What Do Categorical Imperatives (Absolute Command) Mean in Kant’s Ethics of Duty?June 27, 2021
Kant believes that human beings, as a rational being, have certain duties.
These tasks are categorical. In other words, these are absolute and unconditional duties such as “You must always tell the truth” or “You should never kill someone”. These tasks always apply, regardless of the consequences of performing them.
Kant considers morality to be a system of Absolute Commandments (Categorical Prompts): commands that command you to act in a certain way. This is one of the most distinctive aspects of Kantian ethics. Kant compares categorical tasks with hypothetical (conditional) tasks. A hypothetical (conditional) mission is one such as “If you want to be respected then you have to tell the truth” or “If you don’t want to go to prison, you shouldn’t kill anyone”. Conditional tasks tell you what to do and what not to do if you want to achieve a certain goal or avoid a certain thing.
According to Kant, there is only one basic Absolute Commandment (Categorical Imperative): “Make it so that you may want the maxim of your action to be at the same time a universal law.” Here, what Kant means by “willing” is “willing the rational.” In other words, what the Categorical Imperative means is to act only according to the maxim you can rationally wish to be valid for everyone.
This principle is known as the principle of universalizability. Although Kant gave a number of different variants of the Categorical Imperative, this is the most important among them and has been extremely influential. We have examined this in more detail under the title of “Universalizability”.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook; “Introduction to Philosophy” / Nigel Warburton