Principles of the Will Within the Concept of Categorical Imperative

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The categorical imperative is “the sole law that the will of every rational being imposes on itself is just the fitness of the maxims of every good will to turn themselves into universal laws”. It may be fulfilled by acting “only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”. Kant elaborated that the imperative contains the law. It is the only one that can be understood as a practical law as laws are contingent upon attaining the chosen end. Kant underscored its importance as he claimed all other imperatives are principles of the will.

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The principle of morality, which mirrors the formula for the categorical imperative, is as follows: “the will itself is a law in all its actions only expresses the principle: act only on a maxim that can also have itself as a universal law for its object”. A free will and will become identical according to moral laws, although Kant specifies certain prerequisites.

The maxim must also conform to the universality of the law, and so Kant urged his readers to “act as though the maxim of your action were to become, through your will, a universal law of nature”. He stressed the consequences of an individual’s actions as he considered their viability as a universal law of nature if their action became the maxim. To exemplify his hypothesis, Kant gave the example of an individual who makes promises without the intent of fulfilling them. By considering this universally, “so that everyone in need does behave in this way,” it becomes apparent “no-one would believe what was promised to him but would only laugh at any such performance as a vain pretence”. Kant looks beyond the immediate consequences of these actions as he conveys the necessity of considering the far-reaching effects.

Many duties may be derived from this maxim, enforcing the need for actions to be evaluated for morality. “We must be able to will that a maxim of our action become a universal law” to verify its virtue. These principles can only be dictated from reason and exist a priori as a basis exclusive to humanity would be incredibly detrimental to man. Any empirical measures would threaten the purity of morality “for in morals the proper, priceless value of an absolutely good will consists precisely in action’s being driven by something free from all influences from contingent grounds that only experience can make available”. These factors are essential to ensuring they generate practical rules for every rational nature, including man. They also affirm its commanding authority as supreme law-giving without catering to foreign interests.

Kant clarifies the distinction as a priori in light of the gravity as every individual may have different inclinations that may not apply to every rational being. Different maxims may result and prove to be valid, but they are not laws. These maxims will yield subjective principles that people may act upon if they wish, but they are not objective principles. They do not offer the proper way to act, even as every inclination and a person’s initiation urges them to act differently. Nevertheless, the categorical imperative is not restricted by, or dependent on, any condition.

Only rational beings have a will, or a “capacity or ability to control how he behaves in conformity with the representation of certain laws”. Rational beings, including humans, have an absolute value that, as an end in itself, could support determinate laws. These factors support the only possible basis for a categorical imperative or a practical law. All other imperatives may be referred to as principles of the will. This sentiment is reflected in Kant’s belief that man and every rational being exists as an end in themself. They are not to be used as a means of a will according to its discretion. “Beings whose existence depends not on our will but on nature, if they are not rational beings, have only relative value as means, and are therefore called ‘things’”. The free will of rational beings enables a categorical imperative to become a possibility as their actions ought to conform to an idea of sensibility. However, it is not a mandate, and the inverse remains possible, further facilitating the ability to exist a priori.

Kant identifies this divergence by noting the value of objects obtained through actions is conditional, whereas the nature of rational beings are ends in themselves. The principle of rational nature creates the necessity that “a supreme practical principle, and a categorical imperative for the human will, must be an objective principle of the will that can serve as a universal law”. This distinguishes the second kind of categorical imperative in contrast to the first. Kant delineates the difference as follows: “one kind tells us to act in a manner that is lawful, like the lawfulness of the natural order; the other lays down that rational beings are in themselves supreme ends”. They are joined by their ability to determine universal law and unconditional nature, which has not been tainted with the foundation of interest.

In conclusion, the principle of every human will as a will giving universal law in all its maxims may be upheld as a result. Kant referred to analyses of moral concepts to demonstrate that the principle of autonomy he mentioned is the sole principle of morals. Conceptual analysis verifies “morality’s principle must be a categorical imperative and that the imperative in question commands neither more nor less than this very autonomy’. Through each of these details, Kant enumerates the premise of the categorical imperative, ultimately justifying it as a moral principle.

07 July 2022

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