In his book, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Immanuel Kant theorizes an absolute and universal guide based on the principle of reason to determine what humans morally ought to do— the categorical imperative. The categorical imperatives consists of different formulations, which simply act as different ways of defining it. Within his formulations, Kant stresses the importance of universalism, equality, and
Categorical Imperatives versus Hypothetical Imperatives
Before delving into the different formulations of the categorical imperative, Kant must distinguish between categorical imperatives and hypothetical imperatives. Kant first defines an imperative as a command of reason. He also adds that imperatives are expressed through ‘ought,’ which suggests a relationship between reason and will. Kant finally connects the ideas of reason and will though the differentiation of hypothetical and categorical,
Now all imperatives command either hypothetically or categorically. The former represent the practical necessity of a possible action as a means to attain something else which one wills (or which it is possible that one might will). The categorical imperative would be that one which represented an action as objectively necessary for itself, without any reference to another end (31/266).
On one hand, hypothetical imperatives command a certain as necessary for some particular purpose or goal you will. Hypothetical imperatives are conditional to desires: “If you do not want to go to prison, then do rob a bank.” Since hypothetical imperatives are associated with a desired end result, they are only applicable to people who to achieve that particular end result. ...
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...sts that a person can be treated as a means if they are involved voluntarily. Next, Kant supports his argument by demonstrating how the four previous examples are still consistent with this formulation. First, when a person commits suicide, their own life becomes a means to escape their situation. Secondly, if a borrower fails to repay the lender, then the lender becomes a mere means for the borrower’s financial gain. Third, if we see humanity as an end in itself, then we must cultivate our talents to pursue humanity’s full potential. The last example is similar to the third in that if humanity is an ends, then we must cooperate and assist others to achieve collective happiness. These four examples highlight that when we fail to perceive others as means instead of ends, we violate the first formulation by advancing standards that we would not want as a universal law.
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