Research Paper: What Is the Categorical Imperative?

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¶ … Kantian categorical imperative

The Formula of Universal Humanity (FUH)

The Formula of the Kingdom of Ends (FKE)

The Imperfect duties

In this paper, we discuss the concept of categorical imperative with a sharp focus on its basic tenets and its various applications. This is done through a rigorous analysis of various philosophers and scholars such as Immanuel Kant. The Kantian view is however extensively presented in this paper in order to gains his understanding of categorical imperative.

This paper is about the analysis of the Kantian categorical imperative, its applicability (relevance) and main arguments of human morality. We base our discussion on variety of views most of which are derived from Immanuel Kant's work series.

The concept of categorical imperative has dominated the study of human reasoning and morality. It is important to clearly define what categorical imperative is. It has been described as the foundational or rather "supreme" principle of morality according to Kant. In order to completely fathom what he meant, it is important to understand what he meant by the command "I ought never to conduct myself except so that I could also will that my maxim become a universal law" (Kant, 2002)

In order to comprehend what exactly is categorical imperative, it is important to analyze the notion of morality with its basic principles and what makes categorical imperative to be so special. According to Kant, Categorical Imperative forms the foundational principle of morality since in contrast to all the available practical policies that guides the human nature, it is the single one that possesses the basic tenets of morality since it has unconditional and yet universally acknowledged reason-giving force. The meaning of this is that it forms the only practical policy that gives a good practical reason of acting to all living creatures in way that is independent of all other considerations such as human desire. In other words, it is the only principle of morality that commands human beings via pure and practical reasons. Therefore, it is a principle that is rationally binding on every creature that is rational. The consequence of not being bound to the principle is that the creature involved is deemed as being utterly irrational since it acts contrary to the real demands of the practical reason.

It is important to consider what Kant thinks of the concept of Categorical Imperative. His deductions are as follows:

The only thing that is unconditionally good is one that has an element of good will.

Good will is a will that is considered to acts from an individual's duty alone.

The acting from an individual's duty alone is made up not in acting from inclination and not from desire alone but out of respect moral law solely (such as performing the act for no other reason other than being the morally right thing to perform).

Each and every practical policy in existence other than the Categorical Imperative demands that a person possesses a certain desire as well as inclination such as the necessary skills and prudence.

In essence the only unconditionally good move is acting in accordance with basic tenets of the Categorical Imperative.

From these we see that Kant is claims that the moral worth of an action is linked to two very important concepts: These are the moral duty and the moral law.

It is clear that every person acts from moral duty as argued by Kant. If the person acts from his or her good will and while being guided by a certain practical policy, then the practical policy is a moral law only if it is necessarily binding. It is therefore necessary to consider these demands when deciding what is considered a moral law. Any proposed practical policy must therefore be subjected to these demands. It is worth noting that the fact that only the categorical imperative meets these demands, it (According to Kant) is the only moral law. He referred to it as the moral law.

In order to fathom what Categorical imperative really is, it is crucial to consider the following crucial ideas. The link between categorical imperative and the theory of moral self-perfection:

According to Kant, certain reasons give rise to a formula. These formulae are referred to as the Formula of Universal Law which in essence is the Categorical Imperative which is placed in the statement of law's context.

There exist two other important formulae. They are:

The Formula of Universal Humanity (FUH)

This one prescribes that each and every rational being is supposed to be considered or rather treated as an end and never as a means as postulated by Kant (1996, 4:428). This formula is the one used in the derivation of the virtuous duties.

The Formula of the Kingdom of Ends (FKE)

This formula mandates that there is a certain union of individuals which is systematic in nature with a string presence of rationality in their ability. This can effectively be ruled via a common objective. This rule further mandates that each and every rational being forms a will that gives the universal law as postulated by Kant (1996, 4:431; 4:433 -- 434).This formulae has a particular importance in Kant's consideration of political thought.

The Formula of Humanity

This is an expression of the categorical Imperative and it evinces the concept of duty. The duties are importance in the process of according logic and practicality. It can effectively be argued that the ability to self-legislate through the treating of rational beings as the ends is an expression of the duties in a manner that is practical and logical at the same time. A perfect duty can therefore be referred to as the "one that admits no exception in favor of inclination ..." (Kant 1966a, 4:421)

An imperfect duty on the other hand is one that has an obligatory end while allowing for an element of latitude in the very means that justifies the end.

Perfect duties are made up of duties such as respect for others and self preservation. The imperfect duties on the other hand comprises of duties that are geared towards the perfection of one both naturally and morally.

The Imperfect duties

The imperfect duties are mere subtypes of the general duties. In this analysis we consider the duties that are referred by Kant (1996b, 6: 381) as "ends." These duty are however part of a larger category of duties referred by Kant as the 'system of ends'. The system of ends is referred to by Kant as Ethics as indicated by his work (Kant, 1996b, 6: 381).

The duties by themselves arise from the categorical nature of the individual's law-giving status otherwise referred to as self-legislation (Kant, 1996b, 6:379).It is worth noting that these duties do differ from other rights since there is not form of authorization to force another being as indicated by Kant (1996b, 6: 383).It is also worthwhile pointing out the fact that these duties do concern various maxims of actions as opposed to the consideration of the actions themselves. What counts in this case is the subjective principle upon which the actual actions are based. There is supposed to be a consideration of the latitudes in terms of the free choice concerning the actions to be undertaken .This is supposed to be present in all the aspects of imperfect duties in actual consideration. This is in regard to the duties that are in question subject to the fact that the maxim that guides the action has a moral worth as indicated by Kant (1996b, 6: 390).

The theory of human perfection for Kant is considered utterly as an imperfect duty. This is because of the fact that it might be having a prescription to its end; there exists latitude in the method by which one proceeds to the achieving of its end. It is important that an individual's activity that is involved in the reaching of a prescribed end is in many cases different from the way another one follows.

Literature review

The concept of categorical imperative has been reviewed by as series of literature. Predrag (2004) uses it in order to question the existence of God. This is in a quest to elicit the truth or the illusion behind the existence of God. Marcus (2009) uses the concept of categorical imperative order to derive a relationship between Kant's understanding of right (in the judicial context) and his moral theory (Categorical Imperative).Marcus realized that Kant's concept of right fails to match with that of moral theory of categorical imperative. Constance (2007) used the theory of categorical imperative to justify suicide. His conclusion is that suicide fails to pass the test of morality. On the context of morality of race and ethnicity, Arnold (2002) postulated that the concept of categorical imperative is very dominant in the discussion. His aim was to prove that a philosophy of race cannot afford to abandon the Kantian concept of Categorical Imperative. Later on, Mary and Christabel (2006) used the concept of categorical imperative in order to study the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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