Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
and the Categorical Imperative
Kant's single moral value: The only thing good in itself is a good will: a faculty of choice
that conforms solely to universal considerations.
A perfectly good will is a will that conforms to rationallaw (independently of desire,
pleasure, and all subjective and particular determinations).
A good will acts on considerations that hold for everyone, for every rational being.
On what principle does a good will act? In other words, what is the fundamental principle of
A first principle must be categorical, the same for every rational being in all circumstances.
It must be independent of particular circumstances to include desires, goals, etc.
Kant: to be categorical the first principle must be necessary (couldn't just happen to be
true) and a priori (independent of experience reflecting particular circumstances).
Kant�s first principle is called the categorical imperative.
(Why an �imperative�?)
What form would an ethical principle take?
Kant : a command, an imperative, a statement saying that we should or ought
to do such and such.
(sentences containing an ought)
dependent on independent of
If . . ., then you should . . . You should . . .
If it is morally right (wrong, supererogatory, etc.) for J to perform an action of type A,
then in the same circumstances it would be morally right for M to perform an action of
The "Golden Rule": Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Jaina universality (500 B.C.): Everything that is a self or capable of feeling pain is not
to be harmed.
Formal principle of justice: Treat similar cases similarly; judge only by morally relevant