What does Kant mean by the “categorical imperative?
Kants claims that an action is right if it conforms to a moral rule. The rules that we consider right or wrong is what Kant calls categorical imperative. (an imperative that Kant expresses as requiring that a person must never perform an act unless he or she can consistently determine that the maxim or rule that motivated the action could become a universal law. If there is deemed to be a universal law that any human being can interpret then this would constitute a categorical or exceptionless imperative.
Kant also discussed a second formulation of categorical imperative which is just as important as the first formation. This would be to treat people as ends in themselves and never merely as means. An example of this is to acknowledge teachers, parents, and educators rather than assuming that their services are expected.
For Kant, the morally important thing is not consequences but the way choosers think when they make choices.
Kant says that only one kind of thing is inherently good, and that is the good will.
What makes the will good? The will is good when it acts out of duty, not out of inclination.
What does it mean to act out of inclination? To do something because it makes you feel good or because you hope to gain something from it.
What does it mean to act out of duty? Kant says this means that we should act from respect for the moral law.
How do we do that? We must know what the moral law is.
How do we know that? We use the "Categorical Imperative."
The Categorical Imperative is a rule for testing rules.
Basically it requires the following steps:
1) Before you act, consider the maxim or principle on which you are acting Generalize that principle. If, once generalized, it no longer makes any sense because it contradicts itself, then it is wrong to use that maxim as a basis for...