Values and Society – Lecture 6
The Categorical Imperitive is a theory developed by Immanuel Kant during the age of the Enlightenment.
Categorical: without exception
The contrast to the categorical imperitive is the hypothetical imperitive.
- “If you want a job, work hard”
- “If you are hungry, eat”
The command is cancelled if the “if” part doesn’t apply to you. If you aren’t hungry, you wouldn’t eat
Categorical Imperitive is an unconditional or absolute command of morality. No “if” clause can falsify it.
Kant states “act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should
become a universal law”
Two aspects of CI1:
Maxim is a general rinciple of action. There is a three step process to formulate action.
1) Contemplate an action. Describe proposed course of action (“I will do x”).
2) Generalize it with reference to yourself (“In any situation like this one I will do x”)
3) Generalize it with reference to anyone (“Anyone in a situation like this should do x”).
(#3 is the maxim)
Test the maxim for universalizability. That is, see whether or not everyone actually could act in
accordance with the maxim.
Kant’s Three Non-Universalizability Maxims
Follow the 3 steps. Step 1) “I will commit suicide”.
Step 2) “If ever the duration of life will bring me more evil than satisfaction, I will end my life”.
Step 3) “If ever the duration of life will bring any person more evil than satisfaction, that person ought to
end his/her life.”
1) The main function of self-love is the preservation of the self.
2) Out of self-love, I will destroy the self.
2. Lying/Promise Breaking
Follow the 3 steps.
Step 1) “I will borrow money with no intention of paying it back.”
Step 2) “Whenever I’m short on money, I will borrow money with no intention of paying it back.”
Step 3) :Whenever anyone is short on money, they should borrow some with no intention of paying it
1) I am committed to the maintenance of the system of trust.
2) I am committed to the destruction of the system of trust.
3. Ignoring Needy Others
Follow the 3 steps.
Step 1) “Although I am prospering, I won’t help this person in distress.”