Categorical Imperatives As A Guiding Light Of Morality In Groundwork For The Metaphysic Of Morals By Immanuel Kant
In Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals, Kant attempts to derive moral principles from reason. Through this, Kant creates his central argument by utilizing categorical imperatives, which Kant uses for his basis for the supreme principle and universality of morality. These categorical imperatives guide our moral obligations which are derived from pure reason. In this work, Immanuel Kant argues that his first two formulations of the categorical imperative schema are identical in both scope and consequence; Moreover, Kant is correct in his assertion.
The categorical imperative can be understood through formulations, which are the different phrasing and perspective of the same idea. When comparing each categorical imperative to their application they are identical in the way they lead to the same consequences. For example, an individual has no time to finish their essay for their class and decides to plagiarise another classmates essay to earn a better grade.
The first two categorical imperatives will both state that it is immoral to steal another person’s intellectual property, yet will say so following separate reasoning. The first categorical imperative would state that plagiarism is not universalizable. A requirement for a perfect categorical imperative is its universality, where each action must be affected to all individuals with the absence of exceptions.
The concept of universality serves as an objective moral standard, in which it is a model for everyone’s actions, and it is unfair to make exceptions for yourself. Thus, if you approve of the maxim of plagiarism, you are universalizing plagiarism as acceptable. This universality of plagiarism being okay brings contradictions; however, moral actions cannot have contradictions. Thus, if everyone were to plagiarise then intellectual property as a whole would have no significance. While the first categorical imperative focuses on universality of actions, the second focus on interactions between people.
The second categorical imperative schema would state that the action of plagiarism is immoral. The action of stealing another’s intellectual property would be immoral as you are treating a fellow classmate as a mere means and not as an end in themselves. Kant claims humans are ends-in-ourselves, as humans do not exist to be used by others, since we are rational beings. We must keep this in mind while having any encounters with others as it is immoral to use them while simultaneously being ignorant of their humanity. Thus, it can be concluded that to use another’s intellectual property without their consent would be an immoral act. Therefore, despite the difference in reasoning between the categorical imperative schemas, both are identical in consequence due to the same answer being yielded when presented with the same situation.
Furthermore, the scope of both categorical imperatives are identical in their application. Both categorical imperatives guide what is deemed as a moral action or an immoral action. Kant utilizes the example of an individual debating suicide as a way of providing how perfect duties to oneself can be obtained from the categorical imperative.
Kant introduces the maxim of the individual considering suicide in order to shorten their life to avert unhappiness by not running into further troubles if they were to choose to live. This individual, however, gives up future possible happiness in turn for ending their own life. The first categorical imperative states suicide is an immoral action as it fails the test of universalizability. Adding on from the consequence argument, all moral actions must be universalizable where there are no exceptions for your own actions. However, Kant does not argue that this is the reason as to why the individual should not commit suicide. Instead, Kant argues the individual should not commit suicide as there is a contradiction with nature, by killing life by a means while also propelling towards the furtherance of life. From the perspective of the first categorical imperative, it is clear that it is immoral to end one’s life.
The second categorical imperative has the same conclusion. The second schema follows that one should not kill themselves as they are treating themselves as a means to end suffering and not an end-in-themselves. As humans are ends-in-themselves, the person cannot kill themselves as a means to suffering as this leads to contradictions and immorality comes from contradictions. Both categorical imperatives thus share the same scope as they aid in deciding what is a moral action and what is not.
In conclusion, both categorical imperative schemas are similar in their paths to decide what is moral and immoral, and will both conclude to the same answer of what is moral. Consistently across multiple examples, both mentioned and not mentioned in this essay, the schemas are identical in the scopes and consequences to the scenarios in which they are applied.
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