It is a conjunction between happiness and virtue. It is a reward for doing duty for duty’s sake. According to Kant in the “Critique of Practical Reason”, “the perfect agreement of the mind with the moral law is the supreme condition of the summum bonum” (Chapter 2, Part IV). Kant goes on to note that this “perfect agreement of the will with the moral law” is the same as “holiness,” a condition that cannot be achieved by any “rational being of the sensible world . . . at any moment of his existence” because perfection is something that no one can ever actually realize.
♠Categorical Imperative: Explanation:
♠ How self love cannot be universalised: Four Examples given by Immanuel Kant in “Critique of Practical Reason”
(As pointed on the slideshare feature above):
Kant gave four examples of how self love cannot be universalised.
1º) First Example: A man wants to commit suicide but questions if this goes against a duty to himself.
Explaining the First Example: The first example cannot be universal because one is always trying to improve one’s life while killing yourself does the opposite.
2º) Second Example: A man borrows money knowing he cannot pay it back despite promising to do so.
Explaining the Second Example: The second example cannot be universalised because If everyone did this it would make the ideal of promises worthless.
3º) Third Example: A talented man decides to ignore his talent and does nothing to further himself, he also questions whether this is duty to himself.
Explaining the Third Example: The Third example cannot be universalised because If no one used their talents there would be no doctors, detectives, scientists etc, society would fail.
4º) Fourth Example: One man is happy and flourishing in his life but doesn’t care about anyone else; he will not give other people help.
Explaining the Fouth Example: The Fourth example cannot be universalised because there will come a point when he needs help, if everyone has the same attitude as him, no one would receive help.
♠A Short Introduction to Kant´s Categorical Imperative:
♠”What is Kant´s Categorical Imperative?”:
Immanuel Kant´s quotes on Morality: