Categorical imperative

In the life of the human being, morals and ethics are aspects of great importance that can have an important influence on the behavior of the individual and on them, philosophy and other sciences can analyze the way in which man acts in society. Faced with the question posed as to why one acts in a certain way, various types of philosophical thoughts have arisen that attempt to explain the situation. One of these currents is known as the categorical imperative .

What is the categorical imperative?

The categorical imperative is a type of pact that is carried out because it is considered necessary without there being other reasons that drive it other than consideration. It is an end in itself and not a means by which a result can be achieved .

  • Definition of categorical imperative
  • Source
  • Characteristics of the categorical imperative
  • Kantian formulations
  • Importance of the categorical imperative
  • Everyday examples

Definition of categorical imperative

The categorical imperative is the main concept that forms the basis of Kantian ethics as well as subsequent deontological ethics that emerged in humanity over time. It is a kind of command that does not depend on any ideology or religion , which is characterized by being self – sufficient and also has the great ability to direct the way in which the human being is behaving in society taking into account all possible demonstrations.


The origin of the categorical imperative from the hand of Immanuel Kant , a renowned philosopher of German origin between the years 1724 and 1804 who referred mainly to the moral duty of the human being . It arises from the idea that the morality of man cannot only be based on a thought that arises from reason , but must also come from the divided authority from which the obligations of the human being can be deduced .

Characteristics of the categorical imperative

Among the main characteristics that can be observed in the categorical imperative, the following are mentioned:

  • It is the most important ethical principle in Kant’s philosophy .
  • It establishes that there is a powerful inner force that is not related to the nature of the human being and that also has the ability to determine the behavior of the individual.
  • It gives a moral character to the way in which the human being behaves.
  • It denies the different historical moral norms and neither does it recognize that social classes have principles of an ethical nature .
  • It was a philosophical doctrine that was fighting against to the socialism scientist .
  • According to Kant’s thinking, the imperative could be either categorical or hypothetical .
  • It is a concept of such metaphysical because it can express an absolute contrast between what is and what should be.
  • It is linked to the feeling of the human being about doing or having tried to do something right , and, when the objective is not achieved, the feeling of discomfort and little well-being arises.
  • It can also have a restrictive meaning , in addition to the additive that characterizes it.
  • It is also a rational construct that seeks to see humanity as an end and not as a means to achieve something.

Kantian formulations

Kant created a series of formulations by means of which he summarized the moral mandate that existed in the categorical imperative , which was based on the fact that all human beings have tried to do things and actions correctly. It is possible to find five different types of Kantian formulations which in turn are intertwined with each other and are complementary to each other.

It is important to mention that the formulations are based on the existence of the guides that form the behavior , these being valid to be able to understand the will of the people who possess them and they are also considered valid for all individuals. The formulations are as follows:

  • Formula of universal law : it is based on the premise that says “work only according to the maxim such that you have the ability to will at the same time that it becomes universal law.”
  • Formula of the law of nature : which says the following “act as if the maxim of your way of acting should become, by your own will, a universal law of nature.
  • Formula of the end in itself : it establishes that “work in such a way that you can use humanity, both in yourself and in any other person, always with the objective and the end at the same time and never only as a means.
  • Autonomy formula : it is based on the premise that says “act as if by means of your maxims you had the ability to always be a legislating member of a universal kingdom that is based on ends.

These different formulas had a main objective of great importance, to be able to achieve that human beings could act according to a series of moral values of a universal nature which were also considered as rational and worthy of following, which at the same time were established and self-imposed. for their own reason .

Based on these maxims , human beings had to act according to categorical imperatives with the sole objective of being able to find happiness but at the same time acting morally , in such a way that, if you lived doing what was right, you could obtain the gratification of the facts.

Importance of the categorical imperative

The importance of the categorical imperative can still be observed in some philosophical currents and ways of thinking. It is an attempt to find the difference between evil and good in order to understand correctly the way in which human beings behave in society. It is a thought that can help the individual to live life correctly, avoiding harm to those around him.

Everyday examples

Some examples of the categorical imperative can be observed in the following examples:

  • Treat the people around us in a dignified and always respectful way .
  • Recognize and know the best way to face mistakes , taking charge of them without having to place responsibilities on others.
  • Despite the situations that arise, people must learn to face mistakes , preserving principles and values ​​without losing the essence as a human being.
  • Have thoughts that are autonomous and aware .
  • Act as correct and honest people applying the phrase that says “do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you.”

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