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Explain Kant's categorical imperative.

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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.

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