Kant’s categorical imperative is a method of determining an action’s morality based on the action being objectively necessary, and is the first of two types of imperatives. Such an action is good in itself, not just as a means of achieving some other purpose. Because Kant believes all people poses rational will, the categorical imperative applies to everyone, guiding him or her to act in the same way regardless of his or her circumstances or bias. It disregards the consequences of an action and only judges moral or immoral based on the intentions. Such an imperative is “Do not lie,” which Kant believes is a maxim that holds true in all cases. The categorical imperative is based on the single notion that one should act only on maxims that can reasonably and without contradiction be made a universal law. As such, it does not consider the details of circumstance and holds true universally, because it relies solely on a priori concepts. I will further explain Kant’s formulations of this imperative momentarily. Now that we have just seen the first type of imperative,...
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...aw. Kant rewrites this concept of universalizing maxims to determine duty in a second formulation that, while tests actions differently, he believes leads to the same moral conclusions.
The second formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative is to “act in such a way as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of anyone else, always as an end and never merely as a means.” This principle is meant to label behaviors that use humanity merely as a means to ones own ends as immoral. That is not to say that using people as a means is always wrong, just that their humanity must be simultaneously recognized as an end. In the example maxim “I will purposefully make empty promises to benefit my own well being,” that was used above, this action remains impermissible in terms of the second formulation.
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