Assignment 2 essay

Montana State University Summer Session 2015

Reason&amp Reality

Phil: 101

Write a short two-page- paper on the following.

2. What is Categorical imperative? Discuss critically Kant’s viewon morality. It should be a two-page long paper.

The categorical imperative refers to a moral law that is consideredbinding for all agents under all circumstances (Kant &amp Gregor,2012). Contrariwise, a hypothetical imperative is conditional basedon the motives and intended effects of the actions. In this case, ahypothetical imperative defines laws that hold only when particularrequirements are satisfied. On the other hand, a categoricalimperative defined rules that were absolute and unconditional suchthat their application could be rendered as a universal law.

Kant classified the categorical imperative into three formulations.The first formulation emphasizes the aspect of universalizabilitywhereby a person should act in a manner that would be proper as auniversal guiding principle (Kant &amp Gregor, 2012). Therefore,everyone would be justified to act in a similar fashion. The secondformulation of the categorical imperative exalts the aspect ofrespecting human dignity. In this regard, an individual should act ina manner that treats others as an end rather than a means to an end(Kant &amp Gregor, 2012). Hence, it would be improper to exploitothers regardless of the potential benefits. The third formulationhighlights the aspects of reciprocity in that a person should act ina fair and just manner (Kant &amp Gregor, 2012).

Kant`s view of morality is based on the categorical imperative inthat all agents are obligated to adhere to commands. An individuallacks the mandate to opt out of obeying a categorical imperative.Kant`s moral philosophy is considered deontological in that thewrongness or rightness of an act hinges on whether they help in thefulfillment of duty rather on the consequences. Kant held that allmoral agents were equal since they had the same practical reason(Kant &amp Gregor, 2012). Since each person had the same privilege,the moral law could be applied universally. Moral accountability wasonly applicable for things under one`s control. In this respect, Kantsupposed that an individual could not be morally liable for theconsequences of his actions. Nevertheless, Kant believed that aperson`s will was the sole basis for evaluating the morality of ouractions (Kant &amp Gregor, 2012). The moral law was binding to theextent that an individual chose to abide by its implications.

Furthermore, Kant’s view on morality was limited in that laws couldbe formulated in a manner that covers all the features of aparticular situation. For example, Kant’s moral philosophy heldthat lying was never justifiable under any circumstances. Lying couldnot be accepted universally since it would lead to mistrust (Kant &ampGregor, 2012). However, the rule permitting lying when doing so wouldsave a life could still be adopted as a universal law. Under suchcircumstances, mistrust would not necessarily arise in humanrelations. It would be proper to lie to a murderer inquiring aboutthe location of vulnerable persons. On the other hand, Kant’s moralphilosophy precludes telling a lie in such a situation. Consequently,it could lead to the murder of unsuspecting persons. Therefore,Kant’s moral theory needs adjustment before universal application.

The maxims held under Kant’s moral theory would be self-defeatingif applied as universal law. Kant’s view on morality supposes thatmurder would be wrong under all circumstances (Kant &amp Gregor,2012). Nevertheless, self-defense would be justifiable as a reason tocommit murder. People would lose the right to defend themselves ifKant’s moral philosophy was given prominence. Also, it wouldinvalidate the use of capital punishment. Hence, serial killers andother psychopathic murderers would not be held accountable for theiractions. Therefore, such a maxim should be tweaked so as to permitkilling as a last resort of self-defense. As mentioned, Kant’smoral philosophy absolves an individual of the consequences of one’sactions. However, applying such a principle could result inwidespread anarchy.


Kant, I. &amp Gregor, M. (2012). The metaphysics of morals(17th Ed). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.