Categorical Imperative

The categorical imperative is the central philosophical concept in the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Introduced in Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, it may be defined as a way of evaluating motivations for action.

According to Kant, human beings occupy a special place in creation, and morality can be summed up in one ultimate commandment of reason, or imperative, from which all duties and obligations derive. He defined an imperative as any proposition that declares a certain action (or inaction) to be necessary.

Hypothetical imperatives apply to someone dependent on them having certain ends:

  • if I wish to quench my thirst, I must drink something;
  • if I wish to acquire knowledge, I must learn.

A categorical imperative, on the other hand, denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself. It is best known in its first formulation:

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.

Kant expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the popular moral philosophy of his day, believing that it could never surpass the level of hypothetical imperatives: a utilitarian says that murder is wrong because it does not maximize good for those involved, but this is irrelevant to people who are concerned only with maximizing the positive outcome for themselves. Consequently, Kant argued, hypothetical moral systems cannot persuade moral action or be regarded as bases for moral judgments against others, because the imperatives on which they are based rely too heavily on subjective considerations. He presented a deontological moral system, based on the demands of the categorical imperative, as an alternative.

Read more about Categorical Imperative:  Nature of The Concept, The First Formulation, The Second Formulation, The Third Formulation, Normative Interpretation

Other articles related to "categorical imperative, categorical imperatives":

Kantian Ethics
... moral decisions, which led to the principle of the categorical imperative ... Kant proposed five formulations of his ethical theory The Categorical Imperative, from which all other formulations were derived, states that moral actions must be performed out of ... every action must be the good of humanity this was the basis he gave to the categorical imperative ...
Computer Ethics - Foundation
... philosopher Immanuel Kant and his ideas concerning the Categorical Imperative ... Kant split this school into two categorical imperatives ... The first categorical imperative states to act only from moral rules that you can at the same time will to be universal moral laws ...
Eichmann In Jerusalem - Overview
... had always tried to abide by Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative (as discussed directly on pp ... rule" and principle of reciprocity implicit in the categorical imperative, but had only understood the concept of one man's actions coinciding with ... In Kant's formulation of the categorical imperative, the legislator is the moral self, and all men are legislators in Eichmann's formulation, the legislator ...
Kantian Ethics - Outline - Categorical Imperative
... The primary formulation of Kant's ethics is the categorical imperative, from which he derived his other four formulations ... that an action can only be morally worthy if it is performed in accordance with the categorical imperative, meaning that it is performed out of a sense of duty to the moral law ... For a maxim to be in line with the categorical imperative, Kant proposed that it must be universally applicable to all autonomous beings ...
Normative Criticism - Kant's Categorical Imperative and Adolf Eichmann
... In 1961, discussion of Kant's categorical imperative included even the trial of the infamous SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem ... Judge Raveh indeed had asked Eichmann whether he thought he had really lived according to the categorical imperative during the war ...

Famous quotes containing the words imperative and/or categorical:

    Because humans are not alone in exhibiting such behavior—bees stockpile royal jelly, birds feather their nests, mice shred paper—it’s possible that a pregnant woman who scrubs her house from floor to ceiling [just before her baby is born] is responding to a biological imperative . . . . Of course there are those who believe that . . . the burst of energy that propels a pregnant woman to clean her house is a perfectly natural response to their mother’s impending visit.
    Mary Arrigo (20th century)

    We do the same thing to parents that we do to children. We insist that they are some kind of categorical abstraction because they produced a child. They were people before that, and they’re still people in all other areas of their lives. But when it comes to the state of parenthood they are abruptly heir to a whole collection of virtues and feelings that are assigned to them with a fine arbitrary disregard for individuality.
    Leontine Young (20th century)