An Explanation and Analysis of Kant’s Categorical Imperative

Kant’s moral philosophy is somewhat more complicated than his categorical imperative, but it really sums up the general sense of what Kantian morals are about. Contrary to utilitarian morals, Kant’s morals are not consequential. The end result does not matter for an action to be morally good, as long as it was done with good intention (and not motivated by exterior motives, or personal motives.

 

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1.”Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction.”

Kant says that we should act only if our action could become a universal law. For example, if you lied, he would ask if everyone lied all the time (it became a universal law), would it be morally good? Then Kant would say that it is always immoral to lie.

Philosophers have critiqued Kant by saying that if you were hiding Jewish people during world war 2, and that the Nazis would would ask you if you were hiding them, it would actually be a good thing to lie, saving the lives of the people you were hiding. But Kant says that the benefits of lying in the short term do not outweigh the long term good effects.

2. “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a natural law without contradiction.”

It is similar to the first imperative, but instead of a universal law, it is a natural law. Kant gives the example of a man wanting to commit suicide. Kant says that it is immoral to commit suicide because if everyone in nature would do it, life would be impossible. Anything that goes against life would be immoral.

3. Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.

Finally, Kant says that you have to treat every human being as if they were an end and not a means to an end. For example, it is wrong to have slaves, because you treat that human being as a means to an end (the work he does) and not as a human being that is free. Having slaves is not morally good because you treat a human being as a means to an end.

 

 

That concludes my summary of Kant’s categorical imperative. Tell me what you think in the comments down below. Do you like Kant’s categorical imperative? or do you like other philosophers, like the utilitarians?

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