A Critique of the Categorical imperative
Immanuel Kant was without doubt one of the most influential Philosophers of his time. He was born in Koinsberg, Prussia on the 22nd of April 1724, and died on the 12th of February 1804 at the age of 79. Throughout his life Kant contributed his ideas to many major fields of Philosophy; however his biggest contribution was to the realm of ethics, when he developed the concept of the categorical imperative. He first introduced this idea in 1785 in a book he titled Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. The categorical imperative was a revolutionary idea that contrary to the spirit of its time focused on how the morality of an action was not dependant on its consequences or the intentions of its undertaker, rather solely on the intrinsic moral worth of the action itself. This concept has been challenged since its birth and been often regarded as a rather impractical and often contradicting facet of moral philosophy. Although the previous allegation is true, the ideas behind the categorical imperative give a significant and much needed challenge our modern day notions of morality.
The Kantian term categorical imperative essentially refers to a moral command that must be followed absolutely, regardless of the situation it is being applied in, or the motivations and desires of the individual following the imperative. Like the rules that govern arithmetic according to Kant the rules regarding morality too should be free from any sort of prejudice. Kant held the belief that the foundation of true morality exists only in the concept of categorical imperatives as they alone can act as a reasoning behind our actions that is free from the poisonous clouds of an individual’s prejudices and personal desires. This impartiality and detachment from the nuances of a situation, ensures that any decision that is made through a Categorical imperative is free from the innate biases that rule all our other verdicts. According to Kant the categorical imperative relies upon two formulations, Firstly formula of universal law and Secondly the formula of the End in itself. The formula of universal law can be best described in kants own words “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction.” In simpler terms Kant is attempting to state that an action can be considered ethical if it would make sense for people to perform the action on a regular basis. The second formula of the end in itself states that all humans should be treated as rational beings that can make free and independent decisions and wholly function on their own. No human should treat another as a means to a goal or a desire. According to Kant to treat someone as an end in itself, and not as means to something, is a rule that must preside over the decision of every categorical imperative.
Kant’s perspective on morality was indeed a very unique one for his time. When most philosophers...