Kantian Ethics - Freedom, Imperatives, Duty

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Three tests for a categorical imperative:

  • Can the maxim(rule) of my action really become a universal law of natire? Can it be applied to everyone?
  • We never should use a human to reach our goal of morality
  • No-one is better/less than others - we should all treat eachother as ENDS IN THEMSELVES - A KINGDOM OF ENDS.
  • We have a moral obligation  - there is something we ought to do regardless of the consequences. Possible for a systematic account of our moral duties and principles upon which they are founded.

The Categorical Imperative:

Universal Law / Humans as ends not as means / a kingdom of ends

The Universal Law

Act only accoeding to that maxim whereby you can at the same time guarantee that it should become a universal law.

The formula of the law is nature.

If rules aren't universalisable then others wouldnt have the same freedom to act on the same moral principles. (E.g. promise-keeping)

Applying Kant

"Creating a human cloned embryo to find a cure for lung cancer is acceptable" 

It is a hypothetical imperative as its treating the embryo as a means to an end. Ignores the "end in themselves". Is it a human? It's a closed embryo - it may be seen as acceptable to cure the whole human race.

Imperatives can either be categorical/hypothetical.

Hypothetical: the need to do an action to achieve something else that someone might not want/doesn't want. Not moral commands as they don't apply to everyone. Always begin with "if" - doing it for a reason. They are imperatives based on a goal. Depends on the result/aims/end.

Categorical: if it represents an action as necessary according to a will that has something good about it. Deontological - only about the act. Moral commands as they don't depend on goals/desires and apply to everyone. Doesn't begin with "if". Kant came up with formulations. These include three main tests to ensure you're following categorical not hypothetical.

Imperative: action that is necessary according to a will that has something good about it.

Kant's Categorical Imperative

The three postulates:

-the existence of God


-immortality (life after death)

Kant seems to take for granted God as a law giver and he argues that there must be a God and afterlife as there has to be a


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