PHIL 1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 27: Categorical Imperative, Universal Law

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15 Sep 2020
Hao Tran
Intro to Philosophy
Notes: Phil 1
Two kinds of imperatives
Do x, dont do y
Independent of the ends you want to pursue
If you want this, do x. If you want that, do y.
Dependent on the ends you want to pursue
Categorical imperatives
Moral duties have to be categorical imperatives if they are to be universal
and necessary
This provides us with a test for figuring out which actions are forbidden,
which are allowed, and which are positively required
The test: can your maxim be turned into a categorical imperative? Can
your maxim be applied as a universal law?
If yes, then the action is allowed. If no, then the action is forbidden. If the
contrary action cannot be made into a categorical imperative, then the
action is required.
Right vs wrong
For kant there is an objective difference between right and wrong
Each person can figure out whether what they are doing is right or wrong
What about differences of opinion? Some people think that murder is
right, others don’t
According to Kant, what you do is wrong unless everyone could accept
your principle, unless everyone’s humanity is being respected
Example: lying
I ask my sister for money and promise to pay her back, even though i wont
be able to pay her back
If everyone followed my maxim, no one would borrow money
Thus, it cannot be moral
First formulation: universal law
Universal law: can you coherently think/will that your maxim becomes a
universal law?
What if everyone followed the same maxim you are about to follow?
If it leads to a contradiction, we know that what youre about to do is
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