The Categorical Imperative

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by iPoser1024, Jan 25, 2012.

  1. iPoser1024

    iPoser1024 Black Mamba

    Let us discuss Kant's ethics. Specifically the Categorical Imperative.
    Weaknesses and Strengths?

    I think in a lot of instances this philosophy of morals should apply, but there are exceptions.
    Let me briefly try to define the imperative.

    In deciding whether an action is moral or immoral one should first ask, what if everyone did this action.

    For example, If I were about to lie, I would ask, "what if everyone lied?" It wouldn't be beneficial. There would be no honesty. Kant maintains that lying would therefore be immoral.

    Now, let's say you live in a house that is harboring Anne Frank during WWII. A Nazi comes into your house and asks if you have knowledge of Franks whereabouts. Kant would still maintain the act of lying to the Nazi officer as immoral, while most people would agree to deceive the Nazi.
    3 people like this.
  2. Linx

    Linx Banned

    By the definition given, lying to the Officer would be the benifitial choice as a whole. If everyone was harboring Anne in the basement and everyone lied therefore several lives would be saved and in my opinion a life is worth more than the agenda, but is not a Universal mode of thinking. Kant's method relied on the situation which is relative therefore the conclusion should also be relative.

    I didn't go and read up on Kants method before I posted so if there is anything you need to add then please do.
  3. iPoser1024

    iPoser1024 Black Mamba

    A categorical imperative, on the other hand, denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself. It is best known in its first formulation:
    "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law."


    All circumstances of lying, not just one of Anne frank.
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  4. Buzzby

    Buzzby Buddhist Curmudgeon

    Sometimes you have to do bad things to do good things. The lesser evil is pretty apparent in the case you state. You also have to ask another Categorical Imperative question: "What if everyone turned over innocent children to people who are going to kill them?"
  5. iPoser1024

    iPoser1024 Black Mamba

    Hmm, well my point is Kant would maintain the immorality of lying to the Nazi. Based on this imperative.

    I see your point though. I had only looked at it from one perspective. I didn't take into account the act of giving over the child.
  6. Linx

    Linx Banned

    I would usually say I disagree but I don't know enough about Kant's ideas to be able to agree or denote them. In hindsight his ideas would be great in a moral world, but applying objective morality in an immoral world, or in this case an immoral situation then you will inevidabley be commiting moral attrocities in order to uphold a moral value. Unfortunately I can't reason my way out of this one.
  7. iPoser1024

    iPoser1024 Black Mamba

    Feel free, this is a philosophy board. Right and wrong are what we believe them to be.

    I honestly don't know much about Kant's ethics as well. However, this will soon change when I take philosophy in college within a few months!
  8. LanDaddy

    LanDaddy New Member

    At this point one must account for the circumstances of the action, those which mitigate the immorality of the act.

    In other words, you pick the lesser evil, which falls into John Stuart Mill's system of Utilitarianism. In Poser's situation, which choice will result in the most happiness? You can either save the girl and lie, or give her up and have her die. Utilitarianism would direct you to lie in order to save the girl (assuming there's no chance you'd be caught), and consider it a morally good act. This is because in the given situation, the act would result in the most benefit for the most people.
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