The Categorical Imperative

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Department
Philosophy
Course
PHIL 160
Professor
Christopher Meacham
Semester
Fall

Description
The Categorical Imperative •  Kant (according to Rawls)  1  The Categorical Imperative (Universal Law):  One ought only act in accordance  with a maxim which one can, at the same time, consistently will to be a  universal law. • What is a Maxim? 1 Kant's theory of an action, whenever you act voluntarily, you act according to  the Maxim 2 Expresses what you're doing 3 The situation you're doing it in 4 And why •  Kant  All acts are performed in accordance with a maxim •  Maxim ­ I will do X when Y in order to bring about Z 1 X is the act 2 Y is the situation 3 Z is some goal • I will [X= wash my car] when [Y= it's dirty] in order to [Z= have a clean car] Assessing "Consistent Willing" • Formulate the maxim of your act. • Generalize the maxim. 1 Ex) Everyone will X [wash their car] when [Y= it's dirty] in order to [Z= have a  clean car]. • Imagine what the world would look like if that generalized action was a law of  nature. • Apply 2 tests 1  Test 1  Ask, at such a world, would doing X in situation Y still achieve goal  Z? 2  Test 2  Would the goal Z be furthered in general? 1 If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then you can will it to be  a universal law 2 It's okay iff the answer to both is "yes." It is morally permissible to wash your car, because it meets all the criteria. Applications Is it morally permissible for you to lie? • Ex) Cheating • I am to [X= lie to my spouse] when [Y= she's found evidence that I'm cheating], in order  to [Z= get out of trouble]. • Everyone is to lie to their spouse when their spouse believes that they're cheating. • Law of nature: Eve
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