Deontological -Duty is the primary view of this ethical position. It will be important to understand the categorical Imperative and that reason or rational thought must drive this theory. Can...

Deontological -Duty is the primary view of this ethical position. It will be important to understand the categorical Imperative and that reason or rational thought must drive this theory.

Can someone explain the concept of categorical imperative - you can talk about Immanuel Kant.

Asked on by readeal3

1 Answer | Add Yours

Top Answer

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

As you say in your question, deontological ethics hold that the most important thing is “duty.”  Put differently, the way to determine whether an action is ethical is to ask whether that action adheres to a set of rules that is held by a particular ethical tradition.  This makes deontological ethics very different from, for example, utilitarianism, which looks at the results of an action and not at whether it adheres to rules.  Kant’s categorical imperative is one example of a set of rules that can be used to determine whether actions are moral. 

The term “categorical imperative” has two parts, each of which needs to be explained.  First, this is an “imperative.”  That means that it is something that people have to do.  It is like an order or a rule.  Second, this imperative is “categorical.”  That means that it applies in all situations.  That means that it is a rule that applies to all people at all times.  There are no exceptions to a categorical imperative.

Kant’s categorical imperative has specific rules that are different from those of other possible categorical imperatives.  He gives three different formulations of his categorical imperative.  First, he says that a person must always act in such a way that the rule that motivates their action could be applied as a law that applies to all people.  In other words, you cannot make up rules for yourself that would not apply to others.  Second, he says that we must always treat other people as ends in themselves, not as means to ends.  What that means is that you cannot use other people to accomplish your own goals.  Instead, you always have to act in ways that attempt to allow other people to achieve what they want to achieve.  Finally, Kant says that everyone must act as if they were a lawmaker for the entire universe.  They have to act so that the laws that govern their actions could also rule the entire universe.

So, categorical imperatives are rules that apply to all people at all times.  They are part of deontological systems of ethics because those systems require sets of rules by which we can determine whether our actions are ethical. 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,957 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question