The Unique Categorical Imperative of Kant

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 30 December 2016

The Unique Categorical Imperative of Kant

Morality appears to us as a concrete term which is underscored by certain rational assumptions about the universe. And yet, our own experience tells us that that which one considers to be vice may, to another, be seen as virtue. The reverse may also apply. Thus, it is rather difficult to reconcile that which does in fact define our cause for moral behavior, though all figures of importance to the historical discourse on philosophy have ventured a framework.

The 18th century in particular would witness a flurry of activity, with the latter generation of the Enlightenment Era providing a spirited exchange across decades of literature on that which inspires moral behavior. In our investigation here of the various possible lenses through which to understand morality, consideration of German theologian Immanuel Kant’s 1785 Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals provides basic understanding for the discussion of morality from the normative perspective.

Such is to say that Kant’s will be the most rigid, socially constrained and dangerous of understandings, but nonetheless, totally unique in its orientation and provisions for its time and place. At the center of Kant’s argument is the premise that the same reason which applies to the empirical nature of scientific discourse must rationally apply in the same way to ethical discourse. His perspective toward scientific certainty would mark a unique and original bridging of worlds between the corporeal and the ideological.

Accordingly, Kant contends that “physics will have its empirical part, but it will also have a rational one; and likewise ethics – although here the empirical part might be called specifically practical anthropology, while the rational part might properly be called morals. ” (Kant, 20) To Kant, previous ideals on ethical autonomy are threatening to social order, representing the opportunity for the individual to devise his own ethical parameters.

The rationality of scientific practicality denotes, to Kant, instead a heteronomous orientation whereby there is a connective tissue of ethicality common to all men and women, restraining and directing behaviors. Kant defines autonomy as the ability to act based on one’s own volition. Heteronomy, on the other hand, is a common set of social forces inclining individuals to tend toward common motives and common actions. Accordingly, Kant lays out a concise framework for justice, admonishing that “the categorical imperative, which declares the action to be objectively necessary without referring to any end in view.

. . . holds as an apodictic practical principle. ” (Kant, p. 18) The ‘categorical imperative’ to which Kant refers is foundational to the normative theory suggesting that there is some immutable force associated with our conception and actualization of the idea of ‘good’ or ‘evil. ’ It inclines us to understanding that the means by which we behave are inherently informed by our commitment to a single, shared and unchanging idea about what is right.

To commit to this idea is practical reason and to fail to make this commitment is irrational, which allows Kant to propose that such a positive correlation could be observed between rationality and morality. . This contrasts the idea of utilitarianism, which proposes that all situations demand a certain degree of pragmatism with respect to behavior. This throws into chaos the moral presuppositions of Kant, with such thinkers as Bentham and Mill coming to the fore of the discussion. In utilitarian philosophy, it is imperative that morality be channeled through an understanding of context and the nuances of society human interaction.

By contrast to this view of morality, Kant provides deep ideological refusal for what he might argue is mere ethical laxity. Kant presents this argument that moral order is impossible to define without permanent standards that are shaped by man’s dignity, denoting therefore that it is only reasonable to act in cooperation with this conception for one’s own self-preservation. If Kant’s points are to be assimilated when adopting a moral stance which is consistent with man’s dignity, such absolute terms are inevitably defined by dominant social structures, bringing us to the application of a normative theoretical structure.

The inextricable relationship which theology and morality have shared throughout history tends to have a tangible impact on the way these hegemonic standards are defined. And Kant, rejects any flexibility outright, however. Beyond its deviation from his established disposition toward moral absolutes, such variation violates Kant’s maxim about man as an end rather than a means. Man is to be the motive for moral acts, with his dignity defining right and wrong.

Indeed, as he pointedly phrases it, “the laws of morality are laws according to which everything ought to happen; they allow for conditions under which what ought to happen doesn’t happen. ” (Kant, 1) To my view, this demonstrates Kant’s approach to be both unrealistic and unattractive to the nuance and flexibility of human social systems and individual ideological orientations. Absent of these characteristics, ethicality becomes an empty term and morality a weapon against minority ideologies. Works Cited: Kant, Immanuel. 1785. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Jonathan Bennett.

Preferred language style: English(U. S. ) A. Explain the originality & uniqueness of Kants ethical theory by:1)explaining kants general critcism of previous ethical theories 2)defining how kant distinguishes between autonomy & heterononmy 3)explaining kants formulation of the `catergorical imperative. ` 4)explaining how adherence to the categorical imperative provides for autonomous ethical choice. B. Reflect on Kants ethical theory by:1)supporting a position on how kants theory on ethical decision making is correct or incorrect with personal thought. 2)supporting your position with evidence from the text


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 30 December 2016

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