• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Explain Kant's categorical imperative.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Transfer-Encoding: chunked ´╗┐Explain Kant?s categorical imperative (25 marks). Kant is an 18th century German philosopher who wrote the book Groundwork for metaphysics. The book deals with his theory that morality is a priori synthetic (a priori is a statement that is knowable without reference to any experience and synthetic means having truth or falsity can be tested using experience or the senses) and that moral decisions should be taken with a universal view to one?s duty to mankind as a whole. He laid out his ideas about the categorical imperative in this book. An imperative is a statement of what should be done. The philosopher Hume said that you can?t get a ?should? statement out of an ?if? statement. This means that experience can only give us hypothetical imperatives (not moral commands to the will ? they are ?if? statements and do not apply to everyone and you only need obey them if you want to achieve a certain goal, for example, ?if? you want to be healthy then you should exercise and eat a balanced diet). ...read more.

Middle

If not, then you are involved in a contradiction and what you are thinking of doing is wrong because it is against reason. Kant uses the example of a suicidal man as an example: A man feels sick of life and wants to commit suicide. His maxim is that from self-love I want to shorten my life if its continuance threatens more evil than it promises pleasure. He asks himself whether he would universalise this law, his answer is no because it is humans? duty to stimulate the furtherance of life and to destroy life would contradict itself and therefore is entirely opposed to the supreme principle of duty. The second principle is to treat humans as ends in themselves: ?so act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of any other, never solely as a means but always as an end?. Kant argues that all humans are searching for the summam bonum (a state in which human virtue and happiness are united). ...read more.

Conclusion

What this means is that every individual has the ability to understand the principles of pure practical reason and follow them. Pure practical reason must be impartial and so its principles must apply equally to everyone. An example of this is if you?re trying to decide if it would be justified to kill someone who was threatening your family ? using Kantian principles ? you should not kill them. Acting according to the third principle (and taking the first and second into account) murder can obviously not be universalised or humanity would be wiped out, and killing the man threatening your family is treating him as a means (to saving your family) rather than an end: a human seeking summum bonum. In conclusion, there are three different formulations for Kant?s categorical imperative: The Universal Law, treat humans as ends in themselves and act as if you live in a Kingdom of Ends. Together these three formulations seek to allow humans to make moral decisions which do not infringe the happiness of others but also allow us to progress to perfection. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Practical Questions section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Practical Questions essays

  1. Kant and the Categorical Imperative

    This is using one human as a means to a desired end, and is strictly counter to the rules of the categorical imperative. The importance of a human life is so great that no suffering, no matter what the circumstances may be to crate such suffering (for example the pregnancy being the result of a rape)

  2. Explain Kant's Categorical Imperative.

    What Kant is saying then, is that he believes that human life should only be treated as an end in itself and never as a means to an end. Kant argues that suicide is using human life as a means to end the suffering that a person may be enduring.

  1. `Always tell the truth and Always keep your promises' Kant's Categorical Imperative.

    This is the crucial starting point of Kant's theory. We are the rational agents or authors of our moral destinies, and there must be a purity of motive underlying our actions if they are to be called morally worthwhile. The Moral Law and the Two Types of Imperative The purity

  2. Does Kant's account of categorical imperatives and universal laws elucidate ordinary criteria for judging ...

    All good attributes require good intentions or else they may serve evil ends. The consequences of an action are irrelevant to assessments of moral worth, according to Kant, though they are, of course, relevant to most other aspects of life.

  1. Explain what Kant meant by the Categorical Imperative.

    like the 10 commandments for example, but instead, if a law can be universalised, then it is morally acceptable. Laws that become contradictory, when they're universalised, must be rejected as immoral. This is why we have to be selective when choosing our universal moral laws.

  2. Modern life-prolonging technologies have sharpened some ancient dilemmas on the value of life.

    If it means that incompetent patients receive care (or not) only under the decisions of others, then SL and QL share guilt equally. If it means that decision-makers impose their own values on the incompetent, then it is false of QL.

  1. A Root-a-toot-Duty: An analysis of Kant’s Categorical Imperative

    The good will is the only unconditional good despite all infringements. Misfortune may render someone incapabable of achieving her goals for instance, but the goodness of her will remains. Goodness cannot arise from acting on impulse or natural inclination. It can only arise from conceiving one's action in a certain way.

  2. Explain what Kant means by 'summum bonum'

    When Kant refers to ?summum bonum?, he also refers to the idea that doing one?s duty should bring one fulfillment because it is the right thing to do. Happiness is the reward for being virtuous. In other words, happiness and virtue can be, and should be achieved together.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work