Free Essay On Categorical Imperative By Kant

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Morality, Ethics, Immanuel Kant, Enlightenment, Kant, Human, Law, Formula

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/28

The categorical imperative according to Kant is the supreme principle of morality. He formulated this concept in his ‘Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals’ (1785).The questions concerning the morals were and remain to be relevant to this day. In everyday, the ethical and moral principles of our time, of course, differ from those that were in the XVIII century, but the basic moral principles, which people must adhere to in their behavior, are unchanged. Kant believed that people act due to their will, guided by the certain principles. However, only unconditional principles may be valid as the moral law. And the moral law for every person is an imperative (Kant and Ellington).
Kant's idea is in the fact that the categorical imperative is autonomous and expresses the will of the absolute maxim, requiring the behavior from a person, which could be a ‘maxim of behavior.’ Having determined that the man is not only a natural being, but has a mind, activity, freedom, which is his immanent determination, Kant concludes that there is no responsibility, as well as no morals without the freedom (White).
According to Kant, morality is the thing, which humanizes a man, and in the sphere of morality acts as the thing-in-itself or as free cause. Exactly the morality is the only justification for a reasonable arrangement of the world; it is not deducible from nowhere and in no way justified. The existence of moral obviousness is the explanation of the reasonable formation of the world for Kant. The duty and conscience, according to Kant, is morally obvious, since they act in person, encouraging him to the moral actions (White).
In the history, the criticism of Kant’s philosophy is quite popular. Many thinkers do not believe in the reality of the categorical imperative, citing weighty arguments as the proof of their critics. The categorical imperative is to be, apparently, hypothetical, because the desire to force yourself to act morally is a goal that promises to make a person a worthy person, so it is impossible to do something, which is not directed or has no foundation (White).
In response to the critics Kant argued that the moral sense is not just a penchant for the good, the immediate impulse of mercy and compassion. According to Kant, moral sense must be mediated by debt and limited by it. And a duty is something absolute and self-sufficient. Morality can not be attributed to any calculation or benefit, or the pursuit of happiness. Moral behavior, Kant argues, can not have the external motives (Braham and van Hees). As the only internal motive for this behavior it appears a duty. Although the individual belongs to both worlds, he becomes a man just when starts to be guided by a specific duty of the moral law.
Morality has the imperative character that is the character of the universal and mandatory standards. The supreme principle of morality or the categorical imperative is the norm, following which a man can wish that it should become a universal law. Moral act is that action, which allows a man to realize that it, in one way or another, will respond to all mankind. Supreme categorical imperative of Kant states that a person, as well as all humanity, deserves to be treated as the targets, but not as a means. The man himself is the aim, which requires the implementing yourself as a human being (Korsgaard).
The categorical imperative, according to Kant, is a formulation of the way in which a person aspiring to join the truly moral should come. It is immediately turned to the acting man, the individual, performing the certain actions. He advises a person to treat strictly and strongly attentively to the maxims of his behavior, i.e., to the subjective rules of the practical reason (Flew and Priest).
Kant does not claim that the categorical imperative with today for tomorrow will become effective, but he insists that nothing else can be considered to be moral in the highest sense of this word. If You do not want to consciously follow the higher law of morality, You should know that You remove not only from the truly human morality, but also you inflict the damage to it. The autonomy of will is such a property of will, by which it is the law for itself (regardless of the properties of objects of volition). The principle of autonomous will is thus reduced to the following: a person should act in the only way, where the maxims, which determine our choices, at the same time are kept in our volition as a universal law. The mentioned principle of autonomous will is the sole principle of morality, it is quite possible to show by the means of a partition of the concepts of morality. In fact, in such a way it is found that the highest principle of morality must be a categorical imperative, while the latter prescribes no more nor less than this autonomy of will (Braham and van Hees).
Thus, philosopher gives two main formula of the categorical imperative. The first sound as follows: ‘Act in such way that the maxim of your action could become a universal law’" (under the maxim here it refers the personal rule of behavior). The second formula requires: ‘Act in such way that you are always concerned for humanity as for yourself, and for every other person as to the purpose (aim), and never apply to Humanity only as a means.’ Despite the semantic difference of wording, in fact, they are close to each other - they hold the idea of ​​human dignity and autonomy of moral consciousness. The true moral behavior according to Kant is only the behavior of respect to the formal moral law. From the truly moral person’s will it is required the compliance only with such laws, which is delivered by it, but it is required the unconditional compliance. Otherwise, the moral life is reduced to a means and ceases to be an absolute goal (Korsgaard, 1986).
The second formula of categorical imperative is a Formula of Humanity or the law of protection of human dignity. It is directed against the self-considering of human as a means and reification. ‘The society may oblige a person to anything only through the act of his own will, otherwise it will not be the obligations of the person, but only the use of thing ’ (Nelson).
The formula of humanity forbids an individual to circumvention only as to the means not just to other people, but also to himself. An example of the latter (i.e. cynical self-considering of human as a means) the creator of the transcendental ethics considers the suicide by the selfish motives when life is sacrificed to our calculation of pleasure and pain. The man in this case is in bondage to his hedonism. Another example of a cynical violation of the second formula of humanity is the voluntary decision to give up the personal independence in order to sake or augmenting the personal welfare. In short the example of the cynical self-considering of human as a means is the agreement on a more or less comfortable slavish existence (Nelson).
Condemnation of this act of cynical self-considering of human as a means is extremely important for the understanding of the general spirit and hidden features of the second formula of the categorical imperative. Only the thing which in itself is the goal has the advantage, because the individual himself prescribes the moral law, and because it takes him only out of respect for him, he passed to the dignity of the moral law. Hence, the human person, as a rational and autonomous being, is the only absolute goal in itself. Therefore, the second formula - the formula of humanity - is a good candidate for the Supreme Principle of Humanity (Korsgaard, 1986).

