Kant Categorical Imperative

Topics: Immanuel Kant, Morality, Ethics Pages: 3 (895 words) Published: November 22, 2012
Kant’s Categorical Imperative

Kant’s Categorical Imperative is made up of two formulations, Formula of Universal Law and The Formula of the End in Itself. The first formulation is best described by the following statement, “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction.” (Kant, 1785, 1993). What does this mean? A maxim is the fundamental rule of conduct or your moral belief upon which you chose to act. A universal law is a law that everyone must follow regardless of the outcome. How do we determine if the maxim can become universal? One of the first things to do is to ask yourself if it would be acceptable that everyone do the same thing that you are considering doing in that situation. We were given several examples in The Elements of Moral Philosophy and the one that made the most impact was “suppose a man needs money, but no one will lend it to him unless he promises to pay it back-which he knows he won’t be able to do. Should he make a false promises to get the loan?” (Rachels, 2012). If this happened the maxim or universal rule would be anytime you need a loan tell a lie that you will repay it and you will get the loan. This is not something that everyone would be willing to do because you will no longer believe others when they tell you this statement and no one would be willing to make the loans. The second thing you should do to determine if the maxim can become universal is look at your answer to the first question. Did you say “yes, I think that everyone will do it?”. If so, then ask yourself if it makes rational sense to want everyone in the same situation to do what you are contemplating doing. If your answer was no to either question then your maxim cannot become universal law because it is not considered moral. Overall, based on Kant, an act is morally right only if the primary rule of behavior, which is how you decide to act morally, can...
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