Works Cited

Braham, Matthew, and Martin van Hees. 'The Formula Of Universal Law: A Reconstruction'. Erkenn (2014): n. pag. Web.
Flew, Antony, and Stephen Priest. A dictionary of philosophy. London: Pan, 2002. Print.
Kant, Immanuel, and James W. Ellington. Grounding for the metaphysics of morals ; with, On a supposed right to lie because of philanthropic concerns. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co, 1993. Print.
Korsgaard, Christine M. 1985. Kant's formula of universal law. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 66, no. 1-2: 24-47
Korsgaard, Christine M. 'Kant's Formula Of Humanity'. Kant-Studien 77.1-4 (1986): n. pag. Web.
Nelson, W. 'Kant's Formula Of Humanity'. Mind 117.465 (2008): 85-106. Web.
White, Mark D. Kantian ethics and economics : autonomy, dignity, and character. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2011. Print.

Cite this page
Choose cite format:
  • APA
  • MLA
  • Harvard
  • Vancouver
  • Chicago
  • ASA
  • IEEE
  • AMA
WePapers. (2020, December, 28) Free Essay On Categorical Imperative By Kant. Retrieved December 01, 2023, from
"Free Essay On Categorical Imperative By Kant." WePapers, 28 Dec. 2020, Accessed 01 December 2023.
WePapers. 2020. Free Essay On Categorical Imperative By Kant., viewed December 01 2023, <>
WePapers. Free Essay On Categorical Imperative By Kant. [Internet]. December 2020. [Accessed December 01, 2023]. Available from:
"Free Essay On Categorical Imperative By Kant." WePapers, Dec 28, 2020. Accessed December 01, 2023.
WePapers. 2020. "Free Essay On Categorical Imperative By Kant." Free Essay Examples - Retrieved December 01, 2023. (
"Free Essay On Categorical Imperative By Kant," Free Essay Examples -, 28-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 01-Dec-2023].
Free Essay On Categorical Imperative By Kant. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 28, 2020. Accessed December 01, 2023.

Share with friends using:

Related Premium Essays
Other Pages
Contact us
Chat now